The guest contestant on this week''s Wait Wait...Don''tTell Me! is Andrew Rannels, who came to fame starring in the original Broadway production of Book of Mormon, and went on to be in HBO's Girls and currently is starring in the Showtime series, Black Monday. His interview with host Peter Sagal has a very funny, politely-snarky quality as he goes through the range of jobs he left very early or auditioned for.
The surprising guest contestants on the 'Not My Job' segment of the NPR quiz show Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! are "Mike D" and "Ad-Rock" two of the three members of the Beastie Boys. It turns out the band has a "group autobiography" which was just released that they're promoting. The interview with host Peter Sagal is a bit disjointed, though very self-effacing that leads to some pretty funny moments.
A few weeks back, I wrote here about Trump making a speech and rambling so far all over the place that I thought it appropriate to embed a recording of the great Tom Paxton's classic song, "Ramblin' Boy."
As longtime readers of these pages know, I'm a huge fan of Tom Paxton, so I thought it would be good to post a wonderful in-concert version of the fellow singing the song. Plus a couple of bonuses.
I've happily seen Paxton in concert several times and even more happily got to meet him twice -- once when I was working at the Ravinia Musical Festival during my college summer and he was performing there, and another time after I wrote a HuffPo piece about him, got a wonderful email back, which led to him inviting me as a guest to his concert at McCabe's in Santa Monica, that I went to along with the inveterate Chris Dunn. He was a thoughtful, genial fellow both times.
(The Ravinia concert particularly stands out. He had actually shown up a day early -- we had a folk concert with Steve Goodman, Bonnie Koloc and John Prine...which is one heck of a concert!!...and Paxton wanted to see it. Which speaks to who he is. Anyway, he came backstage, where I was working that night and we chatted. When he showed up the next evening for his concert, he passed by me and before I could greet him, he recognized me and remembered my name, with a "Hi, Bob." And even nicer, while he was the one artist I wanted to meet most during that summer, and he was the only one who didn't have a manager with him, so I had to deal with him directly. It was a joy.)
Paxton received Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2009 which is high cotton. Alas, it only got 14 seconds of air time, and that was split among several other performers in a quick montage. (Though here it is...)
Anyway, this first music video comes from the Royal Hall in Harrowgate, North Yorkshire, in 2015, only four years ago, so the good fellow is still performing -- at the time, he was 78, with new albums, and yet a new UK tour that starts...on this Saturday, at age 81.
Paxton, I should note, is particularly popular in England. And that's not just subjective hyperbole. Indeed, eight years earlier, on January 22, 2007, when he was starting a tour of the United Kingdom, Paxton was given an official Parliamentary tribute at the House of Commons -- beating his Grammy honor by two years.
It reminds me of a wonderful story I read in an article about Paxton. His daughter was in England and attended a folk club where the performer sang this particular song, "Ramblin' Boy." She went up to him afterwards and said that her father wrote it. But the singer didn't believe, not for the reason you'd expect, but because he didn't think the author was even known, stating with certainty that it was a traditional folks song. But she persevered and kept insisting that her father really did write, "Ramblin' Boy." And the fellow was just as insistent that he couldn't have. Finally, a bit exasperated, he asked her, "So who is you rather." Tom Paxton, she answered. There was a pause, as the guy considered this, and then said, "Okay, I can see that."
Here he is in concert -- accompanied here by Robin Bullock on guitar and mandolin -- leading into the song with a fun story about bringing to Pete Seeger the song he'd just written back in 1963.
Okay, so, after now hearing Tom Paxton tell that story about Pete Seeger singing his song at Carnegie Hall on June 8, 1963, only two weeks after first heard it -- here is that very recording he's talking about. And though you don't have to listen to the whole song again (since another version is coming along in a moment), you will at least enjoy Seeger's introduction, where he talks about this song you may never have heard before. Written by "a young fella named Tom Paxton." But if you do listen, it's worth hearing Seeger take the lead on the song in a very affectionate performance, complete with his always-wonderful harmony on the chorus as he gets the audience to sing along.
And here's the other bonus video -- a very young Tom Paxton, probably around 27, singing the song with Pete Seeger, on Seeger's New York City television show in the early 1960s.
The guest contestant on this week's "Not My Job" segment of the NPR quiz show, Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! is actor Matt Smith, most popular for being of the actors to play 'Dr. Who' -- but probably more famous for playing 'Prince Philip' for the first two seasons of The Crown. His interview with host Peter Sagal is pretty straightforward though interesting for his discussing his iconic roles -- and upcoming films as a couple of real-life, dark characters.
On this past Sunday's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the topic of the main story was professional wrestling. It is not a subject I have any interest in, although happily the show took the one perspective I could tolerate -- trashing the owner of the WWE, Vince McMahon, quite an odious man. While I don't find professional wrestling the wonderful entertainment that Oliver does, I think they did a terrific, often very funny, but also blistering and at times even touching job at dealing with the problems McMahon has created for so many of his employees -- in large part because he's been able to get away with calling them independent contractors rather than employees, which they are.
My one quibble with the story was one aspect of McMahon's story which got totally ignored. I don't know if it was an oversight (and if it was, it's a major one), or they didn't want to go in that direction, but I think they should have. And it's that McMahon's wife Linda not only is a former Republican candidate for the Senate in Connecticut (which she lost), but she's been in the Trump cabinet for the past two years as head of the Small Business Administration. Only the other day, she announced she was leaving the post -- but to lead the major Trump for 2020 Re-election PAC, America First Action. Personally, I think that's important to at least have mentioned.
Given the day, I'm reminded of my most memorable April Fools Day prank. I tend to remember it every year with no trouble, since I don't tend to do elaborate April Fools Day pranks, I loved the gag and also because I almost got fired because of it.
This was in 1983, during my dark days when I was just a kid and didn't know any better so I worked in PR. I was the head writer in the Publicity Department at Universal Pictures, and among my various jobs, one was to write press releases. So, I thought it would be fun to write one for April Fools Day. I made absolutely sure to mark it "NOT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE" (the standard press release says "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE") and clearly dated it April, 1. And I only passed it around the office, and did not send it out.
Ronald Reagan was president at the time, so that gave me my idea. And to make it work to its fullest, it's always best to put in little details that are true to ground things in reality, but twist that into absurdity (because given the subject matter I did want to make absolutely sure that this would be seen as a joke -- though enough veracity to give some people a "Wait a minute..." pause). And as luck would have it, only a week or so before it had been announced that First Lady Nancy Reagan would be playing herself in a cameo role on the sitcom Different Strokes to present a "Just Say No' pitch. And making that all the better, the TV show was taped on the Universal Studio lot and would take place the following week, I believe, and had received a great deal of attention. And ultimately, it read exactly like a standard press release, since after all that was my job, and something I could do in my sleep -- though I made the details as over-the-top and as silly as possible. If the Truly Gullible believed it, fine, but the point of it was a joke, and I most-wanted people to get it and laugh.
I don't remember the specifics but to the best of my recollection it read in part along the lines of--
April 1, 1983
That wasn't it exactly, but it's close, and there was a bit more in the press release, as well.
As I said, I wrote that it was NOT for immediate release, dated it April 1 and only distributed it to the people in the department. The reaction was better than I expected, with people stopping by my office to laugh. And then I went out of lunch.
When I got back, one of the secretaries had an ashen face and said, "You have to go to David's office -- now."
David was David Weitzner, the Senior Executive Vice-President and head of the entire Marketing Department, not just for Publicity, but Marketing and Advertising, as well. He was the Big Enchilada, and I was at the bottom of the barrel among the publicists. (I originally wrote "probably at the bottom," but there was no "probably" about it.) We'd spoken a few times, but I never had a meeting with him in his office.
When I got there, a bit wary, though more curious than anything, I saw him standing there with a face that appeared oddly beet red and body that seemed clenched. With him was the PR Director, Fred Skidmore, a insecure fellow, always trying to impress you with his importance, who I never got along all that well with -- I always sensed he bizarrely viewed me as "a threat" somehow. Weird, since I was the most inexperience publicist in the department, but I think that being the youngest it must have made me seen aggressive and someone who'd want to move up the ladder, eventually taking his job. (Not only was moving up the PR ladder the last thing on my mind -- I got out of the department a year or so later when I made some quiet contacts and got myself hired to work as an assistant production executive directly reporting for Bob Rehme, the president of the studio -- but even if I'd wanted to become had of the PR department there were half a dozen people far more qualified above me, and it would have taken many years.)
So, as David chewed me out, Fred stood there looking like the Chesire Cat, doing his best to look deeply serious, but grinning widely inside. Occasionally he'd nod in agreement to whatever David was saying,and chiming on a "That's right" from time to time. I don't remember all that much what David was saying -- in part because it's 36 years ago, but in part because it was words that didn't matter. It was clear he was upset, and I knew why, so the specifics were meaningless, and also the only thing I was listening for that mattered was the phrase, "You're fired." That didn't come, so I was okay. There is only one comment I do remember David saying -- he asked, "What do you think would be the reaction if this press release got out into the public???!" I remember thinking, as he pounded me with the question, that I very much wanted to answer, "The reaction would probably be -- Wow, what a great sense of humor they have at Universal...!!" The good news is that for all my sense of whimsy, I had the good sense not to say that. And not to say pretty much anything, but instead nod a lot and stay pretty silent, at most explaining that it didn't get out and was only distributed within the department, and "I'm sorry."
Nothing happened, other than I was told to go around the department and pick up every copy and destroy them. I think that Fred seemed a bit let down that I wasn't drawn and quartered.
(Side note: A few years later, after I left the department, and after I'd left Bob Rehme's office and Universal completely, and focused on being a freelance writer, though still doing independent publicity for a few more years because I had to eat, I was hired by David Weitzner to write a speech for him that he'd been asked to give at some big event. It went very well, and he even liked the jokes I threw in. Not a word about what would be the reaction if it got out that the head of Universal Marketing had a sense of humor..).
Okay, in fairness, I understand why he was bothered by the April Fools Day press release, and I didn't get fired, after all. But it was a joke, it was clearly an over-the-top joke, it was marked for April 1, and it didn't get sent out anywhere. But, yes, I get it.
And there's a funny post script.
A couple weeks later, I was having dinner with one of my oldest friends, Patrick Goldstein, who wrote an entertainment column for the Los Angeles Times. I'd been in the same cabin at summer camp, the oft-mentioned here Camp Nebagamon, and we also went to the even-more mentioned Northwestern University. So, I knew I could trust him implicitly. I told Patrick I had an amusing story for him, but added that not only could he not print it, he couldn't even ask me for permission to print it. I said I just didn't want to get into a debate about it, he simply couldn't even ask to print it, but I thought he'd get a chuckle out of it. He understood and agreed. He wouldn't print it, he wouldn't even ask.
So, I told him the story and then handed him a copy of the press release. (No, I hadn't thrown them all out...) Patrick read the release, looked up and said..."You have to let me print this!"
I didn't. And he didn't. I preferred to keep my job. But that easily I could have had it published in the Los Angeles Times -- explaining it was (obviously) just an April Fools Day joke.
Happy Aprils Fool Day.
The guest contestant on this week's NPR quiz show Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! is Aidy Bryant of Saturday Night Live. Her conversation with host Peter Sagal is exceedingly personable and spends a bit of time - understandable on a show that's broadcast from Chicago -- talking about her time in Chicago with The Second City.
Lest it be accepted as normal given the source, it must be noted -- whether you've been offended in the past by such language or not (and most people claiming a platform of "morality" have been) -- a president saying "Bullsh*t" to a rally is not normal.
Let's head back to What''s My Line? for another "Mystery Guest" segment, though with a slight twist. And that's because even though the contestant today is one of the more well-known names in the history of rock music, it's not a "Mystery Guest" at all, where the panelists have to put on a mask to hide the celebrity's appearance, he's just a regular guest on the show. However, he doesn't sign in with his real name because that would have been known, even then in October, 1964. Yet even at this, host John Daley gets his wrong, calling him "Barry," rather than "Brian," although the fellow quietly corrects Daley. So, here is Brian Epstein, the manager of The Beatles who were than at perhaps their Fab High. If you want to skip past the show's opening introductions, the segment begins around the 3:00 mark.
The guest contestant of the "Not My Job" segment of the NPR quiz show, Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! is Aaron Sorkin, who created The West Wing and The Newsroom, and wrote A Few Good Men The Social Network, Moneyball and Molly's Game, which he also directed, as well as...oh, you know. His conversation with host Peter Sagal is pure Aaron Sorkin -- lots of words, very enthusiastic, and a lot of fun.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, is a regular columnist for the Writers Guild of America and was for the Huffington Post. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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