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Not My Job Guests: 'They Might Be Giants'

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Not My Job Guests: 'They Might Be Giants'

Not My Job Guests: 'They Might Be Giants'

Not My Job Guests: 'They Might Be Giants'

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/127043558/127043557" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

They Might Be Giants recently released the album Here Comes Science and the book Kids Go! Susan Anderson hide caption

toggle caption Susan Anderson

John Flansburgh and John Linnell have done something many said couldn't be done: they created a band with an accordion ... and made it cool. They Might Be Giants is known for their smart, quirky songs for kids and adults and for writing the themes for Malcolm in the Middle and The Daily Show.

They Might Be Giants will play a game called "You might be giants, but he really was a giant." Three questions about actor and pro-wrestler Andre Rene Roussimoff — better known as Andre the Giant.

Originally broadcast Jan. 16, 2010.

CARL KASELL, Host:

From NPR and Chicago Public Radio, this is WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME! the NPR news quiz. I'm Carl Kasell. And here's your host, at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.

PETER SAGAL, Host:

Thank you, Carl.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Thank you, everybody. Thank you. If music be the food of love, play on - or so wrote Mr. Bartlett in his book of quotations.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And who are we to argue with him? On this week's show, we revisit some of the musicians who have visited with us. It's a WAIT WAIT you can hum along to. First up, the intellectual accordion-playing duo, They Might be Giants, also known as John Flansburgh and John Linnell.

KASELL: They joined Peter and me, and panelists Charlie Pierce, Faith Salie and Mo Rocca. And we began by asking them about their long musical partnership.

SAGAL: You compose, you write, you sing, you perform together, but which of you is the musical genius and which of you is the hanger-on?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: I think we both secretly think of ourselves as the hanger-on...

SAGAL: Really?

M: ...actually. Right.

M: Aw.

SAGAL: Really?

M: That's a good relationship.

SAGAL: I like that. I mean you're both...

M: Two Ringos, no waiting.

M: That's right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: You know, they say about - a good marriage is one where each partner thinks he or she is the lucky one, so you guys are in like, a good musical marriage there.

SAGAL: Yeah.

M: Right. I didn't say lucky one, I said hanger-on.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Get me off this train.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Your songs cover topics not generally covered in your basic pop music. Instead of love and romance and sex, you are writing about things like James K. Polk.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Does this just reflect your interests?

M: I think we write songs about all sorts of things and we have a lot of, you know, love and romance-type songs as well. But we just cover a broader range of topics than...

SAGAL: Yeah, it's love for James K. Polk. That's what I mean.

M: That's right.

SAGAL: You know, as opposed to...

M: Yes, the love theme from the annexation of Texas.

M: Mm-hmm. The Gadsden Purchase, was that his? I don't know.

SAGAL: Listen to you guys.

M: I think that was the rock opera, wasn't it?

SAGAL: We are your audience, is the point I'm trying to make.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You've been doing - and this is much to the delight of my children - you started doing, about eight years ago now, you put out a first kids' record. You've got a new one.

M: Yeah, we've done three albums with DVDs for kids as well.

SAGAL: Which is great. Now, do you find it difficult to go from kid rock to grown-up rock, and back and forth - or is it pretty seamless?

M: They're surprisingly similar.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: I think, you know, with the material that we do for adults, we just tend to go a little darker, you know.

SAGAL: Yeah.

M: It's creepier.

SAGAL: And are your concerts the same? I mean, the adults are...

M: No, those are radically different. I mean, the kids' concerts, basically the confetti machine is the star of the day.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So you actually do - you'll do a kids' concert and then, I keep calling them a grown-up concert...

M: Yeah, we have a problem with that, too.

SAGAL: I have a problem with that. Yeah, I know.

M: Yeah.

SAGAL: What do you call them?

M: We say adult shows but that sort of sounds like, you know porno or something.

SAGAL: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: At this point, having done so much, is there one that you enjoy more than the other?

M: I think we really enjoy the days off.

SAGAL: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Now, I know - and I know that you don't like this, but I'm going to mention it anyway - that you've been saddled with the term nerd rock. You don't like that association. I don't blame you, even though I...

M: It's a brand-new decade. You know, we're just going to give up on worrying about it.

SAGAL: You're not going to worry about it?

M: Yeah, go nerd crazy on us, man.

SAGAL: Really?

M: It's really a generational thing. You know, I think, you know, we're older and for people of our generation, it seemed like a very toxic term. But obviously, for people of the Internet moment, it's a very positive thing. You know, I think people think of it as just being an enthusiast, you know.

SAGAL: Exactly.

M: It's very positive.

SAGAL: No, it's really true. I mean, as a nerd growing up, who was shunned and had, you know, problems being accepted - and now I look around, and I see the kids who are proudly out as nerds.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: I think geek is cooler, though.

SAGAL: Geek is cooler.

M: Technically.

SAGAL: Yeah.

M: Or empirically.

SAGAL: You're telling me I'm still a nerd, and it's still not good.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: You're more a nebbish.

SAGAL: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So you guys do play and feature an accordion. Now, you don't usually play polkas, but can you tell us what happened the time you played the Polish hall up in Wisconsin and the accordion...

M: Oh that's right. Was it the Modjeska Theatre in Milwaukee.

SAGAL: Of course.

M: And apparently, the audience was so into this particular song that we played that they jumped up onto the apron of the stage, which turned out to be a kind of flimsy cover for the orchestra pit in front of the stage.

M: Uh-oh.

M: Ooh.

M: And they all went - they all dropped about five feet. It was about 30 people in front of us who just suddenly collapsed into the orchestra pit.

M: Like an accordion.

SAGAL: Wow.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Kind of like an accordion, yeah.

M: They didn't seem upset. That's the other thing, is that they all seemed perfect happy. They got up, and some of them went to the hospital to get checked for cuts and bruises, but nobody was badly injured. And apparently, none of them had lawyers for parents.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: We figured out.

SAGAL: Thank God. Well, John Linnell and John Flansburgh, They Might be Giants, we have asked you here to play a game we're calling...

KASELL: "You Might be Giants, But He Really Was a Giant."

SAGAL: The man, born Andre Rene Roussimoff, who's famous throughout the world as Andre the Giant, actor and pro wrestler. We're going to ask you three questions about this legitimate giant. Get two right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice on their home answering machine. Carl, who are John and John playing for?

KASELL: They're playing for Marad Diesig(ph) of Chicago.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: And whenever we have two people playing the game, like yourselves, you are allowed to collaborate. In fact, we hope we get to see into your creative process as you work through the answer...

M: Ah, yes.

M: Yes.

SAGAL: Bitter fights. We couldn't have Lennon and McCartney on the show, so you'll have to do.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Here's your first question. In addition to being one of the tallest - if not the tallest - professional wrestler ever, Andre the Giant held one other record, at least according to popular legend. What is it? A, he could speak more languages fluently - eight - than any other professional wrestler ever; B, he holds the unofficial record for most beers drunk in a set period of time; or C, he wore the largest athletic supporter ever made by the Bike Corporation.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Ooh.

M: Wow.

M: Well he was French, but he - I'm not sure he was a particularly well-educated man. Somehow, the beer seems fun.

M: Yeah, the beer seems a little bit obvious.

M: Right. And then the unlikely jock strap thing, but...

M: That sounds like a kind of cheap joke that you'd throw in.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: But that's...

M: That might be the double reverse psychology...

M: Yeah.

M: ...that you guys are working.

SAGAL: That's true.

M: Yeah, I'm thinking double reverse psychology.

SAGAL: So what's your choice?

M: C.

M: Let's go with C, yeah.

SAGAL: You're going to go with the largest athletic supporter and...

M: Oh that sounds - suddenly that sounds like a terrible idea.

SAGAL: Was that...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: No, I'm trying to figure it out. Is the double reverse psychology is that it sounds like it's the sort of cheap joke...

M: It sounds fake.

SAGAL: ...we'd make up.

M: Right. Exactly.

M: Exactly.

SAGAL: But be it sounds like we'd make it up, it's real.

M: Yes.

SAGAL: Because we're trying to fool you into thinking that it's made up because it's really real.

M: Right.

M: Yes.

M: Unless that's just what you want us to think.

SAGAL: Exactly.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: We could have made a cheap joke, intending for you to think it was - disguise the cheap joke and real - but really, it's just a cheap joke.

M: Oh, my gosh.

M: Am I a butterfly dreaming I'm a human?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So what's your choice then?

M: We'll go with C.

SAGAL: You're going to go with C.

M: Because we're lost.

SAGAL: No, you were right, it was cheap joke. It was actually beers - is the answer.

M: Oh.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: According to one eyewitness account, Andre once drank 119 beers in six hours, which is a record. He then passed out on the floor, and nobody could move him until morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Still two more chances here. This is not all lost. Next question: Andre the Giant had a successful acting career, most notably in "The Princess Bride." But what was his first screen role, his first screen role as an actor? Was it A, as Bigfoot in a special two-part episode of "The Six Million Dollar Man"; or B, as the world's biggest baby in a "Laugh In" episode; or C, as Napoleon in a dream sequence in a French art film about Napoleon?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: I think he was too young to be on "Laugh In," right?

M: Yeah, he'd be too young to be on "Laugh In." "Laugh In" is definitely no.

SAGAL: OK.

M: The Bigfoot thing seems plausible. Yeah. So we'll go with Bigfoot, I think.

SAGAL: You're going to go with Bigfoot in "The Six Million Dollar Man"?

M: Yeah.

SAGAL: Yes, you're right. Very good.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

M: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: He plays a robot Sasquatch built by aliens.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Of course.

M: Of course, his bionic beer gut.

SAGAL: Exactly. This is your last question, and it all comes down to this. If you get this right, you win. Andre may have been inspired in his career by an early childhood encounter with greatness. Was it A, he studied classical mime in Paris with Marcel Marceau; B, playwright Samuel Beckett gave him rides to school; or C, his first job was being a body guard for an aging Mae West?

M: Ooh, that's interesting.

M: Oh, I'm thinking C.

M: Yeah. Yeah.

SAGAL: Mae West?

M: That was my...

M: Because Mae West probably worked in France a lot.

SAGAL: Yes.

M: It just seems completely plausible.

M: That one sounds right.

SAGAL: So you're going to go for the bodyguard for an aging Mae West?

M: We're going with that one, yeah.

SAGAL: You think that she would like a 7-foot-tall guy?

M: Whatever it takes, Peter.

SAGAL: All right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: No, I'm pleased to say it was Samuel Beckett, actually.

M: Whoa.

SAGAL: Samuel Beckett drove him to school. Now the only - you can only imagine what those conversations were like.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I should say, before people get upset, that the sole source for this story, which is widespread on the Internet, is the actor Cary Elwes, who in the DVD for "The Princess Bride," tells this story. He says, oh yeah, and Andre told me when he was a kid, Samuel Beckett used to drive him to school. I wonder what those conversations were like, said Cary Elwes. Unconfirmed otherwise, but we don't want to live in a world in which Samuel Beckett did not drive Andre the Giant to school.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: So...

M: It is that beautiful generosity.

M: He didn't say a lot on the rides.

SAGAL: He didn't say a lot, no.

M: Beat.

M: That's right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Carl, how did John Linnell and John Flansburgh do on our show?

KASELL: Well John and John needed two correct answers to win, Peter, but they had just one correct answer.

SAGAL: Aw.

M: And oddly enough, Peter, when Samuel Beckett drives you to school, you never get there.

SAGAL: That's true.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: That's right. All right, let's go, start the car.

SAGAL: They stay. Curtain.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Why aren't you driving, Samuel?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: They Might be Giants' new children's album is "Here Comes Science." Their new children's book is "Kids Go." They're out now and worth having, even if you have no children. John Linnell and John Flansburgh, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Thank you so much, guys.

M: Thank you.

SAGAL: Thanks for being on the show.

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