Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!

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PETER SAGAL, HOST:

And now the game where ask famous people stupid questions. Dick Cavett was born and raised right here in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he was encouraged to pursue the trade that had brought his family to the prairie years before, the trade of interviewing celebrities.

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SAGAL: Sadly, he had to move away when the celebrity farms here were sold to developers.

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SAGAL: He joins us now, Dick Cavett, welcome to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!

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DICK CAVETT: Well, thank you. Gosh.

SAGAL: So here we are in Lincoln. You grew up here, born and raised?

CAVETT: I went to high school in Lincoln, junior high in Lincoln and grade school in Lincoln, where in sixth grade I accused the teacher of teacher race prejudice and had a very difficult remainder of that year.

SAGAL: Did you really?

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SAGAL: So you were an agitator?

CAVETT: I was an agitator. Another time, this old bag - this lovely old lady brought...

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CAVETT: ...brought everybody in from recess for something I had done.

SAGAL: What had you done?

CAVETT: I can't remember now.

SAGAL: Oh, come on.

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SAGAL: A professional storyteller like you should have at least made something up.

CAVETT: Yeah. I started to say, well I did almost kill a kid with a judo hold that I had learned out of a book in the Lincoln City Library.

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CAVETT: While other kids were out playing and doing healthy things, I read an ancient judo book with a neck hold that was fatal to so many people they finally dropped it from judo.

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CAVETT: Oh wait, now that you've got me on this subject...

SAGAL: Please.

CAVETT: And I knew you would.

SAGAL: Yeah.

CAVETT: Years later, G. Gordon Liddy was on my show.

SAGAL: Yeah.

CAVETT: And I said to him you probably - you are famous for teaching, say, secretaries how to kill people with a pencil. I can teach you a neck hold that kills quickly.

SAGAL: And what did he say?

CAVETT: We went in the backroom. He said he wouldn't do it on the show, but after the show, I got behind him, I got the hold on his neck and I had a strange feeling for a moment.

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SAGAL: I was going to say, this is an interesting story, but I happen to know that G. Gordon Liddy is still alive.

CAVETT: Yes, yes, he is. Yes, he is.

SAGAL: You were a champion gymnast. We did our research.

CAVETT: Yes, I have a gold medal to prove it. And you and I are about the same height and you still weigh 172 pounds.

SAGAL: Exactly.

CAVETT: Is that so?

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SAGAL: Yes. Yes, it is.

CAVETT: OK, now think of a card.

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SAGAL: That was great. Now you actually went out to New York to make it big in show business. And I know you ended up doing gymnastics on "The Tonight Show." Is that right?

CAVETT: I did. Johnny and I got in - we were very good friends, by the way, and we got into talking about it.

SAGAL: This is Johnny Carson, of course.

CAVETT: Johnny Carson, yeah, of Lincoln, Omaha.

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SAGAL: Right.

CAVETT: And Norfolk, which is also pronounced Norfork and Norfolk.

SAGAL: Right.

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CAVETT: Yeah.

SAGAL: Did you and Johnny Carson initially bond over being fellow cornhuskers?

CAVETT: We bonded over being fellow magicians.

SAGAL: Oh right.

CAVETT: As a magician I had a short joke. I said I'm thinking of quitting magic because the rabbit keeps pulling me into the hat.

SAGAL: Hey.

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CAVETT: That was big then.

SAGAL: I'm interested - to back up a bit, I'm interested in your career, because from what I understand, you did magic and you wrote jokes, but it seems like what you really wanted to do from an early age was do talk shows, to host talk shows. Is that right?

CAVETT: The fact is even when I wrote for Jack Paar, I wrote for Johnny Carson, I never ever dreamed of doing a talk show as a host.

SAGAL: Really, that was not a dream?

CAVETT: My dream was maybe someday, one night I can be a guest on a talk show, and then I will have achieved everything I want.

SAGAL: And finally, we've made it come true for you. I'm so pleased.

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CAVETT: No, but seriously folks, Midwestern look has a pleasing somehow. It was not an accident that so many radio figures even came from the Midwest, especially announcers. And then the combination of my being from Nebraska but going to Yale, I didn't even know any better than freshman year on the campus, I wore brown and white shoes. And the worst part was the white one kept getting dirty.

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SAGAL: What I remember, because I was a little kid then, but I remember like your show was the show that everybody went on. I mean it's a little bit like Larry King was in the 90s, but even more so. You talked to...

CAVETT: Well it seemed that way. Yeah, I got everybody, everybody told me I never would get, and I never was quite sure why. But once you get a few of them and they have a nice time and say, as people often did to me afterwards, my god, I don't know how you got me to talk about this or that, but I guess you made me too comfortable or something.

SAGAL: So you...

CAVETT: And then when Katharine Hepburn came on...

SAGAL: Yeah.

CAVETT: That opened another dam of people who wouldn't come on. Oh, but Cary Grant would not.

SAGAL: Really? Because we were going to ask you if anybody ever said no to you.

CAVETT: Well, Cary Grant didn't say no, he just said "they'll find out how dumb I am."

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SAGAL: And so he wouldn't come on.

CAVETT: Well I tactfully assured him he could only appear so dumb...

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SAGAL: And did he agree?

CAVETT: And he said Kate was so great, you know, and I'm just afraid about it. And then he died.

SAGAL: Oh.

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SAGAL: You would have had him though.

CAVETT: Oh, not at the other end of the phone but...

SAGAL: I really want to about, like, the central role you played in the culture. I mean, for example, after Woodstock, it's like everybody came down and was on your show one night, right? You had Jimi Hendrix.

CAVETT: I know. This is in no sense of the word a plug, but the evidence of that is that there's a Dick Cavett show DVD called "Rock Icons," and everybody in the rock world at that time came on the show, and I never understand why. Again, Janis came on and had such a good time, and I think she told everybody else. I had the Beatles and...

SAGAL: By Janis, you mean Janis Joplin, I assume.

CAVETT: Janis Joplin, yeah.

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CAVETT: Not Janice Lashinski.

SAGAL: Right.

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SAGAL: Janice Levine. No.

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SAGAL: And you had the Beatles; you had everybody.

CAVETT: Yeah, I had half the Beatles: John and Yoko and they scared the hell out of the network.

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SAGAL: You never know what they were going to do. I'm going to ask you, we were looking at your remarkable resume, and I will tell you what I thought was the most impressive thing on it and see if you agree.

CAVETT: Oh good.

SAGAL: That Richard Nixon hated you.

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SAGAL: He was heard on one of the Watergate tapes asking, I think it's Haldeman, if they can find a way to screw you. That, sir...

CAVETT: That doesn't sound like Dick Nixon.

SAGAL: Really?

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SAGAL: Not the warm, cuddly Nixon that you knew.

CAVETT: He was a dear friend of mine, as people say...

SAGAL: Of course.

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SAGAL: So it's a badge of honor.

CAVETT: Yeah.

SAGAL: Dick Cavett, we are delighted to have you with us. We've asked you here to...

CAVETT: By the way...

SAGAL: Yes?

CAVETT: I didn't always hear your show at the very beginning because I didn't know what it was.

SAGAL: I see; you had to learn.

CAVETT: So I only heard the title and I thought it was about dieting.

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SAGAL: I've never felt more acutely the need for a snare drum than I do when talking to you, sir.

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CAVETT: And a rim shot, right?

SAGAL: Absolutely, what else. Dick Cavett, we've asked you here to play a game we're calling?

CARL KASELL: I'm changing my name to, I Speaks Good.

SAGAL: So we've been talking for a while, you and I, and you've dropped some names. Can't blame you. You carry around a lot with you. But we can't help but notice that some of the names you drop, they're not that descriptive.

So we're now going to ask you about three people, three real people, with names that are remarkably descriptive of who they are or what they do. These are called aptonyms. If you get two right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners. Carl, who is Dick Cavett playing for?

KASELL: Dick is playing for Seth Thacker-Lynn of Lincoln, Nebraska.

SAGAL: All right.

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SAGAL: All right, here is your first aptonym. In 2006, the Wall Street Journal mentioned a lawyer named? Was it A: Hy Lee Paid?

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SAGAL: B: Sue Yoo? Or C: Judge Reinhold?

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CAVETT: Lord. I'm going to go with Sue Yoo and assume he's Chinese.

SAGAL: No, it is Sue Yoo, you're right.

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SAGAL: And yes, she's the Chinese...

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SAGAL: Sue Yoo has a law degree from Yale. She worked at Sullivan and Cromwell in New York City. And there is also a country lawyer in Tennessee named Sue Hicks.

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SAGAL: All right, that's good. Timothy Noah of Slate.com once collected a list of great aptonyms; many of them are doctors. For example, which of these really exist? A: an Austin, Texas urologist named Richard Dick Chop?

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SAGAL: B: a Topanga, California neurosurgeon named Robert Sick head? Or C: a Tyler Texas, hand specialist named Grabby Knuckles?

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CAVETT: Oh lord. Well I so want it to be Grabby Knuckles that I'm going to go with that.

SAGAL: Grabby Knuckles?

CAVETT: Yeah.

SAGAL: No, I'm afraid it's even better, it was Dick Chop.

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CAVETT: That's the one I want.

SAGAL: Yeah, sadly.

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SAGAL: All right, that's all right. That's all right, we have one more. If you get this...

CAVETT: Oh no.

SAGAL: Timothy Noah published one of the true great aptonyms. He is a deceased, now, Jesuit priest. He argued forcefully in his day for the benefits of lifelong celibacy in the priesthood. Was his name A: Father Des Perate? B: Monsignor Silvio Berlusconi? It would be a different one.

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SAGAL: Or C: Father John Hardon?

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CAVETT: John Hard what?

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SAGAL: I imagine he pronounced it Father John Hardon, H-A-R-D-O-N.

CAVETT: I should think. Well, that's obviously the answer.

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SAGAL: And it is. Well done.

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CAVETT: Wow.

SAGAL: Father Hardon, who died in 2000, is now a candidate for canonization. So he might well be someday, Saint Hardon.

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CAVETT: Saint Hardon.

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CAVETT: Oh, there's nothing like your show.

SAGAL: There really isn't.

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SAGAL: Some people are thankful. Carl, how did Dick Cavett do on our show?

KASELL: Well, Dick had two correct answers. So Dick, you win for Seth Thacker-Lynn.

SAGAL: Well done.

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SAGAL: Dick Cavett, thank you so much for joining us.

CAVETT: Thank you, Peter.

SAGAL: Bye-bye.

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Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!