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Bluff The Listener

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Bluff The Listener

Bluff The Listener

Bluff The Listener

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Our panelists tell three stories of unwanted government intervention, only one of which is true.

CARL KASELL, Host:

From NPR and WBEZ-Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!, the NPR News quiz. I'm Carl Kasell. We're playing this week with Faith Salie, Roy Blount, Jr., and Paula Poundstone. And here again is your host, at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.

PETER SAGAL, Host:

Thank you, Carl.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Thank you everybody. Thank you everybody. 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!

BRENDA BOWEN: Hi, Peter. This is Brenda Bowen from New York, New York.

SAGAL: Hey, how are things in New York?

BOWEN: They're stormy.

SAGAL: Stormy?

BOWEN: Yeah.

SAGAL: Cool. What do you do there in New York?

BOWEN: I'm a literary agent for children's books.

SAGAL: Oh really?

BOWEN: Yeah.

SAGAL: Oh, well I have children, so I've read a lot of children's books recently.

BOWEN: That's good.

SAGAL: What's the next big thing going to be in children's books? Can you tell me?

BOWEN: The next big thing?

FAITH SALIE: The next "Goodnight Moon."

BOWEN: The next "Goodnight Moon" is going to be whatever crosses my desk tomorrow.

SAGAL: Really?

BOWEN: I hope.

SALIE: Brenda, I have a question about children's books?

BOWEN: Yes.

SALIE: With all due respect, I sometimes feel about them the way I do about modern art, where you look at it and you go, "I could do that."

BOWEN: I bet you do, Faith. And maybe you would like to write a children's book.

SALIE: Sure.

BOWEN: Okay, you need an agent?

SALIE: Sure.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: There you go.

SALIE: Thanks, Brenda.

BOWEN: I would...

SALIE: I got one about a monkey afraid of the dark.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BOWEN: Right.

SAGAL: I don't think you respect the form, Faith. That's what I think.

PAULA POUNDSTONE: I remember once I was cleaning up late at night, I was putting things away. And I came across a book, I don't know who bought it, but it was a cardboard book called "The Book of Shapes." And I swear to you, it was six pages long, and that's because it went as far as oval.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

POUNDSTONE: And I looked at the cover, and it was co-authored.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Brenda, believe it or not, we're glad to have you with us.

SALIE: Yes, we are.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

POUNDSTONE: By the way, the books that have sponges in them...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

POUNDSTONE: That go in the bathtub, the text isn't any good at all.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

POUNDSTONE: Sorry, Brenda.

BOWEN: Thanks, Paula.

POUNDSTONE: Peter's going to explain the rules to you now.

BOWEN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Brenda, it's nice to have you with us. You're going to play our game in which you have to tell truth from fiction. Carl, what is Brenda's topic?

KASELL: Hands off, Uncle Sam.

SAGAL: The government's there to keep us well fed, happy and healthy and then leave us alone. But some would say lawmakers are now doing more than that. That big government is expanding right into our private lives. Our panelists are going to tell you three stories of intrusive regulation. Choose the true story; you'll win Carl's voice on your home answering machine. You ready to play?

BOWEN: I'm ready.

SAGAL: First, let's hear from Faith Salie.

SALIE: Penny Steiger is the county clerk of Orangeburg County, South Carolina, and she has a PhD in English from Princeton. Which might be why she couldn't stand the poorly-written, ungrammatical hackneyed wedding vows she kept hearing in local churches and the historic courthouse.

So, starting this month, if you want a marriage license in Orangeburg County, you need to present your wedding vows for approval first, and then be ready for some harsh criticism.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SALIE: Steiger explains, quote, "Here in Orangeburg County, we believe that it's our job to ensure that a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman begins with immaculate grammar and some creativity." This means that Steiger will send draft vows back to young lovers, covered in red-inked corrections. And she even suggests literary quotations to brides and grooms.

"The most common mistake I see is couples writing between you and I," she sighs. "I offer premarital counseling in the objective case."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Your wedding vows must be approved by the county clerk in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Your next story of big brother butting in comes from Roy Blount, Jr.

ROY BLOUNT: Ain't nobody here but us chickens. Yeah, right, the voice you here in the henhouses of Hopewell Township, New Jersey these days is that of big brother. This week, we learned that Hopewell's town fathers have passed an ordinance limiting the cohabitation rights of local hens and roosters.

Only ten days a year, just enough time for fertilization, may chickens legally hook up in Hopewell Township. Why? Well, supposedly it's a noise issue. At any rate, Hopewell's government is more into cock-a-doodle-don'ts than cock-a- doodle-dos.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOUNT: Because any rooster who crows too loud during his conjugal visit will be banned for two years.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOUNT: "I know, old cock," whispers Henrietta, "at last, after so long, I know. And you were great, but shhh."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Hopewell, New Jersey puts unreasonable limits on the love life of chickens. Your last story of government intrusion comes from Paula Poundstone.

POUNDSTONE: The town of Balon, Florida has changed its name to Smile, Florida, and claims to be the dental hygiene capitol of the world. Dentist and Mayor, Dr. Damien Baskes, enthusiastically led the drive. They launched a huge campaign to encourage good dental hygiene, which includes visits from multiple Mr. Happy Tooth characters. Not all smilers, however, are smiling about it.

"They're not visits, they're unsolicited checkups that trample all over our rights to privacy," claims Tim Becker. "I bought a goo-goo cluster at the Kroger last Tuesday and two hours later, some Nazi dressed as an incisor shows up at my door."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

POUNDSTONE: Twenty-two year old Christmas Village clerk Nancy Ross says, "it used to be a fun idea, but it has gone too far. If a cop pulls you over and you don't smile, they can become suspicious and check your teeth."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

POUNDSTONE: "These issues call for balance," says a day trader named Junior, who asked that we not use his last name, and pretends to be toothless to keep the powers that be off his back.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

POUNDSTONE: "I'm not sure that having the government measure your floss strikes that balance."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: All right then, here are your choices.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: From Faith Salie, an overzealous county clerk in South Carolina who has to approve wedding vows before she'll issue a license. From Roy Blount, Jr., the city fathers of Hopewell, New Jersey putting limits on the love lives of chickens in that town. Or from Paula Poundstone, a repressive dental regime in the newly renamed town of Smile, Florida. Which of these is the real story of government overreach?

BOWEN: Well, Roy was the only one who was nice to me during the introduction.

BLOUNT: Aha.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SALIE: Oh no.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

BLOUNT: Baawk.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BOWEN: And he read it so poignantly that I'm going to have to go with Roy.

SAGAL: All right, you're going to choose Roy's story of Hopewell, New Jersey limiting the sex lives of chickens. Well, we spoke to somebody to somebody who actually was involved in this governmental action.

JOHN HART: What we decided was that they could have roosters (inaudible).

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

HART: Twice a year.

SAGAL: That was John Hart. He is a farmer in Hopewell, New Jersey. He sits on that town's Agricultural Advisory Committee that passed the chicken ordinance. Congratulations, Brenda, you got it right.

BOWEN: Thank you.

SAGAL: You earned a point for Roy.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: You've won our prize. Carl Kasell will record the greeting on your home answering machine. Well done.

BLOUNT: Thank you.

BOWEN: Bye-bye. Thank you so much.

POUNDSTONE: Bye, Brenda.

BOWEN: Bye.

SAGAL: Thank you so much, Brenda, bye-bye.

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