Reduced Shakespeare's U.S. History Lesson The Reduced Shakespeare Company's take on the American Revolution is funny, irreverent, and above all, fast. Members of the troupe offer an abridged history of America.
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Reduced Shakespeare's U.S. History Lesson

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Reduced Shakespeare's U.S. History Lesson

Reduced Shakespeare's U.S. History Lesson

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

There are a lot of ways to tell history. All of which share a common flaw. They're way too long.

Which brings us to the Reduced Shakespeare Company. The theater troupe is best known for its ability to collapse the complete works of the bard into a 90-minute stage performance. They've since expanded their repertoire to include the Bible, the Great Books, and - perfect for our purposes today - the complete history of America, abridged.

Tomorrow, the Reduced Shakespeare Company kicks off a month-long run at the Kennedy Center here in Washington, D.C. Today, they join us in Studio 3A to celebrate the Fourth of July. A bit later in the program we'll go live to Cape Canaveral for history as it actually happens - the launch of the space shuttle Discovery.

But first, the Reduced Shakespeare Company with their unique interpretation of American history. If you have questions you've always wanted answers to - Who made George Washington's wooden teeth? Why is the half-century between the Civil War and World War I so boring? - give us a call. Our number is 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-TALK. Our e-mail address is

But before we take some calls, let's hear some material from the show, and we'll start with that dramatic moment when Britain rushed forces across the Atlantic to help its beleaguered colonies.

(Soundbite of news ticker)

Unidentified Man #1: (Character in Reduced Shakespeare Company American History Show) Hear ye! Hear ye! We interrupt TALK OF THE NATION to bring you the French and Indian War. French and British at war again, this time in North America.

In sports, the Patriots trounced the Redskins.

Unidentified Man #2: (Character in Reduced Shakespeare Company American History Show) Oh, yea. Oh, yea. British colonists defeat French and Indians. King George celebrates victory by imposing taxes on tea, stamps, sugar, and anything else he can think of. Colonists are up in arms.

Unidentified Man #1: Hey, did you hear?

Unidentified Man #2: What?

Unidentified Man #1: King George has raised taxes and the people are arming themselves.

Unidentified Man #2: No way!

Unidentified Man #1: Way!

Unidentified Man #1 and #2: Wow!

Unidentified Man #2: Hey, did you hear?

Unidentified Man #3: (Character in Reduced Shakespeare Company American History Show) What?

Unidentified Man #2: The King is doubling our taxes and we're putting together a peoples' army to fight him right now. We're off to throw tea in the harbor.

Unidentified Man #3: Uh oh! Trouble's brewing.

Unidentified Man #1: Oh, yea! Oh, yea! Big tea party in Boston. Dump tea in the harbor to protest taxes. Alice in Wonderland and Mad Hatter slated to attend.

ALL: (Speaking at once)

Unidentified Man #1: British soldier kills Crispus Attucks, an African-American, in the Boston Massacre. Four others dead. The colonists are in revolt.

Unidentified Man #2: Hey, did you hear?

Unidentified Man #3: What?

Unidentified Man #2: The colonists are revolting.

Unidentified Man #3: I know. Did you ever eat with one of them?

Unidentified Man #1: Oh, yea! Oh, yea! British attack at Lexington in Concord. Revolution underway. Paul Revere and the Raiders number one on the charts, with The British Are Coming!

Unidentified Man #2: Listen my children, and you shall hear, the midnight ride of Paul Revere. He said with a grin, while wiping a chin, if my ear was a -


Unidentified Man #1: I hear a shot!

Unidentified Man #2: I heard a shot messieurs.

Unidentified Man #3: I hear a shot senor.

Unidentified Man #2: I hear a shot, Grasshopper.

Unidentified Man #1: I hear a shot, comrade.

Unidentified Man #2: I earhe an hotshe orkypes(ph).

ALL: It was the shot heard ‘round the world.

ALL: Thank you. Thank you very much.

CONAN: The Reduced Shakespeare Company, Dominick Conte(ph), Reed Martin, and Austin Tichenor, with us here in Studio 3. Nice to have you on the program.

Unidentified Man #2: Thank you, Neal.

Unidentified Man #3: Thank you.

Unidentified Man #1: Thanks for having us. Happy Fourth.

CONAN: I forgot that question, who did create George Washington's wooden teeth?

Unidentified Man #1: Oh, who carved…

Unidentified Man #2: Oh, that…

Unidentified Man #1: …George Washington's wooden…?

Unidentified Man #2: …that's easy. George Washington Carver.

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah. Everybody knows that.

Unidentified Man #2: Hiyooo!

Unidentified Man #3: That's elementary.

CONAN: If you'd like more pain like that, give us a call, 800-989-8255: 800-989-TALK. Our e-mail address is

By one estimate, this show covers 600 years of history in 6,000 seconds. How do you decide what to put in and what to take out?

Unidentified Man #1: Well, we cut out all the unimportant minor historical characters and get right to the sex and the killing, which is what people like.

We've written a big, long scene…

Unidentified Man #3: Yeah.

Unidentified Man #1: …about the Gadsden Purchase, and then realized nobody except us kind of knew what it was.

CONAN: Had ever head of the Gadsden Purchase, yeah.

Unidentified Man #1: So we had to cut that out.

Unidentified Man #3: And a big musical number about Millard Fillmore, which just went south in a hurry.

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah.

Unidentified Man #3: As did Millard Fillmore. So…

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah. Yeah.

CONAN: Just in the fall.

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah, right. So we hit the highlights, you know. Washington, Lincoln, you know, Cold War…

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah.

Unidentified Man #1: …hot war…

CONAN: Yep, and Lucy Ricardo.

Unidentified Man #1: Well, yes, one of the great figures in American history.

Unidentified Man #2: That's one of the lowlights.

Unidentified Man #1: Yes.

Unidentified Man #3: That's right. We go from the Cold War to the War on Terror. There's always some war going on, and we cover it.

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah, I mean it isn't just from, like when, the Vikings or Amerigo Vespucci or Columbus discovered America. We go almost from the creation of the galaxy: the Big Bang past the Clinton administration. So it's sort of Big Bang to big bang.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah.

CONAN: Well, I have to ask you about that part. I mean, this show first debuted in 1993, as I understand it.

Unidentified Man #1: Um-hmm.

CONAN: Clearly you've got squadrons of writers updating you every day.

Unidentified Man #3: Yeah, squadrons. Literally squadrons. Literally, well they keep writing American history, so we have to keep reducing it. And it's an ongoing job, for sure.

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah, so there's, yes, there's several new scenes from when the show premiered.

CONAN: Um-hmm.

Unidentified Man #1: Absolutely.


Unidentified Man #3: And some things that are gone, long gone.

CONAN: Really?

Unidentified Man #3: Kato Kaelin. He will be missed.

Unidentified Man #1: Oh, no!

Unidentified Man #3: No. He's gone. He's lost in the dust bins of history, as he should be.

Unidentified Man #2: I did a pretty mean John Kerry, I have to say.

CONAN: A mean John Kerry! That might have worked!

Unidentified Man #2: Ah, yeah! Right!

Unidentified Man #3: That's the John Kerry that the nation needed to see.

Unidentified Man #2: Not flip-flopping John, be angry!

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: John Kerry never got to answer the question, you know, boxers or briefs. What was the answer?

Unidentified Man #2: Oh, well, uh, ah, uh…depends.

Unidentified Man #3: He went commando.

Unidentified Man #1: Obviously.

Unidentified Man #3: Because of all his war history and…

CONAN: Is all of that John Kerry stuff on this, for example, this DVD of the Reduced Shakespeare Company's…?

Unidentified Man #2: That bright and shiny DVD you're holding up for the listeners to hear? Indeed.


Unidentified Man #1: You can find out about the DVD and all things Reduced Shakespeare at

CONAN: Is that a website?

Unidentified Man #1: A website -

CONAN: Amazing.

Unidentified Man #3: On the intor-net, I think it's what they call it.

Unidentified Man #1: Intra-net, I think its called intr-net.

CONAN: That was the one that John Kerry - no, no, no, that was the other candidate who invented that one.

Unidentified Man #1: Yes. The movie star Al Gore invented that one.


ALL: Yes.

CONAN: Now, let's see if we can get some listeners in on this conversation. And again, if you'd like to join us, any questions you may have about American history, 800-989-8255.

Craig - Craig's calling us from Athens, in Ohio.

(Soundbite of radio feedback)

Unidentified Man #3: Wow, there's a time delay! We just, we got lost in a, trapped in a time-space continuum thing.

CONAN: Well, that went to your whole thing about freedom of expression that I know that you do. Freedom of expression, of course, the right of every American, the right of all of you here in this studio, as long as we have that ten second's delay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Craig, are you on the phone?

CRAIG (Caller): Yep.

CONAN: What's your question?

CRAIG: The term, the American way.

Unidentified Man #1: Ohh.

CRAIG: When was it coined and what does it actually mean.

Unidentified Man #1: Well, it's when there was only one road in this country. It was called the American way. Yeah.

Unidentified Man #3: No, no, it was…

Unidentified Man #1: Through the Americas.

Unidentified Man #2: …I thought on the side of the road, there was all sorts of plants, flora and fauna, all the way.

Unidentified Man #1: All the way, there was…

Unidentified Man #3: The curds and the American way, from the old nursery rhyme.

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah.

Unidentified Man #2: Yes.

Unidentified Man #1: Little Miss Muffett.

ALL: Yes.

Unidentified Man #1: And her American curds and whey.

CONAN: And her American curds and whey. There you have it, Craig.

CRAIG: Well, thank you so much.

Unidentified Man #2: Thank you.

CONAN: And I hope the test is tomorrow.


CONAN: Bye, bye. Let's go now to David, and David's calling us from, what is this, Lenore, is that right, in North Carolina?

DAVID (Caller): Lenore.

CONAN: Lenore, as in the Edgar Allen Poe poem. Go ahead.

DAVID: Yeah. George Washington, um, didn't he have, like, many affairs? Wasn't he like known for a man who had many women, slave women and, I want to get you all's take on that.

Unidentified Man #1: No. American presidents only sleep with their wives.

Unidentified Man #2: Yes.

Unidentified Man #1: I think that's, I think that's, yeah…

Unidentified Man #2: That's been true through every, with every single American president.

CONAN: Was Thomas Jefferson married to what's her name? Anyway, go ahead.

Unidentified Man #3: (Unintelligible) the whole…

Unidentified Man #2: Moving right along.

Unidentified Man #3: It's a whole thing. No, I think it's a proud American tradition, American presidential tradition, of sleeping with your slaves.

Unidentified Man #1: Well, we travel around the country, and it looks like George Washington slept everywhere. So it's probably true. Yeah.

Unidentified Man #3: It's probably true.

Unidentified Man #2: Seriously, the word on Washington is he was caught falling out of some bedroom windows as old as like 65 or so, so he was a player.

Unidentified Man #1: Wow.

Unidentified Man #3: He was a player.

Unidentified Man #1: A play-ah.

Unidentified Man #3: Washington was getting - Washington got busy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: Apparently this wasn't just a president who got busy, he got biz-aay.

Unidentified Man #3: Biz-aay. I think he got biz-aay with Betsy Ross, too, because that's a whole mythology surrounding here.

Unidentified Man #1: So apparently it's true. He was the father of most of our country.

Unidentified Man #2: And then she could sew him some pants.

Unidentified Man #3: Yeah! Betsy Ross went down in history in a completely way then we think.

Unidentified Man #2: Some monogrammed underwear, maybe.

CONAN: So that, thank you very much for the call, David, but that leads me to ask the question, when you, get on people like, G-Dub(ph), for example, how do you decide - history's a very sensitive topic, I mean, being seriously, people will take offense at various things. Who do you decide - you're almost deciding who to offend and who not to.

Unidentified Man #1: We try to be equal opportunity offenders. We, you know, whoever's the current president, we blasted Clinton when he was in office. And now W gets a few shots, and, you know.

Unidentified Man #3: Yeah. People say you shouldn't be making fun of the president, and we say look, we'd much rather be making fun of Kerry, but that's not the way it worked out.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah. If Kerry won we'd be swinging away.

Unidentified Man #3: We'd be swinging away at him too. I mean, it's guaranteed that somebody's going to be offended by something. And so, we just try to really make it funny.

Unidentified Man #1: We do an Abraham Lincoln assassination ballet. And occasionally, we get people come up to us that says you just can't joke about that.

Unidentified Man #2: It's too soon.

Unidentified Man #1: It's too soon. And, okay, but what is the statute of limitations on that? I don't know.

Unidentified Man #1: We're still finding it.

Unidentified Man #3: Tragedy plus time equals comedy.

CONAN: Maybe next time you can actually play Ford's Theatre and see how it goes over there.

Unidentified Man #2: I would love to. How eerie would that be?

CONAN: Let's get another caller on. This is Charles. Charles calling from Mankato in Minnesota.

CHARLES (Caller): Well good afternoon, good morning, depending on where you are.

Unidentified Man #1: Happy Fourth of July to all of us.

CHARLES: Happy Fourth of July. Nice Anglo-American holiday that we're celebrating.

Unidentified Man #1: Yes.

CHARLES: Question that you had - (unintelligible), you had made a comment earlier that that boring period between the end of the Civil War and World War I - John Wayne, cowboys and Indians. Who can forget the Spanish-American War and North Dakota statehood.

Unidentified Man #1: Well we can you that real quickly, cause it wasn't a very funny time in American history. Here it is: there was labor unrest.

Unidentified Man #2: Not funny.

Unidentified Man #1: There was land grabbing on an unprecedented scale.

Unidentified Man #2: That's not funny.

Unidentified Man #1: There were 7-year-olds working themselves to death in sweatshops.

Unidentified Man #2: That's - actually that is funny.

Unidentified Man #1: I think you got it.

CHARLES: But to change in what way? (Unintelligible).

Unidentified Man #1: You got it in one.

CONAN: Charles, thanks for the call. By the way, there in Mankato, what are you doing to celebrate the fourth of July, the nation's birthday today?

CHARLES: Actually, I am on my way to a SASS event - Single Action Shooting Society - where we get to place the frontier period that's so boring.

Unidentified Man #3: So you're going to a SASS, does that make you an assassin?

CHARLES: Well I've been called many things. I suppose you can call that too.

Unidentified Man #1: Can you guys let the Indians win this time?

CALLER: I'm sorry?

Unidentified Man #1: Can you guys let the Indians win this time? It seems only right. Well, I mean, they normally do. There's just be rewrites in history ever since. But you guys should know about that.

Unidentified Man #2: Absolutely.

CONAN: Well that never happens. Charles, good luck and duck.

Unidentified Man #1: Happy Fourth.

CHARLES: Actually, it's Lieutenant Gatewood, as a SASS member. Thanks a lot. Pleasure chatting with you.

CONAN: Alright. Well, good luck to you, Lieutenant Gatewood, as well.

Let's see if we can get on the - another caller. This is Nathan. Nathan's calling us from Overland Park in Kansas.

NATHAN (Caller): Yes. I've seen you guys perform and it's wonderful. But I was wondering, do you have anything good to say about Kansas's history?

Unidentified Man #1: Do you mean, like, all the bloody revolts and the frontier mandis(ph) that was going on out there?

NATHAN: That or Bob Dole or anything like that.

Unidentified Man #1: Bob Dole and the hurricanes, the twisters. Kansas is a great pathway to Oz. That's the best thing I know…

Unidentified Man #3: I just saw a documentary - yeah, Wizard of Oz was on last night. I saw a documentary about the history of Kansas. It's fascinating.

Unidentified Man #1: Because you know it's a documentary cause it's in black and white for part of it.

Unidentified Man #3: I know, yeah.

Unidentified Man #2: And there's flying monkeys.

Unidentified Man #3: And then parts of it are recreation. I think it goes color, yeah.

Unidentified Man #2: That's just that sort of that revisionism that the…

CONAN: Well, wait a minute. Isn't Kansas at the heart of every conspiracy theory in America?

Unidentified Man #3: Sure it is. Are you kidding? John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln in the theatre and ran to a warehouse. Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy from a warehouse and ran to a theatre.

Unidentified Man #1: Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy. Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln.

Unidentified Man #2: Three weeks before he died, Abraham Lincoln was in Monroe, Maryland.

Unidentified Man #3: And consider this dismaying observation: Ronald Wilson Reagan. How many letters in each name?

Unidentified Man #1: Six, six, six. Reagan believed in the rapture and was the first president elected in a zero year not to die in office since William Henry Harrison died in 1841.

Unidentified Man #2: Not so surprising, Mr. and Mrs. Bury My Head In the Sand. When you consider the role of the trilateral commission, the NSC and the IMF.

Unidentified Man #1: Did you know there's a top secret Air Force hangar in Nevada, housing an alien spacecraft?

Unidentified Man #2: We could be killed for divulging that information.

Unidentified Man #3: And where exactly was David Duchovny on the day that Malcolm X was assassinated?

Unidentified Man #2: Did you know that they faked the moon landing on a Hollywood soundstage?

Unidentified Man #3: Did you know that William Shatner was a hairpiece?

Unidentified Man #1: Did you know that there's a cult of dyslexic devil worshippers in the Ozarks who've sold their souls to Santa?

Unidentified Man, Unidentified Man #2 and Unidentified Man #3: Did you know that?

CONAN: That is Dominic Conti, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, members of the Reduced Shakespeare Company. If you'd like to join our conversation, if you're possibly that silly, give us a call. 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-TALK. Email us:

When we come back from a short break, more of your calls, a new national anthem, and at the bottom of the hour we'll take you live to coverage of the launch of the space shuttle Discovery.

I'm Neal Conan. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

We're celebrating the fourth of July with the Reduced Shakespeare Company. Their Complete history of America Abridged opens here in Washington, D.C. tomorrow. They also have a book out called Reduced Shakespeare Company, the complete guide for the attention impaired. And in a few moments, we'll take you live to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the launch of Discovery.

Before we do, though, more of your questions with Dominic Conti, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, the Reduced Shakespeare - wait, Reduced Shake - RSC. Have you guys got in any trouble over that?

Unidentified Man #1: Are you kidding? We've been - there's this company in England - I don't know if anybody's ever heard of them - and they stole our initials. They're calling themselves the Royal Shakespeare Company and they stole our initials. And we've been suing them for years. And we're just getting nowhere.

Unidentified Man #2: In true patriotic American way. We sic our lawyers on them.

CONAN: Anyway, our number if you'd like to join is 800-989-8255. Any questions at all about American history, the email address is

And here's an email. This from Ginny. By the way - I think BTW stands for that - love ya on BBC7. Too bad our country is a media wasteland, in which NPR is the exception, proving the rule. But the question, America Redux, what is Manifest Destiny?

Unidentified Man #2: Ah. Manifest Destiny was the patriotic feeling that we were destined, Americans were destined to push our way westward towards the Pacific Ocean. To own and dominate…

CONAN: Actually might get a good grade on a test with that answer.

Unidentified Man #2: What? That's right? I'm right?

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah, Beyonce' was part of it. Manifest Destiny's Child. Yes, that's right.

Unidentified Man #2: Uh-oh, Neal - someone resuscitate Neal.

Unidentified Man #1: I think I'd flunk. Clear!

CONAN: Let's see if we can get Todd on the line. Todd's calling us from Greensboro, N.C.

TODD (Caller): Yes. My question - I was wondering if the guys had anything they could tell me about Michael Dukakis and the Massachusetts miracle. The '88 presidential campaign in general.

Unidentified Man #3: All of it's over and dead. The miracle's over, Dukakis is over.

Unidentified Man #1: Let's see, the tank photo op was a big mistake.

Unidentified Man #3: Big mistake.

Unidentified Man #1: Dukakis just sounds kind of off as a name.

Unidentified Man #2: But if you, and if you…

CONAN: Works better with Olympia, though, doesn't it?

Unidentified Man #1: Yes. Olympia Dukakis.

Unidentified Man #2: It's award winning that way. So Olympia Dukakis should've run for president, yeah.

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah. What would be a Massachusetts miracle if somebody there could actually win the presidency.

Unidentified Man #2: That would be a miracle.

CONAN: She would've known how to stand in that tank. I'll guarantee you that.

Unidentified Man #1: Absolutely.

Unidentified Man #2: She would've.

Unidentified Man #3: She had some sweet eyebrows though.

Unidentified Man #2: She would've been able to see over the top.

CONAN: Todd, there you have it. The history of the 1988 of the presidential election.

Todd: Well, thank you.

CONAN: Alright. Thanks very much for the phone call.

And let's go now to Hope. And Hope is calling us from Raleigh in North Carolina.

HOPE (Caller): I want to know whether (unintelligible)…

CONAN: Hope, you're on the radio.

HOPE: Hi. I'm Hope.

CONAN: Yes. Hi, Hope.

Unidentified Man #3: Hi, Hope.

HOPE: I was wondering if any young girls has ever made history?

CONAN: Have any young girls made history?

Unidentified Man #1: That's a very good question.

Unidentified Man #2: Yes.

Unidentified Man #1: Yes.

Unidentified Man #2: There was - which ones? Young girls who made history?

Unidentified Man #3: Helen Keller was young and she made history.

Unidentified Man #1: And we were just talking about actresses. Some very…

CONAN: Shirley Temple made history.

Unidentified Man #1: Shirley Temple won an Oscar.

Unidentified Man #2: Nelly Bly, the original fighting journalist.

CONAN: Was she a young girl?

Unidentified Man #2: Well, she was young-ish. She was 20s, she was in her 20s, so she was (unintelligible)…

Unidentified Man #1: There was also the young actress from New Zealand who won an Oscar.

Unidentified Man #2: Anna Paquin.

CONAN: Anna Paquin, who's also been in other movies since, including the X-Men series.

Unidentified Man #3: X-Men 3 this summer, coming to a theatre near you.

Unidentified Man #2: I think in terms of politics, you have to be a little bit older to run for office.

Unidentified Man #3: But young girls grow up to be young women and that's where they make their most history I think.

CONAN: Alright. Hope, who's your favorite young woman? Who inspires you?

HOPE: My mom.

Unidentified Man #1: Great answer.

Unidentified Man #2: Aw.

CONAN: That's a really good answer, Hope. I think it's ice cream around today as soon as your mom hears that on the radio. Thanks very much for your call, Hope.

HOPE: Bye.

Unidentified Man #1: Bye.

CONAN: Bye bye. Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. And this is - we're going out to Paul. Paul calling us from Ft. Wayne in Indiana.

PAUL (Caller): Hi there. I just wondered if you guys had anything particularly funny to say about the history of the Internet.

Unidentified Man #3: Al Gore's best invention? As Homer says, oh they have the Internet on computers now.

Unidentified Man #2: The history of the Internet. Wow, it's sort of absurd on its own.

Unidentified Man #3: Well it seems so young to be talking about it. Although, they did invent it many, many years before it became much, you know, as well, as publicized as it is.

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah. Do you have any interesting facts about the history of the Internet?

PAUL: Not necessarily. But I just thought with all the changes and some of the pretty awful stuff that's out there that you might be able to find something funny in all of it.

Unidentified Man #3: That's the one thing you should know about the Internet. Every word you see it on it is true.

Unidentified Man #1: Absolutely.

Unidentified Man #2: Absolutely.

Unidentified Man #3: I found out I'm an alien apparently.

CONAN: Paul, thanks very much. And we read that you're on the grassy knoll, but we don't believe it.

PAUL: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye bye. Here's an email. This from Jean in San Diego. Could you explain why the cotton gin is so named? Did Eli Whitney have a problem?

Unidentified Man #1: Indeed he did, yes. Eli Two-Fifths a Day Whitney.

Unidentified Man #3: That was an old sea shanty, Eli Whitney had a problem.

Unidentified Man #1: Get your cotton-picking hands off my cotton-picking machine.

Unidentified Man #3: Before bluegrass even started, there was that song.

Unidentified Man #1: My cotton-picking gin, woo-ha. I think they wrote that joke for us. Thank you.

CONAN: Let's go to Diane. Diane calling us from Pendleton in Oregon.


Unidentified Man #1: Hi.

DIANE: Say, how does food figure into history?

Unidentified Man #2: You know, without it, we found generally people will starve to death. Without food, we would be history.

Unidentified Man #3: I've got some pancakes in my pocket right now.

Unidentified Man #1: Is that what those are? I was wondering (unintelligible)…

Unidentified Man #3: That came out wrong, but.

Unidentified Man #1: Well, you got all kinds of reasons. You know, people settling where they can farm and hunt and the whole, you know, migration of man.

DIANE: Farming is big out here.

Unidentified Man #1: Pardon?

DIANE: Farming is really big out here in eastern Oregon.

Unidentified Man #1: Oh, it's beautiful out there.

CONAN: And what do you grow out there?

DIANE: Lots and lots of wheat.

CONAN: And that's a good thing, except if you're allergic to it, in which case it's not.

Unidentified Man #2: In Western Oregon near the water, they grow fish. A lot of people don't know that.

DIANE: And trees.

Unidentified Man #2: And trees.

Unidentified Man #1: Lots of them. Lots of both.

Unidentified Man #3: It's not like in the movies. When you throw a spear at food, and arrow, the animal doesn't just automatically fall down.

Unidentified Man #2: What?

Unidentified Man #1: What? Say that again?

Unidentified Man #2: How does this work?

Unidentified Man #3: No, I mean, you know, if you're out hunting for food and stuff, yeah.

Unidentified Man #2: Really? They don't just drop dead?

Unidentified Man #3: Yeah.

Unidentified Man #1: Sometimes the animal shoots back, which is why you have to have assault rifles to hunt.

Unidentified Man #2: Oh yeah. At defenseless animals.

Unidentified Man #3: Yeah, that's a Ted Nugent theory.

DIANE: They said that, vegetarian, in Native American terms, means, bad hunter.

Unidentified Man #1: I thought it meant Tab Hunter, but that's a whole different thing. I don't know.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Diane. And have a great Fourth there in Pendleton, Oregon.

DIANE: (Unintelligible)

CONAN: Alright.

Unidentified Man #1: What? What did she say to you?

Unidentified Man #2: I don't know.

CONAN: I think it was expressing her fealty to the local sports team is what she was doing. In any case…

Unidentified Man #1: Tell yourself whatever you need to, Neal.

CONAN: That's our story and we're sticking to it. And before we let you guys go, I understand that really one of the things your show addresses so many of the concerns and hopes of American people all through the ages. The desire for a free place to live, a desire for a place to express yourself freely and a desire for a national anthem we can actually sing.

Unidentified Man #3: Exactly right. I mean, the Star Spangled Banner is a great song in its day, but it's completely out of touch with modern sensibilities. For one thing, it's in English, but also it's militaristic and patriarchal. And musically, it goes from a low B- all the way up to an H above high C, and still Francis Scott Key expects fat guys at ballgames to sing a song written in the key of G. We need…

Unidentified Man, Unidentified Man #2 and Unidentified Man #3: A new national anthem.

Unidentified Man #1: And I think it should be God Bless, America, or possibly, Born in the USA.

Unidentified Man #2: That's a good.

Unidentified Man #3: Or Free bird.

(Soundbite of singing)

Unidentified Man #1: Dom, stop.

Unidentified Man #2: Free bird was written by a Canadian so I don't think it's appropriate for an American.

Unidentified Man #3: No, it's written by Lynyrd Skynyrd. They're from Florida.

Unidentified Man #2: Wait, what? You're thinking of Snowbird by Ann Murray.

Unidentified Man #3: Oh, wait, how is that? Oh, okay. You know what, never mind. I've written - because we need our own national anthem, I've written my own modest example. Could I get a G?

(Soundbite of sound)

Unidentified Man #3: Thank you. Now this is a song which some of your listeners may recognize.

(Soundbite of harmonica)

M Unidentified Man #3: (singing): Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, and an unexploited waves of a pentacle companion. For mounted majesties of color and a free-roaming human beings beside the differently harvested plain. Oh non-Eurocentric bioregion, non-theologically specific Supreme Being - if she exists - shed (unintelligible) grace on thee. And made you more of a non-speciastic(ph) multi-cultural eco-warrior from chronologically gifted anthro-morphized(ph) river to cosmetically enhanced sea.

Play ball!

CONAN: The Reduced Shakespeare Company here with us in Studio 3A. Dominic Conte, Reed Martin, Austin Tichenor. They open tomorrow at the Kennedy Center here in Washington, D.C. for a month-long run. Their book is Reduced Shakespeare: The Complete Guide for the Attention Impaired. You can also go to their website, which is

And we'll be back in a moment with some breaking news from Cape Canaveral.

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

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