Bluff The Listener
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
Right now, it's time for the WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME Bluff The Listener game. Call 1-888-Wait-Wait to play our game on the air.
Hi, you're on WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME.
MARY: Hi, this is Mary (ph). I'm calling from St. Paul, Minn.
SAGAL: Oh, I love St. Paul. How - what do you do there?
MARY: I work in IT.
SAGAL: Oh, I see. OK.
SAGAL: So you do - a computer person. And what do you do for the - to fulfill your desperate need for human contact?
MARY: Oh, actually, I do improv.
SAGAL: Oh, really?
SAGAL: That's exciting. It's a little scary. You got to come down to Chicago, the improv capital of the world.
MARY: That's what they say.
BILL KURTIS, BYLINE: Oh, thank you.
SAGAL: Well, thanks for calling.
MARY: I've seen improv in Chicago, and it's really great.
SAGAL: All right. I feel like...
MARY: It's good in Minnesota as well.
LUKE BURBANK: Improv in St. Paul was like the answer's always, yeah, sure.
SAGAL: All right. It's very nice to have you with us, Mary. You're going to play our game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what is Mary's topic?
KURTIS: No, Russia - bad.
SAGAL: Russia, and we'd all agree, has been getting up in our grill lately, and someone decided, in their own way, to put a stop to it. This week, we read a story about someone taking a creative stand against Russian aggression and getting them to, you know, back off a little. Guess the true story, and you will win Carl Kasell's voice on your voicemail. Ready to play?
SAGAL: All right. First, let's hear from Luke Burbank.
BURBANK: Comedian Yakov Smirnoff first came to the attention of most Americans with jokes like, in Soviet Russia, TV watches you.
BURBANK: But according to recently declassified documents, he'd been on the CIA's radar much longer, thanks to his work as a U.S. spy. Smirnoff's job - gathering information on Soviet Russia and transmitting it to his CIA handlers, often through his televised comedy acts. The CIA eventually evacuated Smirnoff from Russia after he delivered the joke, in America, you can always find a party. In Soviet Russia, the party can always find you.
BURBANK: Which was a predetermined code message that the Russian authorities were closing in. Once Smirnoff was safely in the United States, Operation What A Country continued with Smirnoff performing comedy by night and debriefing CIA Russian operatives by day, all in the last place anyone would look - Branson, Miss.
BURBANK: Smirnoff recently retired from spying, but not from comedy, and can still be seen six nights a week in Branson. Ask your aunt about the free shuttle bus from the casino.
SAGAL: Yakov Smirnoff...
SAGAL: ...Working against the former Soviet menace from his home base in Branson. Your next story, of somebody raising an iron curtain against Russia, comes from Gabe Liedman.
GABE LIEDMAN: What do Russians hate more than capitalism, non-smokers and neighboring sovereign nation states exercising self-rule combined? The answer is soaking wet, sexy, gay dudes - or any gay people really. But it's safe to assume that soaking wet, sexy dudes would rank pretty high up there on the list of gay people who are not well-liked in Russia. That's why the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, SPAS, has launched its new tool to repel Russian aggressors. It's called the singing sailor.
LIEDMAN: And it's an underwater neon sign with a shirtless sailor in his underpants...
LIEDMAN: ...Which transmits a message in Morse code, quotes "This way if you are gay."
LIEDMAN: Under the lit-up sailor are the words, welcome to Sweden, gay since 1944. A reference to the year Sweden dropped its anti-gay laws, but also begging the question, what were you Russian guys up to in 1944? Oh, right - Stalin.
LIEDMAN: Sweden, of course, was able to address human rights issues way back then because they remained neutral or, in gay parlance, versatile, during World War II.
LIEDMAN: Since it's officially been re-illegal to be gay or gay-friendly in Russia since 2013, SPAS - or SPAS as I will now call them because I'm fun - is hoping that their singing sailor will stop all Russian seamen in their tracks.
SAGAL: An underwater sign saying, this way for gays to fend off Russian submarines in Swedish waters. Your last story, of a bold stand, comes from Paula Poundstone.
PAULA POUNDSTONE: Tensions with Russia are growing within Finland. In reaction to Russia's territorial ambitions in Russian President Vladimir Putin's manic former relations, the people of Finland have begun to retaliate. People think of our Finnish people as just talking on our cell phone's all the time or that our hands are always in those muffy (ph) things. And that we don't notice anything or take action. But since the Russian troops have taken over Alakurtii Air base, located only 37 miles from our border, we put our phones on vibrate while we stop the Russians, says Finland's Agar Kievy (ph). And take action, they have. The Finns have posted official signs saying, Russian troops, line up here all along their border. The brains behind the operation, Joe Carapulari (ph) explains, Russians follow directions well and have a long history of standing in lines.
POUNDSTONE: This should stop them.
POUNDSTONE: We may also try, Russians, place guns here and tank access only on Tuesdays.
SAGAL: The Finnish people using the Russian national inclination to line up against the possibly-invading troops. That was from Paula Poundstone. From Gabe Liedman, we heard how a Swedish group has put a sign saying, gays this way to fend off homophobic Russian submariners. And from Luke Burbank, the story of how Yakov Smirnoff, who you thought was a merely not very funny Russian comedian, was actually an asset, working against the interests of his native country through the CIA. Which of these is the real story of a counteroffensive against Russian aggression?
MARY: Oh, man. I think I have to go with Luke, with the comedian in Russia.
SAGAL: So I'm just want to clarify this. You believe that Yakov Smiroff, the Russian comedian from the '80s, now playing in Branson, was actually a CIA operative, and during his residency in Branson, he was debriefing Russian defectors and spies, presumably between his 8 p.m. and his 9:30 p.m. shows?
MARY: I really don't. Let's see, let's go with Gabe's.
SAGAL: You're going to go with Gabe's now?
SAGAL: So you are going to pick Gabe's story. Well, to bring you the correct answer, we spoke to someone involved in this true counteroffensive.
CHRISTOFFER BURNETT-CARGILL: It's a gay sailor that is on a signboard, who lists out the Morse signals, this way if you are gay.
SAGAL: That was Christoffer Burnett-Cargill. He is the secretary general of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, who are the guys who put the underwater sign in Swedish waters, warning Russian submarines that there were gays ahead.
SAGAL: So you pulled it out, and you picked Gabe. You were right. Gabe gets a point for being honest.
LIEDMAN: Nice, I'll take it.
SAGAL: You win our prize - Carl Kasell's voice. Congratulations.
MARY: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IN THE NAVY")
THE VILLAGE PEOPLE: (Singing) ...In the Navy. Yes, you can sail the seven seas in the Navy. Yes, you can put your mind at ease in the Navy. Come on now...
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