Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!

Copyright ©2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

PETER SAGAL, Host:

And now, the game where we invite on experts to answer questions about things far outside their area of expertise. Until just last month, Austan Goolsbee was the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Obama White House. Before that, he was a member of the council. And before that, an adviser to the Obama presidential campaign. We expect him to either take the blame for the mess we're in, or convincingly explain why he doesn't have to.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Austan Goolsbee, welcome to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!.

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Pleasure to have you. So, you're a trained economist who was at the center of the Councils of Economic Advisers in the White House. So our first question is: are we screwed?

GOOLSBEE: No, but we're just slowly working our way out of it.

SAGAL: Really?

GOOLSBEE: Yeah.

SAGAL: In kind of a spiral corkscrew motion, I would assume for the screwing.

GOOLSBEE: Yeah. No, you wouldn't want to be European at this moment. They are screwed, but we're doing okay.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Really?

GOOLSBEE: Yeah.

SAGAL: Is that what you told yourself in the White House war room in the depth of this current depression? Well, at least we aren't Belgians.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ADAM FELBER: I say that every morning.

SAGAL: Oh my god. Well tell me what it was like. Well first of all, you know, you just left. How does it feel? I mean, did you enjoy your time in DC? You were there for a good three years.

GOOLSBEE: Well, you know, I always said that I didn't go for the fun, and I wasn't disappointed.

SAGAL: Right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GOOLSBEE: Because it wasn't. It was a strange moment. And there was a time when I was flying back on a flight to Midway, and we went through a terrible thunderstorm, and the flight is really bouncing around and horrible turbulence, and I don't get very nervous flying. But in the row, two rows ahead of me, there was an older woman on the aisle and there was a young kid by the window. And as the plane is jerking around, the woman begins screaming "we're going to die."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GOOLSBEE: And everyone looks around and then, whoom, it really jerks down and the lights kind of go out on one side of the plane. And she continues screaming, "Oh God, we're going to die." So the people on the plane are looking around. "Nobody's saying we're not going to die; maybe we are going to die."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GOOLSBEE: And so finally we land and they come off, and she gets off and she's very shaken. And she was sitting next to this kid who was just staring out the window the whole time, like, oh God, please don't. And so I say to that kid, I said wow that was some flight, huh? And the kid said, "This was my first time on an airplane. Is it always like this?"

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GOOLSBEE: And I realized after three years in DC, I was that kid.

SAGAL: Right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GOOLSBEE: I kept asking, "is this normal? Is it always like this?"

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GOOLSBEE: But I mean it was...

SAGAL: In that scenario, who was the person in the White House who kept screaming "we're all going to die."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: It was Joe Biden, you can tell me, right?

GOOLSBEE: No, Joe was the man who was just screaming, "At least we're not European."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Let's talk about you. You're an economist, but you're also, we are told you like improv comedy. You were once named American's funniest economist or Washington's funniest economist.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GOOLSBEE: I was named DC's funniest celebrity.

SAGAL: Whoa.

GOOLSBEE: So the key in both of those is aim low. You know what I'm saying?

SAGAL: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Did you ever try to, like, crack some jokes at serious White House meetings?

GOOLSBEE: Yes. I almost created a diplomatic incident at the OECD when the...

SAGAL: The OECD?

GOOLSBEE: That's the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. It's in Paris. And the head of the CEA hosts the economic policy meeting of something.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GOOLSBEE: And it was a very serious bunch. And I was trying to lighten it up.

SAGAL: Yeah.

GOOLSBEE: So they went around the room and they got in an argument about whether the publications of the OECD should be free. And the secretary general...

AMY DICKINSON: Oh boy.

GOOLSBEE: Said, well actually most of our budget comes from the sale of these blockbuster publications. And one of them was called "Fit Not Fat." And I think it was about teenage obesity or something. And he said all the finance ministers - I mean, excuse me, all the health ministers of the OECD got together. And I pushed my little button, which goes to all the translators, and I said, "over lunch"?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GOOLSBEE: And there was dead silence.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GOOLSBEE: And then he looked and he said, "no, they had a conference."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GOOLSBEE: And I said, oh, well then carry on.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: One last question, before we go to the game. How does it feel to be one of the men that salon dot com named one of the 15 sexiest men of 2010?

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

GOOLSBEE: I said at the time I didn't even know Salon was printed in Braille.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Very good.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: That may be the funniest thing a government economist has ever said on this show.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, Austan Goolsbee, it's great to have you back in Chicago and also back on this show. We have asked you here to play a game that today we're calling?

CARL KASELL, Host:

Soooooooooooooouuuuul Train.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: It's the 40th anniversary of "Soul Train." And since economists have no souls, we're going to ask you...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: It's not a job requirement. We're sure they just wither from disuse.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: We're going to ask you about the long running music variety show "Soul Train." Get at least two right and you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice...

GOOLSBEE: I thought Carl was going to be that soccer guy.

SAGAL: I know.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

FELBER: Then it went the other way.

SAGAL: We're adapting that skill of his to other uses.

GOOLSBEE: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Carl, who is Austan Goolsbee playing for?

KASELL: Austan is playing for Patti Keller of Westborough, Massachusetts.

SAGAL: All right, here we go.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Westborough fans, I guess. First question, anyone who watched "Soul Train" for the last 15 years knows it ended with a host saying "we wish you love, peace and soul."

DICKINSON: Soul.

SAGAL: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: The signoff used to be different. Which of these lines preceded the love, peace and soul thing? A: and you can bet your last money, it's all gonna be a stone gas, honey?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: B: remember to spay and neuter your pets, but please don't do it yourself?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Or C: so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu?

GOOLSBEE: I'm going with C.

SAGAL: You're going to go with C: so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu, we wish you love, peace and soul?

(SOUNDBITE OF BOOING)

SAGAL: You guys, now wait a minute.

GOOLSBEE: You want to go with A?

FELBER: Wow.

SAGAL: You guys. You got to be cool here. If he's going to screw this up too, then you got to let him.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

ALONZO BODDEN: Austan, Peter read that with such soul, I could see where you would be confused.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BODDEN: It was so real.

SAGAL: Yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GOOLSBEE: All right, fine, I'm going with A.

SAGAL: You're going to with A? You're right, it was A.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: And you can bet your last money, it's all gonna be a stone gas, honey. We wish you love, peace and soul. Long time NPR listeners will remember back in the 70s, that's how Carl used to end his newscasts.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: All right, that was pretty good. That was pretty good. That was one for one. Let's go for two.

GOOLSBEE: Stone gas.

SAGAL: Stone gas, honey. Next question, "Soul Train" made a lasting impact on many stars of today, such as which of these? A: celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, who serves a dish called Filet of Sole Train in his New Orleans restaurant? B: actor David Hasselhoff, who wrote to the show every day for 20 years in a failed attempt to get invited on?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Or C: news anchor Nancy Grace, who says she plans to use what she learned from "Soul Train" to win the upcoming season of "Dancing with the Stars."

GOOLSBEE: Oh god.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GOOLSBEE: You are aware I've been spending time thinking about the economy for the last three years.

SAGAL: I do.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Oh really? I wasn't aware.

GOOLSBEE: Okay.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: As I'm sure you know, in comedy circles that's a setup.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I'm professionally obligated to take a swing. But go on.

GOOLSBEE: Okay. I'm going to go with Filet of - oh, they want C. Nancy Grace? Is she even on "Dancing with the Stars"?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Is this how you made decisions...

GOOLSBEE: I've never even seen the show.

SAGAL: Is this how you made decisions in the White House? You'd go out to the line for the tour and go what do you guys think? Interest rates? Stimulus? What?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Come on, you got to decide.

DICKINSON: So Nancy Grace is going to be on "Dancing with the Stars," so there's a lot of talk about that. Where is little Caylee?

GOOLSBEE: All right, fine, I'm going to go with that.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You're going to go with which? You're going to go with Nancy Grace?

GOOLSBEE: Yes.

SAGAL: You're right, it was Nancy Grace.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

BODDEN: Another example.

SAGAL: All right.

BODDEN: Another example of soul personified, Nancy Grace.

SAGAL: Yeah.

DICKINSON: Exactly.

BODDEN: Now that's cool right there.

SAGAL: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Last question. See if you can go perfect there. Last question, "Soul Train" has always had an inclusive vibe, welcoming figures you might not expect, such as which of these? A: Vladmir Putin, who debuted a dance move he calls "The Putin Puddin'."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: B: an actual train.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Or C: Wolf Blitzer.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DICKINSON: Oh my.

GOOLSBEE: Oh wow. It's got to be an actual train.

SAGAL: You're going to go for the actual train?

GOOLSBEE: Yes.

SAGAL: That'd be great.

GOOLSBEE: Because I know Wolf Blitzer.

SAGAL: You know Wolf Blitzer. No way?

GOOLSBEE: It might be true, but that would really surprise me.

SAGAL: Be amazed, it was Wolf Blitzer.

DICKINSON: No.

GOOLSBEE: It was?

SAGAL: It really was.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

DICKINSON: No.

SAGAL: Wolf Blitzer was inexplicably...

FELBER: Did he do the scrabble board?

GOOLSBEE: I did not see that coming.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: He was invited to be a presenter at the 2010 Soul Train Awards, where he learned to do "The Dougie."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: This inspired Blitzer's recent failed attempt to create CNN's "Soultuation Room."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Carl, how did Austan Goolsbee do on our show?

KASELL: He had two correct answers, Peter, and that's enough to win for Patti Keller.

SAGAL: Congratulations, well done.

GOOLSBEE: Great.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Feel good about yourself?

GOOLSBEE: Yeah.

SAGAL: Austan Goolsbee is a former White House economic adviser. He's now on the faculty at the University of Chicago. Austan Goolsbee, thank you so much for joining us.

GOOLSBEE: Thank you guys.

SAGAL: Great to see you.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Austan Goolsbee, ladies and gentlemen.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!
Support comes from: