Actress Lisa Kudrow Plays Not My Job

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Lisa Kudrow i
Carlo Allegri/Getty Images
Lisa Kudrow
Carlo Allegri/Getty Images

Kudrow is best known for her role as Phoebe on Friends — the show that inspired thousands to move to New York City, where enormous apartments are ubiquitous! And cheap!

We've invited Kudrow to play a game called "I so won't be there for you!" Three questions about enemies.

This segment was originally broadcast on March 5, 2011.

CARL KASELL: From NPR and WBEZ-Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!, the NPR News quiz. I'm Carl Kasell, and here again is your host, at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.


Thank you, Carl.


SAGAL: Thank you everybody. Right now, even as you listen to this, we are off on a show retreat, brainstorming 12 to 14 hours a day on how to make our show better.

KASELL: How about the Listener Sonnet Challenge?


SAGAL: Sure Carl, we'll put that on the table. In the meantime, we're revisiting some of our favorite interviews with TV and movie stars of the past year. Here's Lisa Kudrow, a very smart actress who became famous playing the not very smart Phoebe on the sitcom "Friends."

KASELL: When she joined us, along with the panelists Roy Blount, Jr., Roxanne Roberts and Brian Babylon, we asked her if fans of the show ever expected her to actually be like Phoebe?

LISA KUDROW: They did. I mean, they especially expected me to be really nice.

SAGAL: Really?


SAGAL: And you showed them how useless that was. Were you intentionally cruel to them just to see their looks of surprise and horror?

KUDROW: No, no, but I just always felt like, oh, you're going to be so disappointed.


SAGAL: If I'm not mistaken, the first thing you did after "Friends," and correct me if I'm wrong, was this great show on HBO called "The Comeback."

KUDROW: Right.

SAGAL: In which you played an actress who had been on an extremely successful sitcom.

KUDROW: On a somewhat successful sitcom.

SAGAL: Oh, excuse me. And your character had been on this sitcom and was now trying to make a comeback.

KUDROW: Right. And the only way to do that was to be on a reality show, which, you know, we thought was really humiliating.


SAGAL: What's amazing about this show, and also some other things that you've done, is how far you are willing to go to look bad to get a laugh, which I admire tremendously about you.

KUDROW: Yeah. Well, you know, also at the time that that was only season two of "Amazing Race," and there were no "Housewives" desperate to be on a reality show.

SAGAL: I see.

KUDROW: At the time. So I think now people see it a little differently, it's a lot easier to take.

SAGAL: Yeah. So tell us about the show you're executive producing. It's called "Who Do You Think You Are."

KUDROW: Right.

SAGAL: This is very different for you because it's actually a documentary. It's not a fake documentary; it's a real one.

KUDROW: It's a real - yeah, it's a documentary series.

SAGAL: And the theme of it is the ancestry of well-known people.

KUDROW: Right. This show has been on the BBC. They're in their ninth season now. So I was over there and I happened to see an episode and thought it was the most riveting thing I'd ever seen and could not understand why we hadn't had it in the US and found out that for the most part, I think, because most networks thought American audiences wouldn't be interested and that it was too informative.



SAGAL: Then you're doing this other show, which is currently on the internet, called "Web Therapy."

KUDROW: Right.

SAGAL: In which you play the world's worst therapist.

KUDROW: Yeah, ever.

SAGAL: You are really terrifyingly good at playing this really bad therapist.

KUDROW: I know.


SAGAL: And how does that make you feel, playing a terrible therapist?


SAGAL: I'm assuming you either must have some experience with therapy or you're really mad at them.

KUDROW: No. No, I think therapy is really useful. I was just - you know, people kept - not people, agents kept saying...


SAGAL: I'm sorry. Yes, an important distinction.


KUDROW: Oh, it just came out like that.

SAGAL: No, no, no, no, that's important. It's, like, I think they're a different phyla. Go on.


SAGAL: Not people, agents. What were agents saying to you?


KUDROW: You know, you should think doing a web series. And I thought, well, you know what would be the worst idea in the world would be therapy for three minutes at a time. And then what kind of horrifying person would try to do that?



SAGAL: I got to ask you one thing. We read that you started off studying biology, right; you were trying to follow in your father's footsteps?

KUDROW: Yes, that's right.

SAGAL: And according to Wikipedia which, of course, knows all things...


SAGAL: As a biologist, you had a special talent for castrating rats. True or false?


SAGAL: Really?


SAGAL: I thought you were about to berate me for relying on Wikipedia for gossip. You were good at castrating rats?

KUDROW: Yeah, I got really good. It was one of my like junior or senior year projects.

SAGAL: Yeah.

KUDROW: I won't go into what the study was, but it was a good one.


KUDROW: But I had to castrate young male rats and I got it down to I could do it in like four minutes.


SAGAL: I can't believe they didn't work this into an episode of "Friends."


SAGAL: All right, since we did so well with that Wikipedia factoid, which frankly we did not believe. We're going to try Wikipedia factoid about Lisa Kudrow number two. You are a pool shark.

KUDROW: I was.

SAGAL: You were?

KUDROW: Well, sort of. My father taught me some really good trick shots.

SAGAL: Wow. So if the acting thing hadn't work out, you would have been a rat-castrating pool shark.


KUDROW: A lot of money in that.

SAGAL: Oh you bet.


SAGAL: Well, Lisa Kudrow, we are delighted to have you with us. We've asked you here to play a game we're calling?

KASELL: I so won't be there for you.


SAGAL: So you were on a show called "Friends." This we know, so we decided to ask you about, naturally, enemies. Answer two out of three questions correctly; you'll win our prize for one our listeners, Carl's voice on their home answering machine. Carl, who is Lisa Kudrow playing for?

KASELL: Lisa is playing for Laurie Handschu of Nashville, Tennessee.

SAGAL: All right.


SAGAL: So we're going to start with show business. 1930s movie stars Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine are sisters. They have had a legendary feud going back more than sixty years, which began when what happened? A: they both were nominated for the same Academy Award. B: they had an argument over who got out first of the same limo. Or C: a billboard with Joan's face went up on Sunset Drive, blocking one of Olivia's.

KUDROW: I'll say C.

SAGAL: You're going to go for C, the billboard went up on Sunset Boulevard, I should say, in front of Olivia's.


SAGAL: Those vanity boards.

KUDROW: I think that's it.

SAGAL: It actually, believe it or not, was the Oscars. They both were up for Best Actress. Joan won. Olivia refused to congratulate her and they've hardly spoken for sixty years.


SAGAL: And they're both still with us and as far as we know, they're both still mad.


SAGAL: All right, still two more chances here. Now going back further, we're now back to the days of the Byzantine Empire, the sixth century.

KUDROW: Oh good.

SAGAL: Oh yes.


SAGAL: Because when she wasn't castrating rats and playing pool, she was studying the Byzantine Empire. Here we go. It was nearly destroyed by a violent rivalry between two groups known as the Blues and the Greens. What was the original cause of their dispute? A: the style of their togas. B: they rooted for opposite sides in the chariot races. Or C: the Blues thought the world was round; the Greens insisted it was a cube?


KUDROW: That last one is funny.


KUDROW: What's the second one again?

SAGAL: They rooted for opposite sides in the chariot races. Big deal back there in Byzantine.

KUDROW: Yeah, I'll say that one.

SAGAL: You're right; it was the chariot race thing.



SAGAL: They rooted for different teams. They had big riots. In fact, they almost destroyed the capitol. Imagine like a huge riot between Bears fans and Packers fans. That's what you'd get. All right, this is exciting. You have one more here and if you get this right, you win.


SAGAL: Now we're going to the comic books now. We're going to talk about Batman. He's had many enemies in the comics over the years, including the deadly Clayface. In the comic book, how did the original Clayface become a super villain, the original Clayface? Was it A: he was hit by a radioactive tub of clay and acquired the modeling powers of clay?


SAGAL: B: he was an insanely jealous actor who went mad with rage when one of his movies was remade without him. Or C: he ate a snail that had gone bad, giving him the super power of oozing?



SAGAL: It's B. You're right.




SAGAL: Now, did you know that because you're a big Batman aficionado and you know about this villain from the 1940s, or because you're like if they remade one of my movies without me, I'd go mad and start killing people?

KUDROW: No, I just thought yeah, I bet like whoever wrote that hated actors.

SAGAL: Yeah.


SAGAL: Anyway, yeah, he was an actor and his first crimes were killing the people who were in the movie. So yes, you did it. Carl, how did Lisa Kudrow do on our quiz?

KASELL: Very well, Peter. Lisa, you had two correct answers, so you win for Laurie Handschu.


SAGAL: Yay, there you go.


SAGAL: Lisa Kudrow is the Executive Producer of "Who Do You Think You Are." Season one DVD is out now. Lisa, thank you so much for being with us. What a delight to talk to you.

KUDROW: Thank you. This was fun, thank you.

SAGAL: It was fun to be with you.


SAGAL: Bye-bye.

KUDROW: Bye-bye.


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