Bluff The Listener

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Our panelists tell three stories about new German celebrities.


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 Charlie Pierce, Kyrie O'Connor and Peter Grosz. And here again is your host, at the EKU Center for the Arts in Richmond, Kentucky, Peter Sagal.


Thank you, Carl.


SAGAL: 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 join us on the air. Hi, you're on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!

WILLIAM LOCKHART: Hi, Peter, it's Bill from Savannah, Georgia.

SAGAL: Hey, Bill. How are things in Savannah?

LOCKHART: Oh good, cold today.

SAGAL: Yeah.

LOCKHART: How are things in Kentucky?

SAGAL: Yeah, things in Kentucky are not too bad, really cold.


SAGAL: Savannah is a beautiful city. What do you do there?

LOCKHART: I work for the local police department.

SAGAL: Oh you do? Are you a policeman then, an officer of the law?


SAGAL: Oh wow.

LOCKHART: Yes, sir.

SAGAL: Is that a tough duty in Savannah?

LOCKHART: Lots of lost tourists.

SAGAL: Lots of lost tourists, wandering around looking for gardens of good and evil?


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

KASELL: Move over, David Hasselhoff.

SAGAL: Germany as a gift for launching otherwise obscure people to national and then international fame. There's Hasselhoff, there's the 80s band Falco, and, of course, (foreign language).


SAGAL: Our panelists are going to tell you a story about a recently crowned German celebrity, but only one of them will be telling you the truth. Guess the real person, you'll win Carl's voice on your home answering machine or voicemail. Ready to play?

LOCKHART: Yep, I'm ready to play.

SAGAL: All right, first let's hear from Charlie Pierce.

CHARLIE PIERCE: Heinrich Freider was fooling around one morning while trimming the bushes in front of his home outside Munich. He noticed that while working on one of the smaller shrubs that it had taken on something of the shape of German Prime Minister Angela Merkel.


PIERCE: Freider decided to go all the way and finish his portrait in landscape. His work proved so accurate that the local TV station did a spot on him on its news show, and soon Freider was deluged with requests from dozens of people who wanted to create for him what soon became known as Angela Shruben.


PIERCE: Now Freider is a national celebrity in Germany, where his work has gained him a nickname that translate roughly as Heinrich Scissorhands.


PIERCE: "U.S. Counsel General Donald White was my first customer," Freider said. "Football as military men, they all want their little Angela Shruben." But Freider's best moment probably came a week ago when he was appearing on the morning program "Guten Tag Munchen." He was creating a large Angela Shruben on the set, when from the wings, Prime Minister Merkel herself walked out and offered to pose next to the shrub until Freider was finished.


SAGAL: A man becoming well know...


SAGAL: ...for doing Angela Merkel in shrubs. Your next story of German fandom comes from Kyrie O'Connor.

KYRIE O'CONNOR: Mega fame is a strange thing and it can fall on the mighty or the weak, as one Siegfried K found out. The woman in the physiotherapist's office in Germany was probably quite puzzled when Siegfried stuck a toy gun in her face and demanded 10,000 euros from the bank that was, in fact, still just a physiotherapist's office.


O'CONNOR: Siegfried wasn't having his best day ever. In fact, his bank robbing plan had gone terribly, horribly wrong as he was now sticking his non-gun at a non-teller in a non-bank and demanding money that wasn't there.


O'CONNOR: After making the woman take 400 euros out of a cash machine, Siegfried stole a car, which at least was actually a car.


O'CONNOR: But when he abandoned it, he left the toy gun on the seat, covered, of course, with his fingerprints, thus proving that Siegfried had never watched TV in his life.


SAGAL: The dumbest bank robber in Germany acquires fame.


SAGAL: And your last story of a big German star comes from Peter Grosz.

PETER GROSZ: Mr. Garheart Clay of Hanover, Germany kept to himself and wouldn't have stood out much, except for the fact that everyone in town thought he looked exactly like a cat. For years, people called him Catman because of his small eyes, his tightly drawn frown and whiskers-like mustache.

Well, Herr Clay got tired of the teasing and in an act of defiance, posted a video on YouTube of himself dressed in a giant cat costume, playing with string, being confused by a laser pointer and, most disturbingly, catching and eating a live mouse.


GROSZ: Well, apparently, there's a reason Germans have a word for taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others, because the video was a huge viral hit. So Garheart surrendered to his feline destiny and now hosts a live web chat at He takes personal questions in real time from hundreds of thousands of dedicated fans and meows and purrs his advice in response, all while dressed as a short haired tabby.


GROSZ: And people are listening. So far he has saved scores of marriages, dispensed surprisingly cogent financial guidance and even prevented a suicide by a man who said, quote, "after explaining my problems to someone who spends all his time dressed like a cat on the internet, I realized, hey my life's not that bad."


SAGAL: All right.


SAGAL: If you were in Germany right now instead of Savannah, you probably would be talking about one of these three individuals. From Charlie, the man who's made a career for himself carving the likeness of Angela Merkel into shrubbery. From Kyrie O'Connor, the man known all over the country as Germany's dumbest bank robber ever. Or from Peter Grosz, the cat man, who gives advice dressed as a cat. Which of these is the real new German celebrity?



LOCKHART: I think I'm going to go with Kyrie's story.

SAGAL: You're going to go with Kyrie's story of the bank robber. All right, to find out the correct answer, we spoke to a journalist familiar with the real story.

ERIC WESTERVELT: The German tabloid bill dubbed him Germany's stupidest bank robber after a man tried to rob a bank that's been closed for 17 years.


SAGAL: That was NPR's Germany correspondent Eric Westervelt, describing the failed and brief career of Germany's dumbest bank robber. You're right, Kyrie had the right story. Congratulations, you have won our game and a point for Kyrie. Well done.


LOCKHART: Thank you very much.


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