'Wait Wait' For July 24, 2021: The Smithsonian's Ellen Stofan Plays Not My Job

Jul 24, 2021
Originally published on July 24, 2021 1:02 pm

This week's show was recorded remotely with host Peter Sagal, official judge and scorekeeper Bill Kurtis, Not My Job guest Ellen Stofan and panelists Laci Mosley, Bobcat Goldthwait and Karen Chee. Click the audio link above to hear the whole show.

Jim Preston / Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Who's Bill This Time
The Quadrennial Disaster; Bezos Aldrin; Blimey, Mummy!

Panel Questions
Who's A Better Dog?

Bluff The Listener
Our panelists read three stories about skeletons in the closets of government officials, only one of which is true.

Not My Job: We Quiz The Smithsonian's Ellen Stofan On Attics
Ellen Stofan is a planetary geologist, a NASA scientist, a former director of the Smithsonian's Air and Space museum, and is now the undersecretary of science and research at the Smithsonian. Since the Smithsonian is known as the "nation's attic" we've invited her to answer three questions about weird collections in other people's attics.

Panel Questions
Subway Struggles; A Dentist Loses His Crown; Quarantine Spelling Problems

Bill Kurtis reads three news-related limericks: Crafty Kraft Ice Cream; Uncle Leo; and Sex and the Pledge Drive.

Lightning Fill In The Blank
All the news we couldn't fit anywhere else

Our panelists predict what will be the big surprise at the Tokyo Olympics.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The following program was taped before an audience of no one.


BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR News quiz. Light that torch. It's time for the Bill-lympics (ph). I'm Bill Kurtis. And here is your host, filling in for Maz Jobrani filling in for Peter Sagal. It's Peter Sagal.



Thank you, Bill. And thanks to everybody at home I just know are applauding right now. So space flight was in the news this week. And later on, we're going to be talking to Ellen Stofan, the former director of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. I am most excited to ask her about using the Apollo 11 capsule as her secret work nap spot. But first, it's your turn to reach for the stars. So give us a call. The number is 1-888-WAIT-WAIT. That's 1-888-924-8924. Let's welcome our first listener contestant.

Hi, you are on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

KRISTYN ASSEFF: Hi, Peter. This is Kristyn Asseff in Seattle.

SAGAL: Hey, Kristyn. How are you?

ASSEFF: I am doing so good. How are you?

SAGAL: I'm fine. I'll ask how are things in Seattle. Usually the answer is damp, but not recently, I know.

ASSEFF: No, definitely not recently. And we've been having an - like, a super-gorgeous summer.

SAGAL: Really? Are you guys - I mean, even though it sort of pretends the death of everything we love, the world and civilization, are you guys actually enjoying having a warm, sunny summer in Seattle?

ASSEFF: I am because I'm originally from the Midwest. But that being said, we did have our hottest day on record here or one of the hottest days on record a couple of weeks ago.

SAGAL: Oh, well, that's good. Yet another, you know, feather in the hat of Seattle.

ASSEFF: Yet another harbinger.

SAGAL: Kristyn, let me introduce you to our panel this week. First up, you can hear her on the "Scam Goddess" podcast, and you can see her on "iCarly" on Paramount Plus and "A Black Lady Sketch Show" on HBO Max. It's Laci Mosley.


LACI MOSLEY: Hey, honey.

SAGAL: Next up, a comedian you can see July 30 and 31 at the Comedy Club of Kansas City in Missouri and August 13 and 14 at the Spokane Comedy Club. Welcome back - it's been too long - Bobcat Goldthwait.


BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT: Oh, thanks. It's nice to be back. I'm very happy to be here.

ASSEFF: It's nice to have you back on the show, Bobcat.

GOLDTHWAIT: Wow, Kristyn, you're very professional.


KAREN CHEE: Yeah, Peter, step aside. I think Kristyn's hosting now.

SAGAL: Yeah, that was good. That was very good. Finally, a comedian, actor and writer for "Late Night With Seth Meyers." It's Karen Chee.


ASSEFF: Hi, Karen.

CHEE: Hi, Kristyn.

SAGAL: Kristyn, welcome to the show. You're going to play Who's Bill This time? Bill Kurtis is going to read you three quotations from this week's news. If you can correctly identify or explain two of them, you'll win our prize - any voice from our show you might choose on your voicemail. Are you ready to play?

ASSEFF: I'm so excited.

SAGAL: Here we go. Your first quote is about a big sporting event that started this weekend.

KURTIS: It's a coming together of every strain of COVID currently out there.

SAGAL: That was Katherine Kreuger at Discourse Blog writing about why we should still cancel what before it's too late.

ASSEFF: The 2020-21 Olympics.

SAGAL: That's exactly right.


SAGAL: The Olympics, they were canceled last year because of the pandemic, but they're happening now, even though COVID is on the rise because I guess they wanted to give the virus a sporting chance. Nonetheless, all spectators are banned, and even the Olympic rings have unlinked and moved six feet apart. Now, the Olympics have not gotten off to a good start. Multiple athletes have tested positive for COVID. They keep losing officials to scandals. And now - and this is true - there is a bear on the loose near one of the Olympic venues.

GOLDTHWAIT: (Laughter).

CHEE: What?

SAGAL: This has become - this is like the Olympics of things going wrong at the Olympics.

GOLDTHWAIT: Like a sexy bear or...

SAGAL: No, not like a burly man with lots of chest hair. An actual bear, Bobcat.

CHEE: Oh, man.

SAGAL: One sportswriter said that the Japanese softball team hit a home run, and the only noise you could hear were the cicadas outside the stadium. But I think the silence makes it a unique experience. For the first time, we'll actually be able to hear the badminton players swearing like drunken sailors.

GOLDTHWAIT: Do badminton players swear?

SAGAL: See, we don't know. We don't know to this point because we've never been able to hear them.

GOLDTHWAIT: Exactly. They are a salty crew, you know what I mean? Like, quite often, like, if you're, you know, in the street or bar where it's kind of sketchy, you go, oh, wait, cut him some slack. He's got a badminton racket.


GOLDTHWAIT: We don't want to get messed up.

CHEE: I wonder if badminton players grunt as loudly as tennis players do and we just don't ever get to hear that.

SAGAL: Wouldn't it be amazing, they whacking that bird like (unintelligible). It would change the image of the sport, is what I'm saying.

MOSLEY: Badminton is two gatekept. I don't know how to play that. No one tells you how to play that on the playground. Nobody's ever like - you know, you play tag. You don't play badminton. No one has ever taught me how to play that.

SAGAL: Laci, 100% of Americans who have played badminton have no idea how to play badminton, right?

CHEE: (Laughter).

SAGAL: I mean, it just comes in a set that's - like, maybe your uncle or maybe more likely your aunt gives you. Like, oh, a badminton set. You set up in the backyard, and these thin little rackets...

MOSLEY: Like lacrosse or...

SAGAL: No, no, no. It's like a very thin tennis racket.

CHEE: It's kind of like tennis for people with weak wrists.

SAGAL: Right. And then everybody takes this and, they stand there on the other side of the net. And they just sort of whack it back and forth until they get bored. And that's badminton as far as we Americans know.

GOLDTHWAIT: It's usually you get bored first, and then you whack it back and forth.

CHEE: You know what I wish they would have instead...

SAGAL: What?

CHEE: ...Of all those empty stadiums is - it would definitely be safe to have one person there, right? And I would like one really enthusiastic audience member. And just their reaction is the reaction you get on TV. And so they're like stoked about things or they're upset.

SAGAL: They actually - this is true. They've come up with ways to make it seem as if there's a crowd. One way - and this is, again, true - they're going to pipe in crowd noise from prior Olympics.

CHEE: Oh, my God.

MOSLEY: So are they going to pipe in, like, boos?

SAGAL: No, I think...

CHEE: Got to keep it real.

SAGAL: I think they're going to go for cheers.

GOLDTHWAIT: They have to be careful what old audiences they use.

SAGAL: Yeah, I know. I was thinking, like, what if they go far to back to, like 1936 and you start hearing, heil Hitler? No, no.

GOLDTHWAIT: Yeah, that's the year I was thinking of.

SAGAL: (Laughter) All right, Kristyn, here is your next quote. It is a headline from New York magazine.

KURTIS: Earth briefly gets rid of its richest man.

SAGAL: Also on Tuesday, we all briefly did not share the planet with whom?

ASSEFF: With Jeff Bezos.

SAGAL: Jeff Bezos. That's exactly right.


SAGAL: Jeff Bezos left for the vastness of space on Tuesday morning, journeying far into the heavens. And he's back. The whole thing lasted 11 minutes, or as an Amazon worker might call it, three lunch breaks. And it wasn't so much outer space. It's just a very high upper atmosphere. I mean, 60 miles up in the sky? It's so lame. We want space to be further away from us than Milwaukee.

MOSLEY: I'm going to get dragged for this, but I don't think that anyone has ever been to space. And when they've tried, I think it blew up. I'm not - I'm just saying. I don't think Jeff Bezos was in that tin can. I think that he hired someone with a cue ball head to get in there.

GOLDTHWAIT: Yeah, because clearly they've got the guy that was the wrong size because the hat did not fit him when he came back. He had that big cowboy hat on. He looked like a shrink ray had hit Garth Brooks.


GOLDTHWAIT: His, like, ears were coming out of the cowboy hat. It was just weird. It's like, there clearly wasn't a mirror in that ship. That hat - and I'm a hat enthusiast, but he looked like an Anne Geddes photo when she...

MOSLEY: Like, let me get a hat, OK? Like, it's supposed to be zero gravity. You don't wear a hat to space. That's how we know. That's the main fact.

GOLDTHWAIT: I'll tell you who. Bald guys do.

SAGAL: Bald guys do. Trust us on this. Trust us on this.

GOLDTHWAIT: (Laughter) Bald guys do.

MOSLEY: Peter, are you going to wear a hat to space?

SAGAL: If I ever get a chance to go to space, I'm totally showing up for the press conference wearing a hat, yes. All right, here, Kristyn, is your last quote.

KURTIS: Excuse me, mommy. May I go to the loo?

SAGAL: That was one of many American children who, because of the popularity of the TV show "Peppa Pig", apparently have been speaking with what?

ASSEFF: With a British accent.

SAGAL: That's exactly right.


SAGAL: During the lockdown, the British kids cartoon show, "Peppa Pig", has become so popular that American parents are reporting their preschool kids are now speaking in British accents. It goes further, too. Kids are also calling cookies biscuits and looking down on the Irish. I don't know why "Peppa Pig" is being blamed. My kids also got British accents when I let them watch "Bridgerton." and they say the most interesting things with it.

CHEE: They all are suddenly like, I'd like to colonize a smaller country.

SAGAL: I don't know.

GOLDTHWAIT: Has this worked in reverse? Is there English kids talking like Grover now? Hello, hello, hello.

SAGAL: Oh, and look; before everybody out there gets upset about their kids acting like a pig, just think of the money you can make by forcing them to root for truffles.

CHEE: (Laughter).

SAGAL: Bill, how did Kristyn do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Better than we do (laughter). And she got all right, all three.

SAGAL: Congratulations, Kristyn.

CHEE: Yay.

ASSEFF: Thank you so much, Peter.

SAGAL: And enjoy that tropical weather in Seattle.

ASSEFF: (Laughter).

SAGAL: Take care. Bye-bye.

CHEE: Bye.


SPINAL TAP: (Singing) Cups and cakes, cups and cakes. Oh, what good things mother makes. You've got to take tea. Won't you take it with me? What a gay time it will be...

SAGAL: Right now, panel, it is time for you to answer some questions about this week's news. Bobcat, what we all believed in our hearts was proven right this week. According to science, some dogs are just what?



GOLDTHWAIT: They can do math. Some dogs - some dogs...

SAGAL: I'll give you a hint. Who's a good boy? And who's just an OK boy?

GOLDTHWAIT: The dogs understand what we're saying.

SAGAL: No, I'm sorry.

GOLDTHWAIT: But if I say it really fast with a lot of conviction, it sounds like I'm right.

CHEE: Bobcat, I believe you. That sounds right.

GOLDTHWAIT: Yeah, that sounded right 'cause I said, oh, I got it.

SAGAL: I'll try one more time. Many dogs go to obedience school, but some of them take AP classes there.

GOLDTHWAIT: Some dogs are really smart.

SAGAL: Exactly. Some dogs are much smarter than other dogs. And yes, everybody who is listening, I am talking about your dog. The study focused on a dog's ability to remember the names of individual toys, and the researchers found that some border collies had the same name-recognizing ability of a 3-year-old human. But some of them not only couldn't do that, but they just stood there and drooled and peed on the carpet again, much like a 3-year-old human.

CHEE: That makes sense. I've seen "Air Bud." They're very talented.


SAGAL: Some dogs.

GOLDTHWAIT: Some dogs can hit a 3-pointer.

SAGAL: I know, man. Of course, we wonder, dogs, if you're so smart, can't you figure out a better way to say hi to each other?

CHEE: Yeah, the butt-sniff.

SAGAL: Yeah.

CHEE: They get right to the point. Their lives are shorter...

SAGAL: What's interesting...

CHEE: ...And I appreciate it.

MOSLEY: Should we all be doing that?

GOLDTHWAIT: Yeah, I think we should embrace it.

SAGAL: Yeah. I mean, you would learn more about somebody. I mean, the dogs do it because apparently they get a vast amount of information from the smell of the other dog. Basically, sniffing a dog's butt is like getting to look in their phone for two hours. You learn everything about them.

GOLDTHWAIT: It's not really what they smell. It's they learn how tolerant the other dog is. Are you cool with this? Are you cool with what I'm doing? All right.

SAGAL: All right.

GOLDTHWAIT: Well, this dog is a pushover.


SAGAL: Coming up, secrets are revealed in our Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT, WAIT, DON'T TELL ME from NPR.


KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. We're playing this week with Karen Chee, Laci Mosley and Bobcat Goldthwait. And here again is your host, who, for 11 minutes this week, moved one spot up on the richest man on Earth list, Peter Sagal.


SAGAL: Thank you, Bill. Right now, it is time for the WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play our game on the air.

Hi. You're on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

MAGGIE AINSLEY: Hello. I'm Maggie from Swarthmore, outside of Philadelphia.

SAGAL: Ah, Swarthmore - I know it well. I understand there's a small college of some kind there where people can learn a trade.

AINSLEY: Something like that, yes.

SAGAL: What do you do there in Swarthmore?

AINSLEY: Actually, I work in another place outside of Philadelphia called Doylestown, where I'm a hospital chaplain.

SAGAL: Oh, my goodness.


SAGAL: All my mirth drains from me.

AINSLEY: (Laughter) Sorry.

SAGAL: Well, if I can be sincere, you're doing very important work, and it is much appreciated.

AINSLEY: Oh, thank you.

SAGAL: Thank you.

MOSLEY: Yes. Thank you.

SAGAL: Well, it's nice to have you with us, Maggie. You're going to play our game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what does Maggie's topic?

KURTIS: Deny everything.

SAGAL: Politicians have secrets. For example, did you know that under Ted Cruz's beard, there's just more beard all the way down? This week, a government official's skeleton in the closet came to light. Our panelists are each going to tell you about it, but you have to pick the real one. Do that, you'll win the WAIT WAITer of your choice on your voicemail. Are you ready to play?


SAGAL: All right. Let's do it, then. First, let's hear from Karen Chee.

CHEE: As Australia's COVID-19 rates are rising at an alarming rate, the nation's Prime Minister Scott Morrison gave an important announcement. Contrary to popular opinion, he actually did not poop his pants at a McDonald's in 1997. The rumor began as a social media post from a guy who said he knew a guy who worked there and has haunted him ever since.

While on an Australian radio show this week, the prime minister asked, can I clear up one thing? And then proceeded to state whether or not he had cleared up a different thing in a fast-food joint 24 years ago. Morrison said that despite the pervasive urban myth, the tale of a sudden and surprisingly violent excretion was actually false.

To his credit, the prime minister would not have been the first person to poop his pants at a McDonald's, though he probably would have been maybe the first person to do so while also being too old to enter the PlayPlace. Afterwards, though, listeners realized that the specificity of his comment meant that the jury is still out on whether he pooped his pants at a McDonald's in 1998, 1999 or, really, any other year he's been alive.

SAGAL: Scott Morrison, prime minister of Australia, denying the rumor that he had an accident at a McDonald's some years ago. Your next story of private politics comes from Bobcat Goldthwait.

GOLDTHWAIT: This week at the National Law Enforcement Museum, while cataloguing a recently acquired estate of J. Edgar Hoover, a disturbing discovery was made - naked home movies of J. Edgar Hoover singing and dancing to hit songs from the rock musical "Hair." Hoover, who believed that the hippie counterculture and the sexual revolution were destroying America, went incognito to see the anti-Vietnam War and pro-free love musical "Hair" in 1968 while it ran on Broadway.

But while attending "Hair," something unexpected happened to the hard-nosed, conservative director of the FBI. He fell in love with it - the songs, the nudity, the choreography, the whole thing. And Hoover became insistent that he could join the cast if only they saw his talents. Hoover had his underling take Super 8 movies of him singing and dancing around his office in the state of nature, hoping to land a lead in "Hair." Upon reviewing the films, Hoover had them destroyed - or thought so - not because of his embarrassment or that they left him extremely compromised. No, he had them destroyed because he thought, quote, "I sound pitchy."

SAGAL: Recently discovered home movies of J. Edgar Hoover performing songs from the musical "Hair." Your last story of a secret revealed comes from Laci Mosley.

MOSLEY: To you or me, there's nothing unusual about the 1980s magazine ads for Fancy Boy Porridge (ph). The porridge is so thick, you can eat it with your feet. But last week, one eagle-eyed observer came forward with shocking observations. The feet that you see in the photos holding a spoon and dipping it into the porridge, they belong to young Boris Johnson.

Clive Kensington (ph), whose name is real and not just two of the most British-sounding names I could think of mashed together, said to the Daily Mirror, "I saw a video of Boris Johnson swimming recently, and when I saw his feet, I immediately recognized them from the Fancy Boy Porridge ads. I think a lot about feet. Please don't ask me any questions about that," end quote.

After initially denying that the feet were his and that he even had feet, Johnson admitted on Tuesday that the feet were his. Yes, before I got into politics, I did some foot modeling, but none of the weird stuff. Johnson said he gave up the foot modeling once he began working in the government but that he is considering returning to it if the Brexit thing doesn't work out.

SAGAL: All right. Here are your choices. We found out something about somebody prominent. Was it, from Karen, the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison might have soiled himself at a McDonald's many years ago, although he denies it; from Bobcat Goldthwait, movies of J. Edgar Hoover dancing to the musical "Hair," although not to his own satisfaction; or, from Laci, Boris Johnson admitting that as a youth, he was a foot model for a series of porridge commercials? Which of these is the real story of a surprising thing in a prominent person's past?

AINSLEY: Oh, goodness. Who knows? I'm going to guess the first one.

SAGAL: You're going to guess the first one. You're going to guess Karen's story of the rumor that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison pooped himself in a McDonald's back in the late '90s. That's your choice?

AINSLEY: That's - I guess that's my choice. Yes.

SAGAL: All right. You guess - you're going to go with - it's too late. You've already said it. All right. Well, to bring you the story, we brought someone who knows everything about this very story.


CAM TYESON: The prime minister of Australia has been forced to go on the record and deny that he did poop his pants at a McDonald's in 1997.

SAGAL: That was Cam Tyeson, an editor at Pedestrian TV who wrote an investigation into the story of whether or not Scott Morrison did, in fact, poop himself at a McDonald's because that's an important thing to know.

Congratulations, Maggie. You got it right. You earned a point for Karen Chee. You've won our prize, the voice of your choice on your voicemail. You've done fabulously well.

AINSLEY: Thank you so much.

SAGAL: Thank you so much. And thanks for the good work you do. Take care. Thanks.


SAGAL: Bye-bye.


THE WEEKND: (Singing) I hear the secrets that you keep when you're talking in your sleep.

SAGAL: And now the game where highly qualified people take on a challenge they never trained for. It's called Not My Job. If you're a billionaire with a spaceship, but if you would like to send somebody actually qualified up there, may we suggest Dr. Ellen Stofan, a planetary geologist, NASA scientist, the former director of the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, and now the under secretary of science and research at the Smithsonian.

Dr. Stofan, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.


ELLEN STOFAN: Thank you. I'm thrilled to be here.

SAGAL: We got you here. We're delighted in talking to you about everything, but we mainly want to ask you, did Jeff Bezos and his crew actually go to space?

STOFAN: Yes, they did. By any definition, they made it above what's called the Karman line. So they were actually in space.

SAGAL: The Karmin line.

STOFAN: Yes, there is a famous mathematician called Theodore von Karman, and he was the one that calculated where it was where you would be officially beyond the Earth's gravity. And that's where you go weightless in space.

MOSLEY: They were in the shallow end of space.

STOFAN: They were in the shallow end of space. But, you know, space is really, really big. So it's pretty good to make it to the shallow end, I will say.

SAGAL: Right. I would say - I mean, I don't know what your standard is, and obviously it's more important than mine, but my standard is you're not in space unless you had to use a zero gravity toilet.

STOFAN: (Laughter) Well, I don't know. I would hold it in before I would use a zero gravity toilet. I'd have to be up in space a really long time before I'd get to that point.

SAGAL: Oh, yeah. So you grew up as sort of a NASA brat, right? Your father was a NASA scientist or engineer.

STOFAN: That's right. He was a NASA engineer. So I went to my first rocket launch when I was 4 years old, which - it was an unheard (ph) launch that exploded on the launch pad, which probably explains why I never wanted to become an astronaut.

SAGAL: Yeah, I was about to ask. You grew up around space. You've spent your career exploring space, but you have no desire to go yourself?

STOFAN: You know, if I could go to Mars and actually crack open rocks and look for evidence of ancient life on Mars, I would do that. But just going up for a couple of minutes into space, it's not got a lot of appeal.

SAGAL: Right.

GOLDTHWAIT: So my dad took you to work, and then you watched a rocket blow up.

STOFAN: Exactly.

GOLDTHWAIT: Do you think he had anything to do with this? Do you think he didn't want you to be an astronaut?

SAGAL: I'm going to force her to go into the arts.



SAGAL: Honestly, I would imagine - I mean, you actually were, like, the chief scientist at NASA, and you worked at JPL. I would imagine you'd want to stay away from rockets for the rest of your life after that trauma.

STOFAN: No, you know, I went to a lot of launches after that because, again, my dad was a rocket guy. So we went to an awful lot of launches, and many of them were successful. I saw the first probes to Mars launched, the Viking landers, the Voyager probes that have made it out of the solar system. I was there in Florida when those were launched, so I saw a lot of great launches, too.

GOLDTHWAIT: So I just want to know when that blew up and - what did your dad say? Did he just go, bad day at work?

STOFAN: Well, you know, I was 4.


SAGAL: (Laughter).

GOLDTHWAIT: So he could have told you it was the Fourth of July.

STOFAN: Yeah. You know, I will say I really remember it even though I was only 4. But he was in the blockhouse. And apparently what I don't remember is my mother told me apparently my sister and I got quite upset because we were like I thought my dad, like, stood next to the rocket with, like, a big button that he pushed on.

SAGAL: Oh, I see. You were afraid - so you weren't near your father. You were afraid, like, your father was, like...

STOFAN: No. We were far away. So - and he was in a blockhouse. And he was absolutely fine. But apparently I got somewhat upset, which is probably why I remember it so well.

MOSLEY: Peter, can I ask a question?

SAGAL: Go right ahead.

MOSLEY: Did Neil Armstrong go to the moon?

STOFAN: Yes, ma'am. He certainly did. He certainly went to the moon. And my favorite story around that is one of the astronauts, the Apollo astronauts, when he was asked about it - and he had this great Texas accent. He said, I could see faking it once, but nine times? You know, we actually went to the moon nine times.

SAGAL: Right. That's a good response. It's not as pungent as Buzz Aldrin just punching the guy. But, you know...

STOFAN: Well, that's...

SAGAL: You do what you do. So you became, if I'm not mistaken, a planetary geologist.

STOFAN: That is absolutely correct. I heard Carl Sagan talking about why we were going to Mars when I was 14. And I decided that's what I wanted to do. I was obviously a bit of a nerdy kid.

CHEE: That's so cool.

SAGAL: We keep being told that the discoveries being made on Mars are very, very exciting. But every time, the discovery is always something along the lines of more rocks, and look, dust. So what am I missing here?

GOLDTHWAIT: There might have been water here a while ago.

STOFAN: (Laughter) You know, I was trying to reach - I normally have a rock within reach. Actually, it's just slightly out of reach. You know, to a geologist, every rock is extremely exciting. But I will say when you're trying to figure out a whole planet, even one like Mars that's a third the size of the Earth, it's like a detective trying to figure evidence. So what we've been doing at Mars is figuring out, was there water on the surface at one point? Yes. How long did it stay on the surface? Wow, about 500 million years. That could have been long enough for life to evolve. So all those discoveries you're hearing are, like, pieces in a puzzle that's getting us closer and closer to saying, did life actually evolve on Mars? And we've gotten all the way to the point now where it definitely could have, but did it is still the question.


CHEE: I have a question. In terms of Mars, did Matt Damon actually go to Mars, and is he OK now?

STOFAN: You know, my daughter had - was walking out of the movie theater, and someone said, wow, this was a really great movie. I wonder when it happened. And it was like, no, that was just a movie.

KURTIS: (Laughter).

CHEE: Do you get mad when movies are scientifically incorrect about space?

STOFAN: You know, science fiction is incredibly important. I heard on NPR once - and I've never known who actually was the person who said this. No one ever invented something that someone didn't imagine first.

GOLDTHWAIT: That was me. That was me. I said that.


GOLDTHWAIT: Hey, can you answer me this? Like, in "Star Wars"...


GOLDTHWAIT: ...Would they really - would there really be explosions and fire? Or because the, you know, lack of oxygen, would it just kind of fold into each other when they got hit?

STOFAN: No. There would be still explosions. But it wouldn't, like, look quite like it does. They exaggerate it a little bit. No, it would still explode. You've seen the back of just the rocket launch we watched this week. When the rockets are firing in space, things still glow red, and you still...

GOLDTHWAIT: OK. And I would like to say thank you for not going, who is this idiot? So in the "Planet Of The Apes"...


GOLDTHWAIT: ...You know, like the - you know, the first "Planet Of The Apes" with Charlton Heston, right? So...

STOFAN: A classic.

GOLDTHWAIT: Yeah, right. Do you think there could have, like, been enough time for the planet to evolve? Like, what - would you actually - could do actually time travel in space? That's the question.

STOFAN: No. Next question.


GOLDTHWAIT: OK. Now, she's like, I've had it with this moron.

SAGAL: I understand. Well, Dr. Stofan, it is a real pleasure to talk to you. But we have, in fact, asked you here to test your knowledge with a game we're calling...

KURTIS: Why Don't You Step Into My Attic?

SAGAL: The Smithsonian, as you know, is known as the nation's attic. So we thought we'd ask you about other people's attics - that is, their weird or obsessive collections. Answer two out of three questions correctly, you'll win a prize for one of our listeners, the voice of their choice on their voicemail. Bill, who is Dr. Ellen Stofan playing for?

KURTIS: Lisa Eddison of New York, N.Y.

SAGAL: All right. You ready to do this?


SAGAL: OK, here we go. First question - celebrities are often collectors. Sir Patrick Stewart, for example, collects which of these - A, "Beavis And Butt-Head" memorabilia; B, viciously bad reviews of other actors or C, pornographic neckties?

STOFAN: I'm going to go with B.

SAGAL: No. Surprisingly, it was actually "Beavis And Butt-Head" memorabilia.

STOFAN: Oh, my...

SAGAL: He is a huge fan. Sir Patrick Stewart OBE is a huge fan of "Beavis And Butt-Head." He thinks it's the neatest. Who knew? All right. You still two more chances. There's no problem.

Here's your next question. King Farouk of Egypt was one of the wealthiest playboys in the world before he was deposed. Among his many collections, were which of these - A, live crocodiles; B, recordings of different people burping; or C, other world's possessions which he had stolen from them?

SAGAL: I'm going to go with A.

SAGAL: You're going to go with A, live crocodiles. I mean, he just - like, as many live crocodiles as he could get?


SAGAL: Before I give you the answer, where do you think he would keep them?

STOFAN: In a large crocodile facility.

SAGAL: Right. A large - some sort of large facility in which he had lots of large crocodiles crawling around.

STOFAN: Well, they do have crocodiles in Egypt.

SAGAL: Which would raise the question of why would he need to collect them.

STOFAN: You're trying to talk me out of this answer. I can see.

SAGAL: I'm not going to say I'm not.

STOFAN: I'm going to switch it to C, then.

SAGAL: Yes, you're right.


SAGAL: He was a notorious thief, King Farouk was. He once famously boosted Winston Churchill's pocket watch. On another occasion, he stole the shah of Iran's sword and medals from his open coffin. Oh, by the way, King Farouk also collected pornographic neckties.

STOFAN: You're joking.

SAGAL: No. He did. Technically, that's how I found out they existed.

All right, you have one more question. If you get this right, you win. Some people aren't just amateur collectors for their own pleasure; they have actually founded museums to display their collections. So if you were to leave the Smithsonian for other pastures, you could visit which of these - A, the Museum of Burnt Food; B, the Museum of Asphalt; or C, the Museum of Empty Candy Wrappers?

STOFAN: I'm going to with candy wrappers.

SAGAL: You're going to go with candy wrappers?


SAGAL: You're right.


SAGAL: Although all of them are real museums. So plan your vacation now, America.


SAGAL: Bill, how did Dr. Stofan do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Dr. Ellen got two out of three. And that means you won our quiz.

SAGAL: Congratulations. Dr. Ellen Stofan is the under secretary for science and research at the Smithsonian. More information can be found at si.edu. Dr. Ellen Stofan, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.


STOFAN: Thank you all.

SAGAL: Thank you. This was really fun to have you. Thank you. Take care.


SAGAL: Bye-bye.


NICKI MINAJ: (Singing) Starships were meant to fly. Hands up and touch the sky. Can't stop 'cause we're so high. Let's do this one more time.

SAGAL: In just a minute, Bill is totally a Miranda, a limer-anda (ph). It's our Listener Limerick Challenge. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to join us on the air. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR.

KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR News quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. We're playing this week with Karen Chee, Laci Mosley and Bobcat Goldthwait. And here again is your host, a Milwaukee Bucks fan since Tuesday of this week, Peter Sagal.


SAGAL: Thank you, Bill. In just a minute, Bill rocks out to his favorite German band, Rhyme-stein (ph), in our Listener Limerick Challenge. If you'd like to play, give us a call - 1-888-WAIT-WAIT. That's 1-888-924-8924. Right now, panel, some more questions for you from the week's news.

Karen, Subway has been undergoing some pretty disastrous PR lately. So to turn things around, they offered a free sandwich to anyone who wanted one this last week. One small problem, though. What?

CHEE: It's not real tuna.

SAGAL: No, that's one of the problems they're trying to get over.

CHEE: Oh, there's a new problem?

SAGAL: But this - we're specifically asking them, what happened when they offered a free sandwich to anyone who wanted one?

CHEE: Nobody wanted them.

SAGAL: Exactly right.


SAGAL: Subway, America's No. 1 restaurant for when you're at a gas station and can't stomach any more jerky, has had a really rough go of it lately. First, courts in the EU ruled that they could not legally call their bread, bread. Then, an investigation into their tuna salad sub found no traces of tuna. And it was probably a mistake to replace their disgraced spokesman, Jared, with Representative Matt Gaetz.

GOLDTHWAIT: (Laughter).

SAGAL: Then this week, the company hoped to turn all that negative press around with their new promotion, where anyone who wanted a free Turkey Cali Fresh sub could just walk into their local subway and pick one up. I mean, who could resist? And it turns out, everyone. Everyone could resist.


MOSLEY: I still like their meatball sub. I don't know what's in it, and I don't want to know.

CHEE: It's a fun surprise.

SAGAL: Yeah.

MOSLEY: It tastes like what I think a meatball would taste like.

SAGAL: Are you guys Subway - I'm actually kind of a Subway fan. I find that it's among the least disgusting fast-food choices.

MOSLEY: I am, too. And I thought I was eating fresh, and it turned out that I was eating...

GOLDTHWAIT: Packing peanuts.

SAGAL: Yeah.

MOSLEY: (Laughter).

CHEE: Yeah.

MOSLEY: (Laughter) Subway just needs to rebrand from eat fresh to eat - when you come here, you going to get something you could eat, and that's it. Eat.

GOLDTHWAIT: Oh, I don't know. I think their motto at this point should just be we - Subway - yeah, we stopped trying.


CHEE: Subway - please lower expectations.

SAGAL: Subway - let's all give up together.

CHEE: Yeah.

KURTIS: (Laughter).

SAGAL: Bobcat, question for you. Representative Paul Gosar, Republican, a former dentist, is a leader of the extreme right wing of the GOP. He hangs out with white nationalists, and he supports the January 6 insurrection. And all of that has been a big disappointment to what group of people?

GOLDTHWAIT: Give me a clue.

SAGAL: I will. He never used to cause this much pain to them, even when he was doing a root canal.




SAGAL: He has disappointed his former dental patients. Representative Gosar, who is a dentist, is already infamous as the guy whose own family keeps putting out political ads saying how much they hate him.


SAGAL: But - that's true. But The Washington Post checked in with people who are genuinely confused and disappointed in him, his former dental patients. He used to be so great. One says, quote, "he did a nice little job on a color match to make a denture tooth match the rest of my teeth. But now I'm repulsed thinking about it," unquote. On the other hand, one of his current patients said, quote, (unintelligible).


GOLDTHWAIT: In defense of his old patients, they never were around him when they were awake.

CHEE: That's true.

GOLDTHWAIT: Maybe they were on laughing gas, and he expound his beliefs. And they go, oh, you do such a hilarious right-wing lunatic.


GOLDTHWAIT: That's so spot on - the MAGA hat, all of it. It's so funny.

SAGAL: Many of his patients said they never talked to him about politics, which is a smart thing to do when the person you're talking to has a high-speed drill in your mouth. But they should have known when he recommended whitening for their teeth, but also for everything.

CHEE: (Laughter).

SAGAL: Karen, according to Google data, in 2020, a large number of Americans Googled the phrase corn teen. That's the first word, C-O-R-N, second word, T-E-E-N. Why were they Googling corn teen?

CHEE: They were - they misheard the word quarantine?

SAGAL: Right. There were misspelling quarantine.


SAGAL: Last year was hard, but I'm glad I wasn't under a corn teen. People attempting to Google quarantine Googled the phrase quarantine instead, which, by the way, resulted in lots of helpful information for parents. Ask your teen if they're using corn.

GOLDTHWAIT: (Laughter).

CHEE: It's teens who are super into cornhole.

SAGAL: Yeah, I know. Corn teen sounds like a crappy Midwestern superhero. Corn Teen, stop that villain. All right, I'll just get stuck between his teeth.

CHEE: That sounds like an amazing superhero. I would love to watch that.

SAGAL: Well, of course, once Corn Teen gets a little older, he becomes Corn Pop.


CHEE: They give out little kernels of knowledge.

SAGAL: The finding comes out of a survey of what was the most misspelled word in each state in Google searches in 2020. It's about what you'd expect. In Pennsylvania, the misspelled word was coronavirus, as it was in Michigan. In Wisconsin, it was quarantine, Illinois - coronavirus. And Florida was pharaoh. Not the food, the Egyptian ruler. Why? Why was the most misspelled word in Google searches in Florida pharaoh? Were a bunch of old Jews in Boca saying, wait a minute, who was it that didn't let our people go?


SAGAL: Coming up, it's Lightning Fill in the Blank. But first, it's the game where you have to listen for the rhyme. If you'd like to play on air, call or leave a message at 1-888-WAIT-WAIT. That's 1-888-924-8924, or click the Contact Us link on our website, waitwait.npr.org. There, you can also find out about our upcoming shows in the real world - in Philadelphia, at The Mann Center, August 5 and at Tanglewood in Western Massachusetts, August 26. Be there.

Hi. You're on WAIT, WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

ROB: Hi, this is Rob (ph) from Lake Leelanau, Mich.

SAGAL: I have been to Lake Leelanau, Mich., he said proudly, and it is a fantastically beautiful place. What do you do there?

ROB: I am a choir and drama director.

SAGAL: That is an impressive and important thing to be doing.


SAGAL: I'm sure you're changing lives. Have - do you find yourself encouraging your students to go into the arts or do you find yourself hoping they won't because, well, you know?

ROB: Oh, my gosh. Not very often, I'll tell you. I teach at Interlochen Center for the Arts during the summer. And...

SAGAL: Oh, my goodness.

CHEE: Oh, wow.

SAGAL: Well, wait a minute. That's a whole other thing.

CHEE: They're talented, talented kids.

SAGAL: Yes, massively talented to go to Interlochen.

ROB: Yeah. Yeah. So in the summer, that doesn't really happen. But, you know, sometimes, every once in a while, you have a kiddo that really thinks really a lot about themselves, and you're like, OK (laughter).

SAGAL: Oh, I can imagine. Well, thank you for the good work that you do.

ROB: Thanks.

SAGAL: Rob, Bill Kurtis is going to read you three news-related limericks with the last word or phrase missing from each. If you can fill in that last word or phrase correctly in two of the limericks, you'll be a winner. Ready to play?

ROB: I'm ready.

SAGAL: All right, here is your first limerick.

KURTIS: Two orange scoops, high stacking, please, a noodley (ph), lip-smacking tease. With bright orange powder, I scream ice cream louder. The flavor is Kraft...

ROB: Mac and cheese?



SAGAL: If you love ice cream...


SAGAL: ...But wish it tasted like something that's supposed to be hot, then you'll love the new Kraft macaroni and cheese-flavored ice cream. The launch of this was met with a, quote, "overwhelming response," but that could mean anything. Projectile vomiting is an overwhelming response. The ice cream is a limited edition, so you have to try it soon - or don't. But if you do, make sure to pick up some tuna and frozen peas and have a sundae.

MOSLEY: I kind of want to taste it.

SAGAL: Here's the thing. What does macaroni taste like?

GOLDTHWAIT: Macaroni tastes like a hug in your mouth.

MOSLEY: It does.

SAGAL: (Laughter).

MOSLEY: Now I want some.

CHEE: Bobcat, have you ever been hugged before?

GOLDTHWAIT: It is, though. It's a hug in your mouth. Like, it's - macaroni's like, I understand you, Bobcat. Everything's OK.


MOSLEY: It's like you don't have to do that work that you were supposed to do today.

GOLDTHWAIT: Just stay on the couch and rewatch "Peaky Blinders."

SAGAL: Yeah, exactly. Come on. It'll be fine.

All right. Very good. Here is your next limerick.

KURTIS: DNA tracking is really a cinch-y (ph). It makes art scholars feel a bit flinch-y (ph). I am part of the clan of the Renaissance man. My great uncle is Leo...

ROB: Da Vinci?


KURTIS: Da Vinci.


SAGAL: The Leonardo da Vinci DNA Project has identified 14 of his living relatives who, I assume, will be legally changing their names to Leonardo Descendant. Da Vinci DNA tracked the genealogical lines of da Vinci's father, Mr. da Vinci, and found 14 individuals who share some of the master artist's DNA. They all live in Italy. They range from age 1 to 85. They've had a wide variety of jobs and hobbies. In fact, the only thing they have in common is that they're all facing much higher expectations now. Researchers are very excited to study these 14 people to see if their DNA sheds any light on da Vinci's genius and to see if their 14 birthmarks combine to form a Masonic map to the secret site of the Holy Grail.


CHEE: That must be tough Because no matter how successful you are, you're going to be a letdown compared to Leo da Vinci.

SAGAL: Yeah, compared to like - at least he's not here to be disappointed in you personally. Really?

CHEE: Right.

SAGAL: All right. Here is your last limerick.

KURTIS: Our fashion sense serves as a rote gag. Thanks, HBO. We can now gloat brag. For "Sex And The City" makes pledge drives look pretty. Ms. Bradshaw now carries a...

ROB: Tote bag.




SAGAL: Based on paparazzi photos on the set of the new "Sex And The City" reboot, it looks like Carrie Bradshaw has swapped her designer handbags for public radio tote bags. You thought you were a Carrie. It turns out you're more of an Audie Cornish.

CHEE: (Laughter).

SAGAL: This was really cool for us at NPR until you realize it just means Carrie is old now. Her advice column is about reverse mortgages these days.

Bill, how did Rob do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Unbelievable - three in a row.

SAGAL: Congratulations, Rob.


ROB: Yay.

SAGAL: Well done. Really appreciate it.

ROB: Thank you.

CHEE: Bye, Rob.

ROB: Bye-bye.


SAGAL: Now onto our final game, Lightning Fill in the Blank. Each of our players will have 60 seconds in which to answer as many fill-in-the-blank questions as they can. Each correct answer is now worth 2 points. Bill, can you give us the scores?

KURTIS: Bobcat has 2, Laci has 2, and Karen has 4.

SAGAL: Oh, my goodness.

CHEE: What?

SAGAL: So Laci and Bobcat, you're tied. So I'll randomly pick you. Bobcat, you go first. The clock will start when I begin your first question. Fill in the blank.

On Wednesday, Nancy Pelosi rejected two GOP nominees for the committee investigating the attack on the blank.


SAGAL: Right.


SAGAL: Thanks to the delta variant, daily blank infections have tripled over the last two weeks.


SAGAL: Right.


SAGAL: In a powerful tirade against cryptocurrencies like Dogecoin, blank called to the entire market a cartel to benefit the rich.

GOLDTHWAIT: Julian Assange.

SAGAL: The creator of Dogecoin.

On Wednesday, PG&E announced plans to bury power lines in areas of California where blank risk is high.


SAGAL: Right.


SAGAL: According to The Washington Post, President Trump's PAC has spent about blank of the $75 million it has raised to litigate the election.


SAGAL: No, none. They have spent none of it on the election. This week, a man in Florida was arrested...


SAGAL: ...After he threw a live alligator into the roof of a bar in order to blank...

GOLDTHWAIT: Clear it out.

SAGAL: No, in order to, quote, "teach it a lesson."


SAGAL: According to police, the man stole the alligator from a nearby mini golf course where, this being Florida, it probably worked the front desk. He then wrestled with it outside a bar and tried to throw it onto the roof to teach him a lesson, he says. Was the lesson about where the roof was?

GOLDTHWAIT: (Laughter) The lesson was about flight. I've seen a lot of cartoons, so I imagine the alligator came down as luggage.

SAGAL: Yes, exactly.


SAGAL: Bill, how did Bobcat do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Well, he got three right for 6 more points. He now has 8. And that is the lead.


SAGAL: All right, Laci, you're up next. Fill in the blank. On Monday, a federal judge upheld Indiana University's right to require students to get blanked.

MOSLEY: Vaccinated.



SAGAL: This week, Senate Republicans blocked a vote to start debating the bipartisan blank bill.

MOSLEY: The bipartisan toilet bill.

SAGAL: Infrastructure. On Monday, a city hall in Louisiana removed a blank that had stood at city hall for 99 years.

MOSLEY: Statue.

SAGAL: Right.


SAGAL: According to a new report, average blank expectancy in the U.S. has dropped by a year and a half.

MOSLEY: Life expectancy.

SAGAL: Right.


SAGAL: This week, a mom in Washington...


SAGAL: ...Was mortified after learning that her 6-year-old daughter went to school with blank stuck to her Velcro shoe.

MOSLEY: Toilet paper.

SAGAL: No, her mom's underwear. After picking up her kid from school, the mortified woman took a video of her daughter explaining what happened. And honestly, the kid tells it best. First, a teacher said, you've got something in your shoe, honey. And then I stomped all the way to the principal and said, this is my mom's underwear. Our house is quite messy. And then I got back to class and I said, this is on my shoe this morning. And my teacher said to put it in my backpack. Might be a little embarrassing, but at least the kid got an A plus on her show-and-tell way, way too much assignment.

Bill, how did Laci do on our quiz?

SAGAL: Laci had three right, for 6 more points. She now has 8 and is tied for the lead with Bobcat.


SAGAL: All right. How many, then, does Karen Chee need to win?

KURTIS: Well, Karen needs two to tie, three to win.

SAGAL: Oh, my God. You ready for this?

CHEE: We'll see. I'll try my best.

SAGAL: All right. Here we go, Karen. This is for the game. During a town hall on Wednesday, President Biden said getting rid of the blank would cause chaos in Congress.

CHEE: The filibuster.

SAGAL: Right.


SAGAL: This week, the administration announced extended bans on nonessential travel to Canada and blank.

CHEE: Mexico.

SAGAL: Right.


SAGAL: This week, a police officer in California who spent all of 2020 on disciplinary leave was blanked.

CHEE: Let back onto the force.

SAGAL: No. He was named 2020's California officer of the year. On Wednesday, disgraced producer blank pled not guilty to assault charges in LA.

CHEE: Harvey Weinstein.

SAGAL: Right.


SAGAL: On Thursday, President Barack Obama announced a new book he's co-authoring with blank.

CHEE: Bruce Springsteen.



SAGAL: For the past seven years, a woman in New Jersey says that she's been battling...


SAGAL: ...The IRS to prove that she is blank.

CHEE: Paying her taxes.

SAGAL: No, that she is not dead.

CHEE: (Laughter) Oh, my God.

SAGAL: Thanks to a clerical mix up, the woman was declared dead seven years ago and has been fighting with the IRS ever since. The problem is, every time she calls to resolve the issue, the person on the other end says, oh, no, a g-g-g-ghost (ph).

CHEE: (Laughter).

SAGAL: The woman says she's really looking forward to finally getting everything sorted but will miss being able to tell friends, I'm sorry. I won't be able to make it to your improv show. I'm legally dead that day.

CHEE: She ghosted the IRS.

MOSLEY: Which we should all ghost to the IRS.

SAGAL: Bill, did Karen do well enough to win?

KURTIS: She had four right for 8 more points. And that means with a total of 12, she is the winner, the champion this week.

CHEE: Yay.


SAGAL: In just a minute, we're going to ask our panelists to predict what will be the big surprise out of the Olympics.

WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME is a production of NPR and WBEZ Chicago in association with Urgent Haircut Products - Doug Berman, benevolent overlord. Philipp Goedicke writes our limericks. Our house manager is Gianna Capadona. Our social media superstar is Emma Choi, and our web guru is Beth Novey. BJ Leiderman composed our theme. Our program is produced by Jennifer Mills, Miles Doornbos and Lillian King. Special thanks to Vinny Thomas. Our quarantine is Peter Gwinn. Technical direction is from Lorna White. Our CFO is Colin Miller. Our production manager is Robert Neuhaus. Our senior producer is Ian Chillag. And the executive producer of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME is Michael Danforth.

Now, panel, what will be the big surprise out of the Olympics in Tokyo? Laci Mosley.

MOSLEY: The Olympic Committee unveils a surprise brand-new sport to commemorate what we all did during lockdown last year - couch surfing. Whoever's buns can withstand the grip of an IKEA couch the longest wins. Naturally, Sweden takes it because of a home-field Ikea advantage.


SAGAL: Bobcat Goldthwait.

GOLDTHWAIT: Athletes are now allowed to nurse, so we are going to be surprised by the amount of 28-year-old male athletes who are still nursing.


SAGAL: And Karen Chee.

CHEE: All the winners are going to take their medals and then melt them together to make one big medal.


KURTIS: Well, if any of it happens, we're going to ask you about it on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

SAGAL: Thank you, Bill Kurtis. Thanks also to Laci Mosley, Bobcat Goldthwait and Karen Chee. Thanks to all of you for listening. I'm Peter Sagal. We will see you out there soon, and we will see you right here next week.


SAGAL: This is NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.