Bluff The Listener

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Our panelists tell us three stories of occupational hazards, 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 Paula Poundstone, Brian Babylon, and Jessi Klein. And here again is your host, at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.

PETER SAGAL, host: Thank you, Carl.


SAGAL: Thank you everybody. Thank you so much. Right now, it's 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!

DAVID DUNBAR: Hello. This is David Dunbar, calling from Tucson, Arizona.

SAGAL: Hey, how are things in Tucson?

DUNBAR: Well, it was hot earlier this week, but today it actually cooled down to a balmy 96 degrees.

SAGAL: There you go. What do you do there?

DUNBAR: I'm a doctoral student at the University of Arizona, studying orchestral conducting.

SAGAL: Really?

DUNBAR: Uh-huh.

SAGAL: Is there much of a job market for orchestra conductors these days?

DUNBAR: It's a very small job market, yes.

BRIAN BABYLON: But you're the best.

SAGAL: There you go.

DUNBAR: Indeed.

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

KASELL: I'm filing for worker's comp.

SAGAL: Some jobs are renowned for being dangerous - fire fighting, coal mining, hosting public radio shows.



SAGAL: But what about jobs we always assumed were safe? Our panelists are going to read you three stories about jobs with unexpected risks. Guess the true story; you'll win Carl's voice on your home answering machine or voicemail. Ready to play?

DUNBAR: Yes, indeed.

SAGAL: All right, here we go. First, let's hear from Ms. Jessi Klein.

JESSI KLEIN: Usually the most dangerous thing that can happen to a Hollywood screenwriter is a bad review or an embarrassing up-trousers photo as they climb out of a cab. But Aaron Sorkin isn't your average scribe. Sorkin, who is currently developing a show about a cable news network for HBO, recently showed up to a pre-Emmy party in West Hollywood with a broken nose.

When asked how it happened, Sorkin sheepishly confessed, "I wish I could say I was in a bar fight, but I broke my nose writing." Sorkin, who is famous for doing lots of other things with his nose while writing, said he was trying to work out some lines of dialogue in the mirror when he accidentally head-butted himself.


KLEIN: It's difficult to imagine exactly how this could have happened until one remembers that one of Sorkin's stylistic trademarks, often seen on his show "The West Wing," is the long walk and talk. So it's possible that he started talking into the mirror from 30 feet away, and then got so engaged in urgent witty banter with himself, that he forgot to look up until he smashed into it.

Sorkin wrote the screenplay for last year's critically acclaimed, "Social Network." No word on what body part he injured while writing that project, but seeing as it garnered him an Oscar, it was probably worth it.

SAGAL: All right. A Hollywood screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, breaks his nose in the throws of creative fervor. Your next story of an occupational hazard we did not know about comes from Brian Babylon.

BABYLON: When Shera Labelle gives tours at the Tillamook Cheese Factory in Tillamook, Oregon, as she's done for five years, she's 50 feet away from any of the machines, safe behind railings and thick safety glass, and the curious cheese fans. But nothing can save her from the power of her imagination.

She says, quote, "I'd stare at the guy stirring the cheese curds in the open vats and start to obsess. What would happen if I fell in one? People cheese, that's what. Can you imagine what would happen if he went into that cheese presser? I do."

Her hallucination levels of imagination of what could happen, but never has in the whole history of the factory, became debilitating. She soldiered on. She wrapped both her arms in thick bandages after sleepless nights, imaging a cheddar loaf wrapping machine gone berserk.

But eventually, she had to file workman's comp. "I'm not even sure people should be allowed to see how cheese is made," she said recently. "I mean, it's not sausage, but often it's served with sausage, and for me, that's bad enough."


SAGAL: A tour guide at a cheese factory can't deal with her imagination, looking at the machines. Your last story of a workplace danger comes from Paula Poundstone.

PAULA POUNDSTONE: Mike Quirk of Jackson, New Hampshire relished his job at Stormville, an amusement park full of Mother Goose themes and toddler-friendly rides. Mike, who happens to be short, at 5'4" tall, kept himself stout, just over 200 pounds, in order to parade around the park as the beloved teapot, a park favorite for years.

However, on July 22nd, following the 2:00 performance at the Dizzy Diner, just after pointing out his handle and spout to a packed house of screaming fans, just before the script called for being tipped over and poured out, Mike tipped over with a massive heart attack.

"The next time he gets all steamed up, he might be shouting his last words," claims Mike's doctor, Dr. Julian Ramos, who insists he lose the weight the familiar character requires.

Mike, however, is undeterred. He plans on returning to his job as soon as he can. "I'm not nimble or quick enough to be Jack, and I don't want to get burned," he says. And then quotes Helen Keller, saying, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." It is uncertain, however, if that is what she meant.


SAGAL: All right, here are your choices: from Jessi Klein, the story of how a Hollywood screenwriter broke his nose Hollywood screenwriting; from Brian Babylon, how a tour guide at a cheese factory became debilitated just by looking at the machines; or from Paula Poundstone, how the teapot at Storyland got in trouble for being so short and stout. Which of these is the real story of an unexpected workplace hazard?

DUNBAR: Wow, that's tough. They're all equally strange aren't they?


DUNBAR: You know, I'm a big fan of Paula's, but I think today she's trying to bluff. So I think, out of all of them, I would probably say Jessi's.

SAGAL: You're going to go with Jessi's story about the screenwriter Aaron Sorkin?


SAGAL: All right, well we spoke to somebody very familiar with the details of this story.

MATT DONNELLY: Aaron Sorkin told me that he was standing in front of the mirror, reciting a block of dialogue where he accidentally head-butted himself and broke his own nose.

SAGAL: That was Matt Donnelly of the LA Times, to whom Aaron Sorkin told the story of his screenwriting injury. Congratulations, you got it right.


SAGAL: You earned a point for Jessi Klein. You have won our prize. Carl Kasell will record the greeting on your home voicemail. Well done.

DUNBAR: Great, thank you.

SAGAL: Thank you so much. Take care.

DUNBAR: You too.

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