The Truth (podcast)

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The Truth

The Truth is a fiction podcast that seeks to re-imagine what audio drama is and can be.[1] The podcast is released every two weeks. The tagline for the organization is "Movie for your ears".[2] Stories are developed as a collective where frequently the dialogue is completely improvised. Additionally, recordings are made on location and then taken into the studio to be edited. Work by The Truth has been heard on many nationally syndicated public radio programs, including This American Life, Studio 360, Snap Judgment, and The Story (see Links below). The show is part of podcast network Radiotopia.

The Truth stories, while fictional, are often topical and possible. The pilot episode was inspired by the real speech "In Event of Moon Disaster" written for President Richard Nixon in case the Apollo 11 mission failed.[3]


In 2009 Jonathan Mitchell started The Truth with Hillary Frank. Frank had been Mitchell's editor on a story for a show produced by American Public Media (APM) called Weekend America, titled "Eat Cake." The piece was intended to air on Valentine's Day weekend, but Weekend America was cancelled while the story was in production and the last episode was January 29, 2009. Weekend America decided to air the story anyway, on that last broadcast. Peter Clowney, the executive producer at Weekend America, was then moved into a development position at American Public Media. Mitchell and Frank pitched him the idea of doing a regular drama series along the lines of "Eat Cake". The title "The Truth" comes from a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, that goes, "fiction reveals truth that reality obscures."[citation needed]

In the Fall of 2009, Mitchell and Frank received funding from American Public Media to produce some pilot stories to demonstrate their idea. One of those stories was "Moon Graffiti", which was completed in January 2010. That story was finally released to the public in July of that year, it was posted on PRX, and was featured on the Very Short List in August 2010.[4] That led to it being the most listened-to piece on PRX that year. Moon Graffiti was later featured on The Guardian podcast, and won the 2010 Gold Mark Time Award.[5] In mid-2010, Hillary had a newborn child and decided to go her own way to produce a podcast about Motherhood, called The Longest Shortest Time.[6]

Mitchell then tapped Kerrie Hillman to co-produce The Truth. Hillman and Mitchell have a long history of collaboration. She created and was the executive producer of PRI's Fair Game with Faith Salie, and the Senior Producer for Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen, both programs for which Mitchell had worked as a producer. Jonathan Mitchell then pitched the story that would become "Tape Delay" to Ira Glass at This American Life, which Glass aired under the name "The Conversation" for the episode "My Own Worst Enemy." Mitchell enlisted Ed Herbstman to help with the story, after having worked with him on "Moon Graffiti".

In December 2011, Ed Herbstman and Mitchell formed a group of improvisors, many from the Magnet Theater which Herbtsman cofounded, who would write stories together, with the goal of doing a story in one month. The first piece was "Interruptible" (completed in March 2012), and continued producing a story a month, with the goal of eventually making two a month. In April, 2012, "Tape Delay" finally aired on This American Life, and the podcast had an audience in the tens of thousands. The Truth was invited by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to give a workshop about their production process at the 2012 Radio Beyond Radio conference in Sydney Australia, where Jonathan Mitchell and Ed Herbstman led a weeklong seminar in which collectively the group created a story from scratch called "Domestic Violins". Around the same time, the show became a 2012 SoundCloud Fellow, to create a series of election-themed horror stories. In October 2012, The Truth released its first one-hour special, called "The Devil You Know," which was a co-production with the Public Radio Exchange (PRX). This was a collection of three of the stories produced under the SoundCloud Fellowship, and aired on 14 public radio stations, including WBEZ Chicago, and KUOW Seattle.

The Truth was named by iTunes to be the Best New Arts podcast of 2012[7] and the #1 new podcast of 2012 by The Daily Dot.[8]


Episode Date Voices Synopsis
Moon Graffiti November 2, 2012 Performed by Matt Evans, Ed Herbsman, and John Ottavino The pilot episode. What might have happened if the Apollo 11 mission ended in tragedy.
Eat Cake February 14, 2012 Performed by Eliza Skinner, Birch Harms, and Curtis Gwinn Can coconut cake + random phone calls = love? Find out, when these two Valentine's Day traditions collide.
Movie Mash-Up February 22, 2012 These pieces are a little different than the stories normally presented on The Truth. They were all made by taking different characters from different movies or TV shows, and editing them together so it sounds like they're talking to one another. Included in this podcast: "Terminally Blonde" (2003), "Sopranos in the West Wing" (2004), and "Buster and SpongeBob in Love" (2005).
Interruptible June 3, 2012 Performed by Christian Paluck, Chet Siegel, Louis Kornfeld, Amy Warren, Ed Herbstman, Melanie Hoopes, Charlotte Rabbe, and Jamie Rivera A taxi driver is working on his anniversary, and gets more than he expected when he picks up a couple in Lower Manhattan.
They're Made Out of Meat March 20, 2012 Performed by Russ Armstrong and Miriam Tolan Terry Bisson's classic short story "They're Made Out of Meat" originally appeared in Omni Magazine in 1991, and the audio version was produced for WNYC's Studio 360 in November 2011. The story was re-mixed especially for this podcast, and it is followed by an interview with Bisson himself.
Everybody SCREAM!!!! November 4, 2012 Performed by Chet Siegel, Emily Tarver, and Ed Herbstman Spin class gets personal.
Tape Delay April 25, 2012 Performed by Ed Herbstman and Tami Sagher, with Libby George and Christian Paluck The recording doesn't lie. Originally produced for This American Life. Production advisors: Peter Clowney & Kerrie Hillman. Special thanks: Ira Glass, Lisa Pollack, Jonathan Menjivar, and Chris Bannon.
People Beat September 5, 2012 Performed by India Kotis, Matt Evans, Melanie Hoopes, Carmen Berkeley, Matt J. Weir, Bryn Magnus, Christian Paluck, Ed Herbstman, and Amy Warren. With Tim Dadabo, Louis Kornfeld, Chet Siegel, Leanne Linsky, Jon Bander, and Kelly Moylan High school sophomore Samantha O'Connell has just won a math award, and Gary Vosot is on the story.
Total Transparency and Eye Contact May 23, 2012 Performed by Chet Siegel, Ed Herbstman, and Louis Kornfeld. Two different approaches to making stories that combine improvisation with the recording studio. Total Transparency is a brand new piece, it was completely improvised and recorded in one take, and then edited. Eye Contact was made using lots of different people telling the same story, that was edited into a fractured monologue. It originally aired in 2006 on Weekend America.
In Good Hands (part 1) June 6, 2012 Performed by Emily Tarver, Alex Marino, Louis Kornfeld, Ed Herbstman, Christian Paluck, and Amy Warren. A pair of urban explorers goes underground, in the first part of a continuing story.
Human Intelligence June 20, 2012 Performed by Ed Herbstman, John Ottavino, and Melanie Hoopes Written by Kurt Andersen, this story was originally heard on PRI's Studio 360. The unabridged version was published in Stories: All New Tales, an anthology edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio.
In Good Hands (part 2) December 7, 2012 Performed by Emily Tarver, Alex Marino, Louis Kornfeld, Christian Paluck, Ed Herbstman, Amy Warren, and Ben Jones The story about two urban explorers concludes, when they are helped by a group of very eccentric people.
Lucy and the Bike Girl July 25, 2012 This is a short story written and produced by Hillary Frank, made by combining fictional narration with real interview tape. It was edited by Julie Snyder, and originally aired on This American Life.
Third Party September 8, 2012 Performed by Ed Herbstman, Chet Siegel, Rick Andrews, Nick Kanellis, Louis Kornfeld, Amy Warren, and Bryn Magnus Mike Coleman is an independent candidate running for Congress, and he's finally getting some attention... from a serial killer.
Machine Men August 22, 2012 A departure from the regular format, and this episode explores the area where fiction meets real life. It includes passages from the novel Machine Man by Max Barry, about a man who slowly transforms himself, body part by body part, into a machine.
That's Democracy May 9, 2012 Performed by Peter McNerney, Russ Armstrong, Alexis Lambright, with Fiona Bradford, Teddy Shivers, Oscar Montoya, and Ben Jones A teacher gives his students lesson about democracy that they'll never forget.
Domestic Violins September 19, 2012 Performed by Amie McKenna, Michele Durman, Michael Whalley, and Martin Dingle Wall Produced at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Radio Beyond Radio conference.
Do You Have a Minute for Equality? April 10, 2012 Performed by Chet Siegel and Tom Ligon, with Matt J. Weir, Quentin Loder, and Melanie Hoopes A canvasser gets the donation she needs, but it will cost her...
The Death of Poe October 18, 2012 Performed by Christian Paluck, Ed Herbstman, Chet Siegel, and Louis Kornfeld This story was inspired by a submission from listener Mathew Mercier, for a Halloween/Election crowd-sourcing experiment. It is based on his experience as caretaker of the Edgar Allan Poe estate, and imagines what Poe's last living hours may have been like.
The Modern Prometheus February 11, 2012 Performed by Louis Kornfeld, Rachel Hamilton, Tom Ligon, Chet Siegel, Amy Warren, Ed Herbstman, Christian Paluck, and Rupert Degas What happens when a corporation becomes a person? In this satire by Tony Award-winning playwright Greg Kotis, follow a company called Geneva Mutual that becomes a sentient being.
In Good Hands (rerelease) November 14, 2012 Two urban explorers enter an abandoned subway. What happens next is our secret. This is the complete version of a story that was previously only available in two parts.
Interruptible (rerelease) November 28, 2012 Performed by Christian Paluck, Chet Siegel, Louis Kornfeld, and Amy Warren. With Ed Herbstman, Melanie Hoopes, Charlotte Rabbe, and Jamie Rivera A taxi driver is working on his anniversary, and gets more than he expected when he picks up a couple in Lower Manhattan.
Mirror Lake December 14, 2012 Performed by Ed Herbstman, Lauren Ashely Smith, and Louis Kornfeld A couple goes in search of childhood memories. Story by Jonathan Mitchell with dialogue improvised by the actors.
Happy New Year October 1, 2013 Performed by Ben Jones and Tom Ligon A New Year's Eve party with Walt Avery. Story by Jonathan Mitchell with dialogue improvised by the actors.
It's Going to Change Your Life February 21, 2013 Performed by Kelly Buttermore, Amy Warren, Melanie Hoopes, Louis Kornfeld, Ed Herbstman, and Christian Paluck as "The Grill." Karen Miller is getting promoted, and it is her worst nightmare. Written collaboratively by The Truth, directed & produced by Jonathan Mitchell.
Where Have You Been? March 22, 2013 Performed by Ed Herbstman, Ben Jones, Christian Paluck, Chet Siegel, Louis Kornfeld, Amy Warren, and Asher Herbstman Everyone thought you were missing, maybe even dead. And now you’re back. Developed collaboratively by The Truth, with dialogue improvised by the actors. Produced by Jonathan Mitchell.
Falling October 4, 2013 Performed by Chet Siegel and Peter McNerney, with Willy Appleman, Louis Kornfeld, Lauren Ashley-Smith, Sebastian Conelli, Quinton Loder, Jon Bander, and Kim Ferguson A freak accident on a train platform leads to... romance? Written by Chet Siegel and developed collaboratively by The Truth, with dialogue improvised by the actors. Produced by Jonathan Mitchell.
You're Not Alone September 5, 2013 Performed by Christian Paluck, Carly Monardo, Tom Stephens, Louis Kornfeld, Jon Keller, Kerry Kastin, Nick Mykins, Aina Rapoza, and Ashley Wilson with special musical guest Elizabeth Ziman (of Elizabeth and the Catapult), singing a song by Daniel Johnston. Are you hearing voices? You're not alone. Written by Louis Kornfeld and developed collaboratively by The Truth, with dialogue improvised by the actors. Produced and directed by Jonathan Mitchell.
Fine Dining August 15, 2013 Performed by Louis Kornfeld, Elana Fishbein, Nick Jaramillo, Tom Ligon, Kevin Cragg, Kerry Kastin, Brian Frange, Bob Kern, and Matt Evans. With help from the improv groups Featherweight and Nurse Practitioner. The art of cooking is more than just a meal; it's a dialogue spoken in that universal language beyond words. It's a communion between souls. It's an act of love. Written by Louis Kornfeld and developed collaboratively by The Truth, with dialogue improvised by the actors. Produced and directed by Jonathan Mitchell.
Sweets for the Cheat August 29, 2013 Performed by Jon Bander, Alessandro King, Bianca Casusol, Brian Frange, and Elana Fishbein. Two shock jocks make a big morning mess. Written by Ira Gamerman and developed collaboratively by The Truth, with dialogue improvised by the actors. Produced and directed by Jonathan Mitchell.
The Mutiny December 9, 2013 Performed by Melanie Hoopes. Asher Herbstman, and Bea Herbstman. With Blanche Ames, Ed Herbstman, Shacottha Fields, and Noel Dinneen. If you don't want your kids to drive you crazy, don't give them the keys. Written by Elana Fishbein and developed collaboratively by The Truth, with dialogue improvised by the actors. Produced and directed by Jonathan Mitchell.
Keep Running September 29, 2013 Performed by Peter McNernery, with Elana Fishbein, Louis Kornfeld, Julia Hynes, and Teddy Shivers. Running from Wisconsin to Indiana: 80 miles, 12 hours, 1 day. Based on an interview with Brian Foy. Directed by Jonathan Mitchell.
The Talk October 13, 2013 Performed by Christian Paluck, Dmitry Shein, Willy Appelman, and Elana Fishbein. A father comes to the rescue when three teenagers take things a little too far. Written by Louis Kornfeld, and produced by Jonathan Mitchell.
The Devil You know October 24, 2013 A collection of three horror stories that take place within the world of electoral politics. "Do You Have a Minute for Equality?", "Third Party", "The Death of Poe".
The Memoirist July 11, 2013 Performed by Elana Fishbein, Matt Antonucci, Kevin Kiernan, Lauren Olson, Alessandro King, Sebastian Connelli, Blanche Ames, Kevin Cragg, and Michael Kroll. Sex. Drugs. Fame. It's all in Hollywood actress Cecily Banks' scandalous new memoir. But will her homecoming be the real tell-all? Written by Elana Fishbein and produced by Jonathan Mitchell.
Tough Crowd November 25, 2013 Performed by Alejandro Kolleeny, Annemarie Cullen, Devin O'Neill, Megan Gray, Noel Dinneen, Maddy Mako, Matt Shafeek, Shacottha Fields, Louis Kornfeld, and Elana Fishbein. A comedian and 40 speed daters walk into a bar... Written by Louis Kornfeld, inspired by storyteller Adam Wade, and produced by Jonathan Mitchell.
Naomi's World September 12, 2013 Performed by Isabel Frohnhofer, Tom Ligon, Elana Fishbein, Imran Chowdhury, Laura Parker, Philipp Goedicke, Dennis Pacheco, Blanche Ames, Ron Palais, Willy Appelman, Andrew Yurman-Glaser, and Phoebe Tyers. A trip to the museum takes a surreal turn. Written by Elana Fishbein, produced by Jonathan Mitchell.
Biological Clock December 20, 2013 Performed by Tami Sagher, Ed Herbstman, Louis Kornfeld, and Kerry Kastin. Adam and Allie would do anything to have a baby. Written by Ira Gamerman, produced by Jonathan Mitchell.
It's Your Funeral January 25, 2014 Performed by Andy Moskowitz, Jackie Hoffman, Ben Jones, Damon Ketron, Phoebe Tyres, Shacottha Fields, Blanche Ames, Amy Warren, and Rebecca Robles. A man hires a company that makes it possible for him to watch his own funeral. Its slogan: “Live the Death You’ve Always Wanted.” Written by David Wilcox, produced by Jonathan Mitchell.
The Extractor September 3, 2014 Ed Herbstman, Kevin Cragg, Annemarie Cullen, Dennis Pacheco, and Rebecca Robles. With Melanie Hoopes, Bea Herbstman, Alex Marino, and Kerry Kastin. The sounds we make don't just fade away; they're embedded in the wood around us. Written and produced by Jonathan Mitchell.
Jeff Gets Towed March 30, 2014 Performed by Andrew Yurman-Glaser, Sebastian Conelli, and Phoebe Tyers. Jeff gets his car towed, and a whole lot more. Written by Elana Fishbein, with dialogue improvised by the actors, and produced by Jonathan Mitchell.
Interns April 15, 2014 Performed by Maggie Morris as Melanie, and Emily Shapiro as Annalyse. With Willy Appelman, Dennis Pacheco, Elana Fishbein, and Louis Kornfeld. Because someone has to get the coffee... Written by Alejandro Kolleeny, produced by Jonathan Mitchell.
Voyager Found May 14, 2014 Performed by Chet Siegel and Peter McNerney. NASA’s Voyager spacecraft has just landed: meet the aliens who found it. Produced by Jonathan Mitchell
The Penis Museum February 6, 2014 Performed by Phoebe Tyers and Damon Ketron. With Elana Fishbein, Alejandro Kolleeny, Kerry Kastin, and Ira Gamerman. It’s not about disco. Written by David Wilcox and Johanna Hyman, produced by Jonathan Mitchell.
Chaotic Neutral June 18, 2014 Performed by Elana Fishbein, Jon Bander, Justin Moran, and Matt Shafeek. A game of Dungeons & Dragons is thrown into chaos, in this story about fantasy, reality, and a chaotic neutral wizard named Nicolas Cage. Written by Alejandro Kolleeny, produced by Jonathan Mitchell.
Cold Read September 17, 2014 Performed by Alex Marino, Christina Dabney, Blanche Ames, and T.J. Mannix. A psychic tries his latest pickup routine on a girl in a bar, with unexpected results.. Written by Louis Kornfeld, produced by Jonathan Mitchell.
Silvia's Blood October 15, 2014 Performed by Andy Moskowitz, Rebecca Robles, Diana McCorry, Ben Jones, and Al King Based on Philip K. Dick's short story "Upon the Dull Earth," originally published in 1954 in an anthology magazine called Beyond Fantasy Fiction. It’s about a young couple named Rick and Silvia, and a strange blood ritual they perform that invokes angels. Adapted, produced, and directed by Jonathan Mitchell, who also composed all of the music for this episode.
Return of the Extractor December 11, 2014 Performed by Performed by Ed Herbstman and Elana Fishbein. With Louis Kornfeld and Alejandro Kolleeny. David Luther demonstrates his sound extraction technology, which was featured in our story "The Extractor" earlier this year. This episode was recorded live at Radiotopia's fundraising event on October 21, 2014. Produced by Jonathan Mitchell.
Sketchballs March 12, 2014 Performed by Rosie Whalen and Chris Dwane, with Louis Kornfeld as Chip At least you know where they're coming from. Written by Rosie Whalen, directed by Louis Kornfeld & Jonathan Mitchell, and produced by Jonathan Mitchell
Naughty or Nice December 18, 2014 Performed by Seth Lind, Elana Fishbein, Louis Kornfeld, Eli Itzkowitz, Ed Herbstman, Shaina Feinberg, Tom Ligon, Kevin Cragg, Willy Appelman, Kerry Kastin, Katie Corr, Phoebe Tyers, Pat May, Olivia Simonson, Asher Herbstman, Bee Herbstman, Melanie Hoopes, and Gregory C. Jones An elf gets a new job in the Naughty or Nice division of Santa’s Workshop. Written by Jonathan Mitchell and Seth Lind, directed & produced by Jonathan Mitchell.
The One about the Dead Dog January 15, 2015 Performed by Phoebe Tyers and Dennis Pacheco, with Nick Mykins, T.J. Mannix, and Chris Dwane. . This is a story inspired by urban legends -- unusual stories or anecdotes based on hearsay that are widely circulated as true. Like alligators in sewers. Or dead dogs in suitcases... maybe it’s true? Written by Diana McCorry, and produced by Jonathan Mitchell.
Don’t Touch a Thing February 11, 2015 Performed by Amy Warren, Armando Diaz, Jackie Hoffman, Louis Kornfeld, and Noel Dinneen. A hoarder's daughter digs through the past. Written by Louis Kornfeld. Produced by Jonathan Mitchell.
Living the Dream March 12, 2015 Performed by Adam Wade, Chrissie Gruebel, Dan Fairall, and Blanche Ames. Hoping the dream date never ends... until it doesn’t. Written by Alejandro Kolleeny, and produced by Jonathan Mitchell.
Joe Frank March 26, 2015 Performed by Mark Hammer, Barbara Sohmers, Carolyn Swift Hammer, Arthur Miller, F. Murray Abraham, Annalee Jefferies, Eric Seers, and Paul Mantell. Two pieces by the legendary radio producer Joe Frank: Rent-a-Family, and Fragments for Mixed Voices. These were originally heard on his show Work In Progress, which aired on KCRW from 1986 to 1992.
Can You Help Me Find My Mom April 8, 2015 Performed by Bee Herbstman, Melanie Hoopes, Ed Herbstman, Evan Sudarsky Abadi, Gregory C. Jones and Blanche Ames. A girl is lost and can't find her mom. Why won't anyone help her? Written by Diana McCorry, and produced by Jonathan Mitchell.
The Last Job May 20, 2015 Performed by Peter McNerney, Louis Kornfeld, Rebecca Robles, India Kotis, Dave Hill, Alex Marino, Phoebe Tyers, Rupert Degas, and T.J. Mannix. It's the Age of Leisure, and keeping it that way is a full-time job. In this story, we imagine a future world where work is rare, and the party never ends. This story was inspired by an essay written by John Maybnard Keynes in 1930 titled "Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren." Written and produced by Jonathan Mitchell.
Remember the Baby June 4, 2015 Performed by Ann Carr, Louis Kornfeld, and Amy Warren. A woman is caring for her sister’s baby when her life changes forever. Written by Louis Kornfeld, and produced by Jonathan Mitchell.


Year Award Episode
2010 Mark Time Gold Award Moon Graffiti
2010 PRX Zeitfunk Award 2010 for Most Listened-to Piece Moon Graffiti
2012 iTunes Best New Arts Podcast of 2012
2012 Daily Dot's #1 New Podcast of 2012
2013 Mark Time Gold Award The Modern Prometheus
2013 Ogle Silver Award In Good Hands
2013 Ogle Silver Award That's Democracy


  1. ^ Mitchell, Jonathan. "Modern Radio Drama". Retrieved 2011-02-15. 
  2. ^ Dankosky, John. "Movies For Your Ears: Jonathan Mitchell Produces the Radio Drama Podcast "THE TRUTH"". Your Public Media. 
  3. ^ Tierney, Dominic. "Doomsday Speeches: If D-Day and the Moon Landing Had Failed". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2012-11-26. 
  4. ^ "Very Short List". The Observer. 
  5. ^ "Mark Time Awards". 
  6. ^ Frank, Hillary. "About". The Longest Shortest Time. 
  7. ^ Lbsyn. "Libsyn Podcasts iTunes Best of 2012 And Stitcher Award Winners". Retrieved 2012-12-29. 
  8. ^ Caldwell, Patrick. "The 10 best new podcasts of 2012". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 2012-12-31. 

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