Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!

Bluff The Listener

Our panelists tell three stories about rosy economic indicators.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

CARL KASELL: 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 PJ O'Rourke, Charlie Pierce and Faith Salie. 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 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!

JOSEPH WALLACE: Hi, Peter. This is Joseph Wallace from Richmond/Sugarland, Texas.

SAGAL: Richmond/Sugarland?

WALLACE: Yes.

SAGAL: That sounds like Richmond is not happy with Sugarland.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: No, sort of you're either or both?

WALLACE: Kind of on the border.

SAGAL: Well, welcome to our show, Joseph. You are going to play the game in which you must tell truth from fiction. Carl, what is Joseph's topic?

KASELL: You can have the topic, Peter, for one billion dollars.

SAGAL: It appears the economy is finally starting to improve. How do we know this? Because people are starting to waste money again on useless crap they do not need.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: This week, our panelists are going to read you three extreme examples of this. Guess the true story; you will win Carl's voice on your home answering machine or voicemail. Ready to play?

WALLACE: Indeed.

SAGAL: First, let's hear from Charlie Pierce.

CHARLIE PIERCE: Proof that there's more than one sucker born every minute was provided recently to Christopher Herbert of London. For reasons too complicated to explain here, Herbert found himself with a blob of dried glue that to him bore the faint resemblance to Homer Simpson.

To the untrained eye, it also looked like a death's head, an elderly Dwight Eisenhower, a snarling paramecium and a sonogram of the alien from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

PIERCE: Nevertheless, Herbert put the Homer blob up for auction on eBay. The opening price was 99 pence. By close of bidding that day, that price of the blob of dried glue had risen to almost 150,000 pounds.

Herbert advertised the drop of glue as the "missing piece in any Simpson's fans collection." And here, all these years on, we all thought that someone as dumb as Homer had to be an exaggeration.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: A blob of dried glue that looks like Homer Simpson that sold for a lot of money on eBay. Your next story of a good sign the economy is coming back comes from PJ O'Rourke.

PJ O'ROURKE: Individual political contributions are way up, and Dr. Elliott Kerwin, economics professor at Stanford University, has analyzed 50 years of statistics that indicate during periods of economic optimism, not only do political donations rise, they also become less rational.

That is to say we tend to donate contrary to our own self-interests. You may remember back during the tech boom when we all got so crazy with our money that we donated to Ralph Nader, right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

O'ROURKE: Now, Dr. Kerwin is not sure, he says, what his trend correlation means. But he says what with Wall Street billionaires bankrolling tax-happy Obama and Mitt Romney getting donations from exactly the kind of people he fired when he was at Bain, and even a penny being spent on Ron Paul...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

O'ROURKE: We obviously have money to burn.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: A scientist showing that political donations prove that we have excess cash. And your last story of a good economic indicator comes from Faith Salie.

FAITH SALIE: The hottest sight seeing in Manhattan is no longer the "Sex in the City" tour for cosmo-sipping cupcake lovers. No, the tour du jour is an afternoon of guided people watching for a mere $1,500 an hour. If you've got a pair of eyes and no imagination, then this tour is for you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SALIE: Laura Biscotto created People Safari Tours. And thanks to a seemingly improving economy, she makes up to 50k in a afternoon, charging tourists to look at other people.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SALIE: Biscotto calls her services "curated behavioral interpretation."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SALIE: When asked why people can't just look at other people for free, Dash Hicks, a tour taker from Tallahassee explained, "My wife says I never pay attention to anything." Adventurers on the People Safari don pith helmets with binoculars. Biscotto admits that the conspicuous duds can get in the way of discreet voyeurism but contends that the getup drives home how wild the human animal really is.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SALIE: The safari always hits up a coffee shop, the Holy Grail of awkward first dates. On a slow day, she takes tours to watch the filming of "Law and Order."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SALIE: The People Safari is so popular with the rich and dull that Biscotto plans to add People Safari Extreme, which is a trip to Brooklyn.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: All right.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: One of these things is a real indictor that we've got too much money. Is it, from Charlie Pierce, someone spending 150,000 pounds to buy a piece of glue that looks like Homer Simpson? From PJ O'Rourke, the fact that anybody at all is donating to our political candidates? Or from Faith Salie, a people watching tour that costs a lot of money but you get to see a lot of people on the streets of New York? Which of these is the real story of excess?

WALLACE: Yikes.

SAGAL: Yikes, indeed, sir.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WALLACE: Knowing how people sometimes go to New York and maybe lose their sense, People Safari Tour.

SAGAL: You're going to choose Faith's story, People Safari?

WALLACE: Yes.

SAGAL: All right, well that's your choice is Faith's story. We actually spoke to somebody who was involved in one of these transactions.

CHRIS HERBERT: Some of the glue was still there...

WALLACE: Ah.

HERBERT: ...and solidified. And I took it in to my wife and she said actually it looks a bit like Homer Simpson.

SAGAL: That was Chris Herbert, the man who...

WALLACE: They were in the People tour weren't they?

SAGAL: They were, they were.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: No, that was the guy who actually sold the lump of glue that looked like Homer Simpson. I will tell you this, we didn't believe it either.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: But sadly, you did not win our game.

SALIE: Thanks, Joseph.

SAGAL: But you did earn a point for Faith. So thank you so much for playing.

WALLACE: All right, thank you so much.

SALIE: Thanks.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

WALLACE: Bye-bye.

SAGAL: Bye-bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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