'Tell Me More' Staffer Asks, 'What Would Rob Do?'

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Rob Sachs isn't just the director of Tell Me More, he's also gained a wealth of practical knowledge through his work as the host of his NPR podcast “What Would Rob Do?” Now, Rob has also combined some of the most helpful hints for getting out of awkward situations in a book of the same name. Host Michel Martin speaks with Rob Sachs about his advice for solving some of life's daily indignities.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Coming up, I'll share my thoughts on who else should get some flowers on Mother's Day. It's my weekly commentary. And we'll remember Lena Horne. That's in just a few minutes.

But, first, it's time for our Wisdom Watch, that's the part of the program where our guests pass on lessons from a lifetime of achievement. Today we have what some might consider an unlikely source, somebody with just a few miles on him, our own Rob Sachs.

Now, if you listen to the credits, then you know that Rob is the director of our program, which means he picks the music and our musical guests and he makes sure we hit our time cues and so on. But he also takes a turn in front of the mic as the host of his own NPR podcast What Would Rob Do? - where he tells listeners how he survives life's daily indignities. And now he's written a book adaptation of his podcast and he's here with us to tell us more about it.

Rob, welcome to this side of the studio.

ROB SACHS: It's very nice. I enjoy being here on this side of the glass partition.

MARTIN: So how did the whole idea of What Would Rob Do? - where did that come from?

SACHS: Well, about three or four years ago, NPR put out this staff memo saying, hey, we're thinking about doing podcasts, anyone have a suggestion? And I was thinking, you know, I've had a lot of life experiences that have been somewhat embarrassing or vexing and I'm thinking maybe this way to get out of tricky situations can be something fun that I can offer to the network that'd be something different from what you hear on NPR normally.

MARTIN: And you've consulted with an array of experts for some of your tips, I think it's important to say.

SACHS: Right. So the format of the podcast is that I offer my own experiences, but then I think, hey, you know, I don't know everything, so I talk to people about how to help me out of the situation or what they think about it. And they all kind of share in what their solutions may be.

MARTIN: And I love the range of experts on whom you have called to get this kind of wisdom. For the first segment, for example, you're underdressed for a party. And so you called upon...

SACHS: Fabio. 'Cause I figured Fabio always looks good, no matter what. And I think...

MARTIN: Well, that's a matter of opinion, but I take your point.

SACHS: Who else...

MARTIN: If you look like you just got out of bed but that's a matter of taste, I guess.

SACHS: But, Michel, he's an international male supermodel, right? So he has to know. Anyway, he gave me some of his Fabio-sophy about being underdressed, and this is what he told me...

(Soundbite of clip)

Mr. FABIO LANZONI (Supermodel): If you want to have a balance in life, you have to have the balance of the three elements: mind, body and soul. So when you reach that balance, you feel good about yourself. When you feel good about yourself, it doesn't matter what you're wearing. You are at home.

SACHS: What did you say, you're a hunk?

Mr. LANZONI: No, no, you are at home.

SACHS: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SACHS: I got tripped up by his accent there. As you can hear, Fabio's philosophy doesn't really make much sense.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SACHS: But I did talk to another one of our colleagues, Karen Grigsby Bates, who wrote the book "Basic Black: Home Training for Modern Times." And she let me know, okay, you want to think about the person having the party. You want to ask beforehand so you can try to avoid that situation. And my brother, who goes to lots of black tie events, told me that sometimes he will grab maybe a bowtie or something from the wait staff to make up for maybe his being underdressed. Or he said one time he asked a buddy for his dress coat. So there's ways of getting around it.

MARTIN: What I like about the book is that it has chapters from all phases of your life. There's one about what to do if you have mistakenly ingested a hot pepper. So, What Would Rob Do?

SACHS: I was wondering, okay, what do you do in this instance when your mouth is going up in flames? So I called up this guy, Dave Hirschkop, he's the owner of Dave's Insanity Sauce. And he was telling me all these solutions about coating your mouth with vegetable oil or sucking on ice cubes or slushy. And I was thinking, okay, there's a lot of things out here, I don't know which one's going to work.

So I also called up David Kestenbaum, he's one of our colleagues here at NPR. And we ate a bunch of really hot peppers and then we tried out all the different solutions and here's what it sounded like.

(Soundbite of clip)

SACHS: I got to go. I got to go.

DAVID KESTENBAUM: Give me another. Give me another.

SACHS: No, I'm going to go a hot dog bun, I'm in code red here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SACHS: Water. Milk.

KESTENBAUM: Can I have a bun?

SACHS: Take the bun. Take the bun.

Now, at this point, my eyes are tearing up.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: I think it takes a real man to admit that a pepper made him cry.

SACHS: So what I realized is, you kind of have to just wait it out. You have to take little nibbles so you know what you're getting into it, but if you get hit, you just have to leave the room so nobody sees you cry is basically what happens.

MARTIN: Now, of course, you are a dad.

SACHS: Yeah.

MARTIN: Congratulations.

SACHS: Thank you.

MARTIN: And so, you've got a whole section on daddy dilemmas. Tell us one daddy dilemma that you're going to help us resolve.

SACHS: Well, the one I had was, you know, I really love music. I'm the director of the show. I listen to music all the time. But when I turn to find some music for my two-year-old daughter, I found there's all this really cheesy music out there and I was thinking, I want her to listen to good stuff. And so, I talked to Rick Springfield, one of my idols when I was a kid. He had that hit song "Jessie's Girl." And I said to him maybe you can just put on real music but change around the lyrics. This is what he told me.

Have you ever thought of going song "Jessie's Girl," lullaby-style and, you know, and (Singing) hey, Jessie, she's going to sleep to...

And, you know, or do you not want bastardize your own songs?

Mr. RICK SPRINGFIELD (Singer-songwriter, musician and actor): Yeah. I mean I guess so. I hadn't really thought of doing that. But since you sang it I probably, you know, won't do it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SACHS: Okay. Sorry I ruined that for you. Wow.

Yeah. So I've had some soul-crushing moments, having my idol when I was a kid tell me I'm not going to sing it like that. But anyway, it's been a lot of fun being able to talk to these people. I also talked to Erik Estrada, my other idol when I was a kid. He was Ponch on "Chips' and he told me about how to act when you encounter a celebrity. And I even talked to Air Supply, the band, on how to write a perfect love song. So it's been a lot of fun talking to all these people that I've always dreamed about talking about. Or at least my five-year-old self always dreamed about talking to.

MARTIN: So you've done close to 100 podcasts now. Is there any principle that you have developed for dealing with awkward situations?

SACHS: Well, if there's one thing that I've kind of taken from this is that it's always good to have a sense of humor about it. I remember one time I was in high school and I completely tripped and fell down a whole flight of stairs and I was thinking okay, I could kind of crumble here and people will laugh at me. But instead I popped up and said, ta-dah. And instead of instead of it being this really embarrassing situation, I was like hey, we can all laugh at ourselves. So that's one thing.

But the other thing I learned is that it's really good to ask questions. You have to not take yourself so seriously and think okay, I know everything. So having those two mindsets really is helpful.

MARTIN: You know Rob, I do have to say, I haven't noticed this sense of humor when there have been dead air or when a line has dropped in the middle of an interview so...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: ...what would Rob do then?

SACHS: Well, with you Michel, of course, I act very sad and I try to explain hey, Michel, things went totally wrong but we're going to fix it. Everything's going to be okay in the future. And I also think buttering people up whenever things go wrong is also a good way to go.

MARTIN: Okay. I'm still waiting for that. But thank you.

Rob Sachs is our TELL ME MORE director. And now he can add the title author to his resume. His new book is called "What Would Rob Do: An Irreverent Guide to Surviving Life's Daily Indignities." It's in stores now and Rob was kind enough to walk down the hall to come into our Washington, D.C. studio.

Thanks, Rob.

SACHS: Thanks, Michel. I'm going to head back to the other side of the partition now.

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