'Wait Wait' for Oct. 16, 2021: Sweater Weather Edition

Oct 16, 2021
Originally published on October 16, 2021 12:00 pm

This week, the autumn leaves are changing, so we heat up some apple cider and remember some of our favorite moments from the past year. Click the audio link above to hear the whole show.

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Joel McHale Plays Not My Job
Joel McHale does it all, he's a comedian, an actor, and a game show host, but since we loved him so much on Community, we ask him three questions about community theater.

The Dulcé Sloan Experience
After a year of only doing shows remotely, we finally met Dulcé in person when she joined us at the Mann Center in Philadelphia. It was definitely worth the wait.

Ellen Stofan Plays Not My Job
Ellen Stofan, currently the undersecretary of science and research at the Smithsonian, which is known as the "nation's attic," answers three questions about weird collections in other people's attics.

Black Thought Plays Not My Job
Tariq Trotter, better known as Black Thought from The Roots, answers three questions about "The Suits": TV executives.

Phillipa Soo Plays Not My Job
Phillipa Soo originated the role of Eliza Schuyler in Hamilton, so we invite her on to play a game we call: "Hamilton? Try a ton o' ham!"

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 in Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME!, the NPR News quiz. Put your sweater on because the weather is getting autumn-Bill (ph). I'm Bill Kurtis, and here's your host, a man who still can't tell the difference between apple juice and apple cider, Peter Sagal.



Thank you, Bill. I cannot believe it's October already. It seems like just yesterday we were sitting around, refusing to believe it was September. So as a reminder to ourselves that 2021 really happened, we are going to stop and look back on things we managed to do this year.

KURTIS: Personally, I measure out my life in coffee spoons - solid gold coffee spoons. I have three metric tons of them now.

SAGAL: For example, we are relatively certain that in May of this year, we talked to Joel McHale, who keeps switching back and forth from acting in shows like "Community" to hosting talk shows. He clearly loves an audience, even when canned.


JOEL MCHALE: Thank you for the clapping.

SAGAL: You're welcome.

MCHALE: Just calm down, everybody. Calm down.

SAGAL: You've done so many things, but I actually want to start with the thing that you're doing now.

MCHALE: Right.

SAGAL: "Crime Scene Kitchen." Can you explain this show to us?

MCHALE: I'd like you to explain it, thank you.


MCHALE: So nice of you. No, it's called the "Crime Scene Kitchen," where - it's a competition baking show. And there's 12 teams of bakers, and they get to go into this thing called the crime scene kitchen. And they have to make a dessert while a person slowly bleeds out.

SAGAL: (Laughter).

MCHALE: You have to complete it before the person dies. OK. No, it's - the bakers don't know what they're supposed to make. But in the crime scene kitchen, there's - something has been baked there. And there's evidence left, like a little pile of cocoa powder or, like, some fondant on a fork or, like, some wax paper with some sort of pattern. And then they kind of go, I think it's this dessert. And then they go back, and they have to make it. And then we see - at the end of the round, we reveal what it was. And whoever gets closest, they kind of - they move forward. And whoever really screws it up, which happens a lot - they...


MCHALE: One team gets eliminated. So it's on Fox after Gordon Ramsay's show "MasterChef."

SAGAL: Wow. And...

KURTIS: Going great.

SAGAL: Did they come up with the show, or did you come up with the show?

MCHALE: I don't know. I just host.


SAGAL: I love it. What's interesting to me is - I mean, forgive me for not knowing you in your early career. But I first became aware of you when you were hosting "Talk Soup" - right? - which was...

MCHALE: That was - no, no. That was my early career.

SAGAL: OK. So "Talk Soup" was a show which was about other television shows...


SAGAL: ...Including, like, reality shows. So you would get - and you...


SAGAL: ...Would just talk about, like, the crazy things that had happened on the various franchises and other networks.


SAGAL: Did you actually like those shows? Were you excited to talk about them? Do you like reality TV?

MCHALE: No. No, no. There was some shows that I really liked, and then others were not great. And then those were the most fun to make fun of.

SAGAL: Sure.

MCHALE: And - you know, but there were really good reality shows. Like, "Dirty Jobs" to this day goes down as one of my favorite reality shows of all time.

SAGAL: Oh, yeah. It's rare for people who succeed in Hollywood to make fun of other people in the industry. So have you ever had the experience of, like, running into some of the people you talk trash about on that old show and them not being happy with you?

MCHALE: Without - the only person that got mad was Tyra Banks. And I have since talked to her, and she was cool. But everybody else, every single reality star, no matter who I made fun of - if I met them, they would be like, thank you so much. My mom was so happy that you make fun of me on "Bachelor In Paradise." So - and I was like, yeah, when you were walking around naked and high, it was wonderful for us. So...


MCHALE: Then the Kardashians, once in a while, would - when they first started, would call when we would make fun of them.

SAGAL: Yeah.

MCHALE: So Kris Kardashian was like a mom next door. And our ball would go into her yard, and then she'd be like, this is mine. I'm keeping this. And...


MCHALE: The president of the network would call me and be like, hey. Can you just lay off the Kardashians this week? And I'll be like, yeah, no problem. And then we go right back. And then they became the most famous people on the planet, and then they could care less.

SAGAL: Right before you got that gig, you were a stand-up primarily, right?

MCHALE: No. I didn't...


MCHALE: ...Start doing stand-up until after "The Soup" because my - one of my agents said, hey; if you go to comedy clubs and just introduce comics, you're going to see all your fans and, you know, make extra money, because I wanted a pool.

SAGAL: Sure.

MCHALE: And so that's kind of how that came together. And so now I've been doing standup for 16 years.

SAGAL: Right.

MCHALE: And at some point it's going to start working. And so...

SAGAL: Eventually.

MCHALE: Yeah. And so that's kind of how - I backed into that. I did - I was primarily an actor before "The Soup."

SAGAL: Right, right, right. I once heard the story that, like, you were on stage and performing, and it went so badly the audience tried to physically hurt you.

MCHALE: Yeah, that definitely happened. I had to run out.

SAGAL: And what happened? What did you do that was so offensive to them?

MCHALE: I was making fun of Fresh Air with Terry Gross. And they were like, enough, enough.

CRISTELA ALONZO: Hold me back. Hold me back.

SAGAL: Cut his mic.

MCHALE: They jumped at - yeah, I had to run away. I think - they got so mad, and I don't know what was going on. They clearly were not fans of "The Soup." And...

SAGAL: No, no.

MCHALE: I'm a person that can't stop going if I'm challenged. So each comic...

SAGAL: Right.

MCHALE: ...Got 20 minutes. So I grabbed the clock that was the countdown clock, and I turned it around and said, I'm staying on stage until this clock is at zero. And they didn't like that. They did not like that at all.


MCHALE: And I ran.


MCHALE: I ran away. It was very weird.

SAGAL: Yes - to physically flee. So you went on. You left that show, and you were on "Community," which was, like, this great cult hit.

MCHALE: No. I did them at the same time, and I'm not kidding. Yeah.

SAGAL: Oh, wow. You went back and forth from the set of "Community" to - wow.

MCHALE: I would go to "Community," get my makeup on, run over to eat, tape "The Soup" and then run back and shoot all day. It was good times.

SAGAL: Oh. And "Community" - I've heard these stories, like, the set of "Community" was weird.

MCHALE: I don't know who's ever told you that. It was harmonious. Yeah, it was bananas.

SAGAL: (Laughter).

MCHALE: But I am literally on a group text with the cast, and we talk to each other almost probably every other day. If something comes up, we all comment on it.

SAGAL: Sure.


SAGAL: Yeah.

MCHALE: We did a table read last year, and I burst out crying at the end of it because I missed everybody so much.

SAGAL: Oh, you did one of those reunion table reads that some of the shows were doing last year as sort of...

MCHALE: No, we did a reading of "Modern Family," dude.


SAGAL: OK, that also makes sense.

MCHALE: No, not for charity. We just wanted to make more money.

ALONZO: Two pools.


SAGAL: Absolutely. Well, Joel McHale, it is pretty much a joy to talk to you, but we have, in fact, asked you here to play a game this time we're calling...

KURTIS: All About Community Theater.

MCHALE: Oh, nice.

SAGAL: Community theater. You - see? - you were the star of the sitcom "Community." We're going to ask you some questions about community theater. Answer two out of three questions correctly, you will win our prize for one of our listeners. Bill, who is Joel McHale playing for?

KURTIS: Julie Phillips (ph) of Madison, Wis.

SAGAL: All right. You ready to do this?

MCHALE: Julie, I just want to apologize in advance.

SAGAL: All right. Here's your first question. Community theater, as you know, does Broadway shows, but on a fraction of the budget. This can lead to some embarrassing moments, as in which of these which happened to during a Lawrence University production of "Into The Woods"? A, they couldn't afford a Big Bad Wolf costume, so they had to use the school mascot, thus Little Red Riding Hood was eaten by a giant chipmunk; B, in the scene where Jack sells his cow, Jack turned around too fast, and the cows leg flew off into the audience; or C, they didn't have understudies, so when one actor got sick, the other actors had to refer to the invisible prince?

MCHALE: The first two seem silly, so I'm going to say it's the last one because that sounds like something community theater people would do.

SAGAL: No, it was actually the cow leg.

MCHALE: Dammit.

SAGAL: It was the cow leg - flew off into the audience.

MCHALE: You're welcome, Julia.

SAGAL: You have two more chances here. You have not lost. If you went to a community theater in Greenwich Village in 1974, you might have seen a 7-year-old Vin Diesel in his very first acting role. How did he get that part? A, the show's director caught him breaking into the theater and said she would not call the cops if he would be in the play; B, he was hiding from police in a tire when it got rolled on stage; or C, he just straight up had the best audition for the role of Murray in Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple"?

MCHALE: Wow. It's the first one.

SAGAL: It is the first one.


SAGAL: Yes. He and his friends were delinquents. They broke into the theater. They were caught, and the lady said, hey, if you enroll in my theater course and perform in these plays, I will not report you to the cops.

All right. Get this last one right, and you win. In one particular community theater production of "Oliver!," the musical, the director fired the actor who was playing the villain, Bill Sikes, in the middle of the run. But he didn't have an understudy, so the fired actor got to do one more show. What happened? A, the audience was treated to a new Bill Sikes song in the musical called "The Director Sucks And Here's Why"; B, he kept calling the other actors by their real names and asking them why they were talking a fake British accents and bursting into song; or C, in the scene where Bill is shot to death, he got back up like a zombie, crawled across the stage and pretended to strangle young Oliver, then announced to the audience, Oliver is dead - and then announced to the audience, Oliver is dead, and stomped out of the theater.

MCHALE: He did it twice?

SAGAL: No, I just repeated myself because I hit my lamp.


MCHALE: Oh, sorry. That would have been really weird.

SAGAL: It would have been really weird.

MCHALE: No, we get your joke, sir. We got it the first time.


SAGAL: It would be funny if he did it, walked out of the theater, came back and said, no, wait a minute, did it again just to emphasize the point.

MCHALE: Yeah. You already - it's already ruined.

SAGAL: Right.

MCHALE: Yeah. All right. So in that case, I would say it's the last one because that was the last scene of the thing.

SAGAL: Exactly right.


SAGAL: That was his exit, and that's what he did. Exactly right. Very well done. Apparently - and apparently the kid playing Oliver was like, what do I do? This is crazy. And he finally decided the only thing to do was to play along, so he went, ah, and died - died, in quotation.

MCHALE: That is so great.

SAGAL: It was the best production of "Oliver!" ever - right? - because Oliver is a whiny little brat. You want him killed. Let's admit it.

MCHALE: OK, that's not where I was going.


SAGAL: Bill, how did Joel McHale do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Well, here, the "Crime Scene Kitchen" cries out for more gruel. More, sir. You may not realize it, Joel...

MCHALE: Bam. Bam.

KURTIS: ...But you're a winner. You're a winner - two out of three.

SAGAL: (Laughter) That was amazing, Bill. That was word jazz.

MCHALE: Oh, my gosh. This is a dream come true, and I'm not kidding. I do listen to this show, and I cannot believe I'm on it. So this is crazy.

SAGAL: You did it. You did it.

KURTIS: Come back.

MCHALE: I did it.

SAGAL: Joel McHale's new show, "Crime Scene Kitchen," airs Wednesdays on Fox. Joel McHale, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

MCHALE: Yeah. Thank you so much. And Oliver Twist is dead, everybody. He's dead.


SAGAL: Bye-bye, Joel.

MCHALE: Bye, you guys. Thank you.

SAGAL: I really appreciate it. Take care.


MCHALE: See you. Bye. Bye.


THE 88: (Singing) I can't count the reasons I should stay.

SAGAL: When we come back, Dulce Sloan live and in person. And if you're a billionaire with a spaceship, have we got the perfect passenger for you. That's when we come back with more 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, and here is your host, who wonders if you're allowed to stare dramatically into the distance while still looking at your phone, Peter Sagal.


SAGAL: Thank you, Bill. So this week we are taking stock, as the year comes to a close, to make sure it all really happened. Time is so weird these days. Is it going forward, backward standing still?

KURTIS: All I know is I still look the same as I did when I was 20 years old. The painting in my attic, though, looks terrible.

SAGAL: One great thing that happened this year was that we finally and briefly were released from our homes to do some shows in front of a live audience, including at the Mann Center in Philadelphia. And there, after a year of only doing Zoom shows from her closet in New York, we finally got to meet Dulce Sloan in person.

KURTIS: And of course, it was everything we dreamed of. Here's an extended taste of the Dulce Sloan experience.


SAGAL: Dulce, for the first time in the 70 years that they have been under observation, a group of macaques - that is a baboon-like monkey - at a reserve in Japan have a leader who is what?

DULCE SLOAN: Let's see. A group of monkeys - OK.


SLOAN: So a group of...

SAGAL: So they've been observing this group of macaques. And as you may know, these monkeys, like all monkeys and apes, have very complicated social systems.

SLOAN: Right.

SAGAL: And they have a leader.


SAGAL: And for the first time in the 70 years they've been watching, the leader is a what?

SLOAN: Female?

SAGAL: Yes, exactly.


SAGAL: Congratulations.

SLOAN: There was only two options.

SAGAL: Yakei the macaque...

SLOAN: Yakei.

SAGAL: ...Became the first alpha female after simply beating up her own mother.


SAGAL: But then to become overall leader of this band of macaques, she had to defeat the alpha male, which she did, of course, through emotional understanding and cooperation.


SAGAL: No, I'm kidding. She just beat him up, too.


SAGAL: Usually when you're a monkey and you shatter the glass ceiling, you're just escaping the zoo.


MO ROCCA: So wait - she - sorry. She defeated the former leader?

SAGAL: She defeated the alpha. That's how it works in a monkey society.

ROCCA: She macaque-blocked him.

SAGAL: Exactly.


SLOAN: Is she teaching - is she starting a podcast just so she can, you know, share her ways with the rest of us?

SAGAL: No. The podcast is being started by the male she toppled because that's the only thing that men know how to do with their free time, is do a podcast.


SLOAN: They used to build things.

SAGAL: Yeah.


SAGAL: Dulce, according to Vanity Fair, the rich residents of the Hamptons on Long Island are all upset about the influx of whom into that area?

SLOAN: The Blacks.



SLOAN: OK, I knew that was wrong (laughter). Can I have a clue?

SAGAL: You can have a clue. I've never even heard of the .0001%.

SLOAN: More richer than them.

SAGAL: Yes, richer people.


SLOAN: The rich people of the Hamptons are upset that even richer people are taking over the place. It's going to be so tough for Bruce Springsteen's daughter.


SAGAL: The Hamptons, everybody knows - famous colony for the wealthy out there - it's being overtaken by even wealthier people, which is like the gentrification of a Whole Foods.


SLOAN: Wholer Foods.

SAGAL: Wholer Foods.


SAGAL: One resident of Amagansett - Amagansett, said, quote, "there's so much money now, it's nauseating. I'm a 1 percenter, but I bear no resemblance to those people"...


SAGAL: ...Unquote.

SLOAN: Yo. You can't those-people people that can those-people you.

SAGAL: Exactly.


SAGAL: It's - there's no recursive those-people rule.

SLOAN: You goofy heifer, that's now how this works.

SAGAL: Yeah.

SLOAN: You in the bottom now.

SAGAL: Yeah. Exactly. How do you like it? Now, the uber rich thought that was a little harsh. They said quote, "I'm lowered by my servants into my yacht one leg at a time, like anyone else."


SAGAL: So houses are going for, like, astronomical tens of millions of dollars. Landscapers are installing fully grown trees at, like, $75,000 a pop. And people are being forced to drive up to an hour away to get necessities, like groceries and peasants to hunt for sport.


SLOAN: (Singing) Quick question.

SAGAL: Yes, Dulce?

SLOAN: (Singing) Are these men single?


SLOAN: So this is my cunning plan, right? Catch one of these mega-billionaires slipping, or...

SAGAL: Wait a minute - slipping. What do you mean, like, physically slipping and rescue them? Or...

SLOAN: Absolutely not. That's his maid's maid's job.



SLOAN: Catch him on a bad day, right? Because listen. I know I'm not a trophy wife, right? Because I talk. And...


SLOAN: But if my boat has a boat in it...

SAGAL: Yeah.

SLOAN: ...I can be quiet.


ROCCA: And wait - but he'll slip. How will he slip? What's the scenario?

SLOAN: Well, this is - catching him slipping is this, right? So...

ALONZO BODDEN: You have to explain.

SLOAN: You right.

BODDEN: Welcome to NPR, Dulce.

SLOAN: I hear you.

BODDEN: You have to do a Black-to-NPR...


BODDEN: ...Explanation.

SLOAN: So this...

ROCCA: Is there an app for this?

SLOAN: So this is brought to you by the Code Switch team. So...


SLOAN: ...Catching this man slipping means I am catching him unaware.


SLOAN: Right?

SAGAL: Right.

ROCCA: Devious.

SLOAN: So he's out and about, living his best white man life, right?


SLOAN: And then I catch him somewhere, maybe picking out fine cheeses.


SAGAL: That's what rich white people like to do.

ROCCA: Yeah.

SLOAN: Mmm hmm, fine cheeses, a charity - like, one of those $10,000 $20,000 plate things. Maybe I'm performing at that.

SAGAL: Yeah.

SLOAN: Right?

SAGAL: One of those dinners, right.

SLOAN: Because I ain't paying $10,000 a plate for this dry-ass chicken. It's not happening. I'm a Christian, right?

SAGAL: Right.


SLOAN: So I'm performing at the $20,000 a plate. Boom. All of a sudden, I see an older gentleman out there, looking like I could maybe catch a kid out of him. Because you've got to catch a kid. Otherwise, there's no point, right?


SLOAN: So maybe he's had a couple to drink. I'll make sure he's drinking brown liquor, so he ain't, you know, on his P's and Q's, right?


SAGAL: You have thought this out.

ROCCA: This is great.

SLOAN: I'm not...

ROCCA: She's storyboarded it.

SAGAL: I know.


SLOAN: Listen. I've been working since I was nine years old. I'm tired.


FRANK SINATRA: (Singing) I'm a sentimental sap, that's all. What's the use of trying not to fall? I have no will, you've made your kill 'cause you took advantage of me.

SAGAL: These days, it's hard to look up without seeing some billionaire or another streaking across the sky in their private spaceship.

KURTIS: I like to take potshots at them with my silver shotguns. Sure, they're out of range, but it's the thought that counts.

SAGAL: If you want to send somebody to space who deserves to go, may we recommend Dr. Ellen Stofan? She's a planetary geologist and the former director of the Air and Space Museum. And she knows everything there is to know about the great unknown.

KURTIS: She joined us in July, right after Jeff Bezos sent himself to space on his own rocket, or at least he said he did.


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

SAGAL: We got you here. We've 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 Karman 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.

LACI 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 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 uncrewed 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.

BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT: So your dad took you to work, and then you watched this 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 'cause, 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 launch, 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, what did your dad say? Did he just go, bad day at work?

STOFAN: Well, you know, I was 4.



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

STOFAN: (Laughter) 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, and he pushed on it.

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, he 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.

MOSLEY: 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 of 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.


KAREN 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 that happened. And it was like, no, that was just a movie.

GOLDTHWAIT: Did you...

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

STOFAN: You know, science fiction is incredibly important.

SAGAL: Right.

STOFAN: 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.

CHEE: Ooh.

GOLDTHWAIT: That was me.

CHEE: (Laughter).

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


GOLDTHWAIT: ...Were 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 - when the rockets are firing in space, things still blow red. And you still...


SAGAL: Yeah.

GOLDTHWAIT: And I would like to say thank you for not going, who is this idiot?

STOFAN: (Laughter).

GOLDTHWAIT: 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, would you actually - could you actually time travel in space? That's the question.

STOFAN: No - next question.


GOLDTHWAIT: OK. Now she's tired. 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 to 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. Here's your 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 have 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 worlds' possessions which he had stolen from them?

STOFAN: 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: But 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 he would 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 go 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.

CHEE: Yeah.

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 undersecretary 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.



KURTIS: Thank you, doctor.

STOFAN: Thank you all.

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


KURTIS: 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: When we come back, Black Thought from The Roots and Phillipa Soo, the star of "Hamilton." Try to rap along, or, on second thought, please don't. We'll be back in a minute with more 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. And here is your host, a man who hopes that wearing the same sweatpants and T-shirts every day prevents aging, Peter Sagal.


SAGAL: Thank you, Bill. It seems impossible that another year is racing towards its end, so we decided to spend this week going back and retracing our footsteps in the sands of time.

KURTIS: A place where there is just one set of footprints. That's where I took a break and had margaritas with my gal pals.

SAGAL: We talked to a lot of great people this year, including Tariq Trotter, better known as Black Thought of The Roots.

KURTIS: Peter asked him about how he met Roots co-founder Questlove back in high school.


TARIQ TROTTER: As I recall, we were in the principal's office on opposite sides of the fence, so to speak. I was receiving a suspension.


TROTTER: And I think he had come into the office to bring, like, flowers to the principal.


TROTTER: He was delivering an apple or something.


TROTTER: Yeah, I noticed he had a denim jacket with the peace sign that was hand painted on the back of it. And I was a visual arts student, and one of my sort of side hustles was that I would do jackets and jeans, you know, with that same sort of design. So it caught my eye. I was wondering, you know, who's this guy sort of, you know, moving in on my turf?

SAGAL: Right, right.

TROTTER: And yeah, we struck up a conversation. And I found out he was a musician and a drummer and, you know, that he was, you know, into hip-hop and sampling stuff. And yes, so we decided that once I got back from my suspension that we were going to, you know...


SAGAL: You founded the band. It was even called The Roots back then, right? I mean...

TROTTER: No, no, no. Back then - yeah, we founded The Roots in 1987, and we were initially called Radioactivity. And then....

MOSLEY: It wasn't called The Seed?

TROTTER: No, no. You know, my kid made a similar joke earlier.

SAGAL: (Laughter) Oh, really?

TROTTER: Yeah, yeah.

SAGAL: Were you always the MC of the band? That was your role from the beginning?

TROTTER: Yeah. Yeah, that was always my role. It began as, you know, just an MC and the drummer.

SAGAL: That was it. It was an MC and a drummer.


SAGAL: And did you always - I mean, for those who don't know, you are renowned for your ability, among many other things, to freestyle. Is that something that you had back then? Or is that something you had to build and learn and work towards?

TROTTER: I mean, it's always been, you know, a work in progress. But once The Roots - once we actually formed a band and it was like, OK, we're going to do this thing, and I'm going to rap over live instrumentation, I felt like I had to go - you know, just always able to go above and beyond, you know, what was expected of me as an MC and as a performer.

SAGAL: I say this as someone who's constantly making stuff up off the top of my head. Have you ever, like, started a phrase and had no idea where it was going to end, but it just like - and you get it? It's like, I hope I think of something to rhyme by the time - in three seconds when I get there.

SAGAL: Yeah, absolutely. I've impressed myself, you know, trying to...

TROTTER: (Laughter).

SAGAL: So you've been part of this band since 1987. And you guys had a tremendous amount of success and credibility already. And how did you guys react when - I don't know who it was - Fallon or one of his producers came to you back - and this was when he has "Late Show," I remember...


SAGAL: ...Before it became "Tonight Show." And so we want you to be the house band for this late-night comedy show or talk show.

TROTTER: Initially, it was disbelief and, you know, just distrust. You know what I mean?

HELEN HONG: (Laughter).

TROTTER: It was like, are we being punked? And, you know, why us sort of thing.

SAGAL: I can't say I know a lot about hip-hop, but I'm just assuming that you guys as established people in that field were not, like, really excited to be the next Paul Shaffer.

TROTTER: Yeah. No, no. I wasn't - I don't think any of us were really excited. This wasn't - you know, I didn't see this as part of our trajectory, and it wasn't - definitely not a rapper goal, you know?

SAGAL: Yeah.


SAGAL: Well, Tariq Trotter, Black Thought, we have had so much fun with you today, but we have asked you here to play a game we're calling...

KURTIS: It's great, just great. But we have a few notes.

SAGAL: So you're, of course, a founding member of The Roots, so we thought we'd ask you about suits. That is network executives, the ones who oversee movies and TV.



TROTTER: You're going to get me fired.

SAGAL: Yeah, no, no. We're not going to ask you about anybody at NBC Universal. Don't worry about it.


SAGAL: Answer three questions about these very helpful people and their contributions to the creative arts. You will win our prize for one of our listeners, the voice of anyone from our show they might choose on their voicemail. Bill, who is Tariq Trotter playing for?

KURTIS: Andrew Stevens of Fort Wayne, Ind.

SAGAL: All right, here's your first question. So the executive in charge of "Back To The Future," back when that movie was made, thought the script was great, just great. He did have one little suggestion, though. What was it? A, instead of a DeLorean, make the time machine a tricycle because tricycles are funny; B, the hero Marty McFly should stay in the past and in the end be revealed to be his own father; or, C, change the title from "Back To The Future" to "Spaceman From Pluto?"

TROTTER: I'm going to say B.

SAGAL: You're going to say B, that he's like, Marty McFly should go back, meet his mother and marry his mother and become his own father. That's what you think.

TROTTER: (Laughter) Yeah, yeah.

SAGAL: I mean, we are thinking about a network executive, so it could happen that way. Is that going to be your choice?

TROTTER: Yeah, it's B. I'm going to say B.

SAGAL: No, it was actually C. He wanted them to call it "Spaceman From Pluto."

TROTTER: Really?

SAGAL: You have two more chances. This is not a problem. Here's your next question. Mark Frost, the co-creator of "Twin Peaks," among other TV series, was once hired to do a new version of "Moby Dick" for a movie studio in the '90s. And he says that one studio exec asked him the following question. Was it A, can it be a dolphin instead? People like dolphins; B, how does the boat go without a motor; or C, does Ahab have to die in the end?

ADAM FELBER: Massive spoiler there, Peter.

MOSLEY: It's too old to be spoiled.

SAGAL: There's no spoiler alert for 150-year-old novels. Sorry.

FELBER: (Laughter).

TROTTER: OK, I'm going to say A.

SAGAL: You're going to say - so you're saying this network executive who's commissioned a new version of "Moby Dick" said to the writer, can it be a dolphin instead, the great white whale?

TROTTER: Yeah, he said, does Ahab have to die?

SAGAL: That's right.


SAGAL: He said, does Ahab have to die?


SAGAL: Mark Frost also says that this guy used to refer to the protagonist of that film that didn't get made as Ish.


SAGAL: Ishmael's too formal. He just wanted to call him Ish. All right. Your...

FELBER: I kind of like that.

SAGAL: Yeah. All right. Here's your last question. You get this - you win. Which of these was an actual comment from a network executive at NBC when they passed on the pilot for "The Walking Dead"? Was it A, the U.S. government would never allow a pandemic like that to get out of hand; B, instead of eating people, could the monsters have a thing for, like, Twinkies; or C, this is awesome. I really love it. Does it have to have zombies in it?




SAGAL: That one you knew.



SAGAL: That's what he said. They passed. It did pretty well, I am told, at another channel.


SAGAL: Bill, how did Tariq Trotter do on our show?

KURTIS: He won, won, won. Two out of three - big one.

SAGAL: Congratulations. There you go. Add that to the remarkable resume. Tariq Trotter is an actor, producer, rapper known as Black Thought. He is the co-founder of The Roots. You can see him starting May 6 in an all-remote version of "Waiting For Godot." More information at thenewgroup.org. Tariq Trotter, what a joy to talk to you. Thank you for all the great things you've done.

TROTTER: Thank you. Thanks, you guys.

SAGAL: Take care.

KURTIS: Bye, Tariq.

TROTTER: Thank you.

SAGAL: Bye-bye.


THE ROOTS: (Singing) Out on the streets where I grew up...

KURTIS: Finally, one of the best things to happen to Peter this year was a chance to talk to one of the original stars of "Hamilton" on Broadway - Phillipa Soo, who created the role of Eliza Hamilton.

SAGAL: She was one of the Schuyler sisters.

KURTIS: As you can guess, it was tough for Peter to hide his enthusiasm when we spoke to her in July.


PHILLIPA SOO: Hello. Thank you for having me.

SAGAL: How many times do people see you on the street and run up and immediately launch into "The Schuyler Sisters," as I am about to do now? (Laughter).

SOO: I would say about, I don't know, 10% of the time.

SAGAL: Ten percent, which is a fair amount. Does it tend to happen in, like, particular places?

SOO: Well, I mean, I'll tell you this much. You know, I've had a lot of Zoom conversations in the past year, as we all have.

SAGAL: I bet, yes.

SOO: And it's always about that gasp.

SAGAL: Oh, right.

SOO: That's always a sort of common question and topic.

SAGAL: For people who haven't seen "Hamilton," the show ends kind of weirdly, not with, like, a big musical, whatever, but with your character, who's, like, the last person living, on stage, and it's just this weird moment where she - you - looks into the distance, like above the last row of the audience, and gasps. And that's the end of the show.

ROCCA: Well, right. And then "Don't Stop Believin'" starts playing at that point.

SOO: (Laughter).

ROCCA: Exactly. It's very strange. It suddenly comes in, and we don't know if you live or die. It's very mysterious and a little unsatisfying. So the question you must always get is, what are you looking at when you gasp - right? That's what everybody wants to know, I'm assuming. But what are you thinking about?

SOO: Well, you know, people don't like this answer, but it's true 'cause it's the theater, which is - it's different every show. I mean, it's not...


SAGAL: Really?

SOO: Yeah, it was different every show. I mean, sometimes, like, you know, there would be, like, a week where I feel like I would be exploring the idea of, like, looking out and seeing something very tangible, like seeing, like, the orphanage or seeing, like, all the things that I've been talking about, like, in the past song that I've been singing. And then sometimes it was a little bit more figurative, like looking into the future or - you know.

ROCCA: I thought you were gasping at Madonna on her cellphone.

HONG: (Laughter).

SOO: Yeah.

ROCCA: She actually came to the show and - right? - and spent the whole time on her cellphone.

SOO: Yeah, I guess she did. I didn't see her.

SAGAL: Is that true?

GINA BRILLON: That's Madonna.

SOO: I didn't see her, but I heard about it.

SAGAL: You did get a lot of celebrity visits to the show, who often went backstage to take pictures with the cast. Like, there's a picture we found of you with, for example, Beyonce.

SOO: Yeah.

SAGAL: And that must - did you - did that, like, go around? Like, did you guys know who you were performing for in any given night if there was somebody famous?

SOO: You know, I mean, some people really liked to know. I know Lin really liked to know who was out there. And that sort of, like, was really fun for him to know. And for me, I wasn't really a fan of knowing who was out there because I didn't want to, you know, make myself more scared about doing the entirety of "Hamilton" than I already was (laughter). So...

SAGAL: Right.


SOO: So I was like, oh, don't tell me who's out there. But I know I could see in people's faces, like, when somebody special was there.

SAGAL: I have a question, and I'll preface it by saying that I am one; I am a big "Hamilton" fan. But as the recipient of this worship, do we "Hamilton" fans ever sometimes get annoying? Be honest.

ROCCA: Wow. She's taking a long time to answer.


SAGAL: Yeah, that was definitely a pregnant pause.

SOO: No, I think, like, the fans have been so sweet and so nice. And it's just - and they're all really young, too. There's a lot of, like, young kids who are fans.

SAGAL: Yeah, I know. I know. There are 5-year-olds dressed up as you.

SOO: I know.

SAGAL: You won a Grammy for the cast album. Is that right?

SOO: Yes. Yes, we did.

SAGAL: And we found a picture of you taking a shot out of your Grammy, which I did not know was possible.

SOO: Well, that was actually a shot out of Daveed's Grammy, I believe.

SAGAL: Oh, really?

SOO: Yeah.

SAGAL: Oh, you're not going to take a shot out of your own Grammy. You...

SOO: No, no, no. I keep it very nice.

ROCCA: Pristine.

SOO: And I dust it every once in a while. Yeah. No, Daveed was definitely like, we're taking shots out of the Grammy. So...

BRILLON: (Laughter).

SAGAL: Wow. And you're up for an Emmy now...

SOO: Yeah.

SAGAL: ...Because of the film version of "Hamilton," which is very exciting. Have you thought about what you might drink out of your Emmy?

SOO: (Laughter) I don't know. Can it hold liquid?

SAGAL: I don't think so. The Emmys I've seen...

HONG: It's like...

SAGAL: ...They have that kind of globe that's...

HONG: Yeah.

SAGAL: ...Like, made of, like, bands of metal...

HONG: You might have to do - you might have to fountain it.

SAGAL: Yeah.

HONG: You know, like, hold it above your head and have it dribble down over the Emmy and then into your mouth.

SOO: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

BRILLON: Helen, that was brilliant.

HONG: Thank you.

BRILLON: That was spoken like an alcoholic.


SAGAL: Well, Phillipa Soo, we're thrilled to talk to you, as I hope we've shown. But we have asked you here to play a game we're calling...

KURTIS: Hamilton? Try A Ton O' Ham.

SAGAL: You starred in "Hamilton," so we're going to ask you about a ton of ham.

SOO: Oh, my.

HONG: (Laughter).

SAGAL: Answer two out of three questions about ham, and you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - the voice of their choice on their voicemail. Bill, who is Phillipa Soo playing for?

KURTIS: Michael Dennehy of Boston, Mass.

SAGAL: All right, ready to do this?

SOO: I came to win it. OK? (Laughter).

SAGAL: I love this. All right.

ROCCA: Are you surprised? This is a woman who drinks out of her Grammy.

HONG: No, she's a woman who drinks out of other people's Grammys.

ROCCA: Better, better.

SAGAL: To maintain the hygiene of her own Grammy. Yes.

BRILLON: Exactly. That's how gangster she is.


SAGAL: OK, let's say you're a big enthusiast for ham. If so, you can enjoy which of these in addition to eating ham - A, you can visit one of the many museums of ham throughout the country of Spain; B, you can visit the ham spa in southern France, where you are fed acorns and cured in salt just like a ham; or C, you can visit or even compete in the famed Westminster Ham Show?

SOO: I feel like the answer is A.

SAGAL: You feel like the answer is museums of ham in Spain. And you're right.


SAGAL: As you may know, the Spanish people love their jamon, and there are many museums of ham, where you can see exhibits...

SOO: Thank God.

SAGAL: ...About the making of their jamon.

SOO: I want to go.

SAGAL: Perhaps the world's most famous ham is a particular ham that was made in 1902 by the Gwaltney Foods Company in the U.K. Why is it so famous? A, it is the only ham ever declared kosher by a rabbi because, quote, "God wouldn't keep us from eating something this delicious"; B, it looks quite a lot like the Virgin Mary, so it is worshipped as the Immaculate Pork-ception (ph); or C, the owner of the company put a collar and leash on it and introduced it to people as his pet?

SOO: I think I'm going to go with B.

SAGAL: You're going to go with the immaculate Pork-ception?

SOO: Yeah.

SAGAL: No, I'm afraid it was actually C. The owner of the company carried this thing around on a leash and a collar to introduce it as his pet. We're not quite sure why, but the ham is still there. It's still - nobody ate it. And you can see it right now via the ham cam, courtesy of the Museum of the Isle of Wight, where the ham resides.

HONG: (Laughter).

SOO: My jaw has dropped.

SAGAL: It, in fact, has. Just so the listeners know, her jaw, in fact, dropped.

SOO: (Laughter).

SAGAL: Now, this is fine 'cause you can still win with this last question. Ham is sometimes used for purposes other than, say, lunch, such as which of these? A, a Chinese company paid its creditors with ham instead of money; B, the Hamball League (ph) of Southern Portugal, a version of baseball in which the ball is struck with a whole bone-in ham; or C, the hamophone (ph), a special instrument played in Slovakian orchestras made entirely out of ham?

SOO: Oh, my gosh. B.

SAGAL: So you're suggesting that there's a league in Portugal where they play a version of baseball in which they swing a leg of ham?

SOO: OK, yeah. In retrospect, I think B was an insane answer. I don't know why I said that.


SOO: I'm going to say A because I know how obsessed my family is - my Chinese family is with food, and I feel like food is everything.

SAGAL: You're exactly right. It was A.


SAGAL: The company, which as you can imagine processes ham, offered ham to its creditors instead of money because they had run out of money. Then, of course, they started running out of ham. Bill, how did Phillipa Soo do on our quiz?

KURTIS: She got two out of three right. That's good enough on our show.


SAGAL: Phillipa Soo is an Emmy-nominated actor and singer who originated the role of Eliza Schuyler in "Hamilton." Her newest project, "The Stand-In," is available now from Audible. Phillipa Soo, what a delight to talk to you. Thank you for everything.

SOO: Thank you, guys.

SAGAL: Such a thrill. Bye-bye.

SOO: Bye.


SAGAL: That's it for our Where Did All The Time Go? Oh, That's Where It Went Edition.

Support for NPR comes from this station and from Ooma, a cloud-based phone service for small- and medium-sized businesses with an automated virtual receptionist, video meetings and mobility features to run their businesses from anywhere. More at ooma.com. Fidelity Wealth Management, helping clients develop investing strategies for tax efficiency. More at fidelity.com/wealth. Investment minimums apply. Fidelity Brokerage Services, LLC. And Noom, providing an online evaluation and the tools to help people lead healthier lives through behavior change. More information at Noom - N-O-O-M - noom.com.

WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME is a production of NPR and WBEZ Chicago in association with Urgent Haircut Productions - Doug Berman, benevolent overlord. Philipp Goedicke writes our limericks. Our public address announcer is Paul Friedman. Our social media superstar is Emma Choi. B.J. Leiderman composed our theme. Our program is produced by Jennifer Mills, Miles Doornbos, Lillian King and Nancy Saechao. Our sunset at 6 p.m. is Peter Gwinn. Technical direction is from Lorna White. Our business and ops managers 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 Mike Danforth. Thanks to everybody you heard this week - all of our panelists, all of our guests, of course the amazing Bill Kurtis. Thanks to all of you for listening along. I am Peter Sagal. We will be back next week.


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