Behind The Stories

Gather 'Round And Get Merry

It was an spectacle, really. An evening complete with extra doses of merriment and joy, all wrapped in festive decor.

The holiday cheer came earlier this month when NPR's Ask Me Another packed its (Bell) House full of fans for a special holiday show with not one, but three V(ery) I(mportant) P(uzzler)s. To ring in the year-end right, the show invited back a few veterans of the puzzle hot seat to join in a night of games, trivia and holiday duets, including:

  • Immersion journalist A.J. Jacobs, known for his experiments reading all 32 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and living according to the rules of the Bible as literally as possible.
  • John Hodgman, a sort of human encyclopedia himself (although he might need to be fact-checked), also joined the festivities.
  • Lizz Wistead, co-creator of The Daily Show and many things fabulous, has a knack for words, nerds and games - a.k.a. the egg to Ask Me Another's nog.

Ophira Eisenberg played holiday hostess, Hodgman and Ask Me Another house musician Jonathan Coulton provided musical cheer, blessing fans with some of the love they've shared during past collaborations, and not to worry, tales of oddball family traditions for the season were aplenty.

While not all of us were good enough boys and girls this year to get to see this show tape live, fortunately, we can relive it now. The episode, "A Holiday Spectacular," is available today at NPR.org and as a podcast, and you can hear it this weekend on select NPR Member Stations around the country.

  • The spirit of the Ask Me Another crew cannot be stifled by the scrooge appearance of John Hodgman and his mustache (center)! From left to right up top, you're looking at John Asante, Eric Nuzum, Eleanor Kagan, John Chaneski, Jesse Baker, Art Chung, Ophira Eisenberg, Jonathan Coulton, Josh Rogosin, Lizz Winstead and A.J. Jacobs.
    Hide caption
    The spirit of the Ask Me Another crew cannot be stifled by the scrooge appearance of John Hodgman and his mustache (center)! From left to right up top, you're looking at John Asante, Eric Nuzum, Eleanor Kagan, John Chaneski, Jesse Baker, Art Chung, Ophira Eisenberg, Jonathan Coulton, Josh Rogosin, Lizz Winstead and A.J. Jacobs.
    Lam Thuy Vo /NPR
  • Ask Me Another Host Ophira Eisenberg enjoys a jolly moment on stage.
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    Ask Me Another Host Ophira Eisenberg enjoys a jolly moment on stage.
    Lam Thuy Vo /NPR
  • (l to r) Ask Me Another puzzle guru Art Chung, VIP John Hodgman and house musician Jonathan Coulton on stage in front of a sold-out crowd at The Bell House.
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    (l to r) Ask Me Another puzzle guru Art Chung, VIP John Hodgman and house musician Jonathan Coulton on stage in front of a sold-out crowd at The Bell House.
    Lam Thuy Vo/NPR
  • Comedian and Ask Me Another holiday show VIP John Hodgman is the author of the book Areas of My Expertise, which contains more incompetency than fact. Here, Hodgman joins his frequent collaborator and Ask Me Another house musician Jonathan Coulton, to show off his actual proficiency with the ukulele.
    Hide caption
    Comedian and Ask Me Another holiday show VIP John Hodgman is the author of the book Areas of My Expertise, which contains more incompetency than fact. Here, Hodgman joins his frequent collaborator and Ask Me Another house musician Jonathan Coulton, to show off his actual proficiency with the ukulele.
    Lam Thuy Vo /NPR
  • The Bell House, in Brooklyn, N.Y., fills with noise in that holiday-cheer-kind-of-way.
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    The Bell House, in Brooklyn, N.Y., fills with noise in that holiday-cheer-kind-of-way.
    Lam Thuy Vo /NPR
  • Holiday spirit, trivia, games, puzzles and comedy make for a potent mix for VIP Lizz Winstead and her opponent, Julia Lunetta. Just before this picture was taken, Lunetta re-enacted Tarzan's yell on stage. By all reports, it was an incredible rendition. Don't think you wouldn't LYAO too.
    Hide caption
    Holiday spirit, trivia, games, puzzles and comedy make for a potent mix for VIP Lizz Winstead and her opponent, Julia Lunetta. Just before this picture was taken, Lunetta re-enacted Tarzan's yell on stage. By all reports, it was an incredible rendition. Don't think you wouldn't LYAO too.
    Lam Thuy Vo /NPR
  • Returning Ask Me Another VIP A.J. Jacobs reads the exact lineage that connects he and NPR Host Ophira Eisenberg as cousins. (It's true, they're related! He's working on a project on geneology.)
    Hide caption
    Returning Ask Me Another VIP A.J. Jacobs reads the exact lineage that connects he and NPR Host Ophira Eisenberg as cousins. (It's true, they're related! He's working on a project on geneology.)
    Lam Thuy Vo /NPR
  • Rhonda the Radio, the official Ask Me Another mascot, dials in to her holiday spirit for the December extravaganza.
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    Rhonda the Radio, the official Ask Me Another mascot, dials in to her holiday spirit for the December extravaganza.
    Lam Thuy Vo /NPR

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And don't think Ask Me Another is finished spreading the yuletide cheer either. This Saturday, the puzzle-loving team is throwing a day-long tribute to one of its favorite pastimes, and starting December 25, there's even more in store. We won't spoil any surprises, but stay tuned to the show's Facebook page and Twitter stream, @NPRAskMeAnother for details.


Caitlin Sanders contributed to this post.

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