Not My Job: We Quiz R.L. Stine On Ralph Lauren
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where we ask people who've done great things to do a silly thing. It's called Not My Job. If you have kids, you know two things - they hate to be scared and also they love to be scared. R.L. Stine figured that out years ago with his best-selling "Goosebumps" and "Fear Street" books among others. He's now scared generations of kids. R.L. Stine, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON’T TELL ME.
SAGAL: So let's establish something...
R.L. STINE: Thank you. Thank you very much.
SAGAL: Now, you go by R.L. Stine, of course, as an author. It's your real name.
STINE: Yeah, but my real name is Kardashian Stein, so...
ALONZO BODDEN: Yeah, thank you.
SAGAL: I - for many, many years, I saw all these "Goosebumps" books in the bookstores, dozens and dozens of them. And I thought it was like the "Hardy Boys" books - that they were written by various people under the pseudonym R.L. Stine.
STINE: Oh, I wish. A lot of people think I'm a committee.
STINE: But I'm not. It's just me.
SAGAL: Right. So why did you decide to publish under the name R.L. Stine as opposed to Robert Stine or Bob Stein or whoever...
STINE: Well, for many years, I wrote joke books. I was funny. I actually never planned on being scary. And my name was Jovial Bob Stein.
SAGAL: Jovial Bob Stein?
ADAM FELBER: Not a great horror name.
STINE: That was my - no, no, and then when I wrote my first scary book, I thought that's a terrible name for a horror writer.
STINE: And so I just used my initials. It's actually not a funny story or anything. It's just true.
SAGAL: Well, I see why you get - frankly, I kind of see why you got out of comedy.
STINE: This is going to be a very short interview.
SAGAL: But I actually want to ask about how did you start? Because you were working as a writer in all kinds of different ways and things for many years. And then you hit upon writing horror novels for kids. How did you stumble across that, or how did you come up with that?
STINE: Well, it's a very embarrassing story actually because it wasn't my idea. I'd been writing joke books and all kinds of - I did coloring books. I wrote "Bazooka Joe" comics.
AMY DICKINSON: You did?
STINE: I wrote the jokes for the bubble gum...
STINE: I love those.
STINE: I was doing all kinds of things. And then I was having lunch with an editor, a friend of mine. And she had a fight with somebody who was writing YA novels, horror novels. And she said I'm never working with him again. You could write a good horror novel. Go home and write a book called "Blind Date." She even gave me the title.
STINE: It wasn't my - this is embarrassing, right?
STINE: I didn't think of being scary, and I wrote this book "Blind Date. And it was a number-one best-seller.
SAGAL: Before we move on - before we move on...
SAGAL: ...You used to write jokes for, like, "Bazooka Joe" bubblegum?
SAGAL: Do you remember any of the jokes?
STINE: No. I'll tell you one. Here's one of my best jokes...
SAGAL: All right.
STINE: ...OK? It - now, remember it's a kids' joke, all right?
SAGAL: I appreciate that.
STINE: All right, what do you get when you cross a dog with a frog?
STINE: You get a dog that can lick himself from across the room.
FELBER: That's a good joke.
SAGAL: That is a pretty good joke.
FELBER: That's a...
STINE: Thank you.
FELBER: ...Very good joke.
STINE: Maybe I should go back to it.
SAGAL: I think so.
BILL KURTIS: Yeah, I think so.
SAGAL: So you started writing these horror books for kids.
STINE: Yeah, well, I just thought, you know, the first one did so well, and then the second one was a number-one bestseller. I thought forget the funny stuff. I've been scary ever since.
SAGAL: Do you ever get complaints from parents who say you've scared their kids too much, they can't sleep or whatever it may be?
STINE: We did in the early days. Now it's kind of an acceptance. You know, no one had ever done a horror book series for 7 to 12-year-olds before. So there was some resistance in the beginning. But I think now everyone knows that my books are mostly funny. They're not really that scary.
SAGAL: Right, although what's interesting is you look at the covers, as I did with some horror...
SAGAL: ...Even as an adult, and they're very spooky with pictures of scary monsters. Even your name is in scary type.
STINE: Yup. The covers are - they make them look scary. I got a letter from a boy a couple weeks ago and it said, Dear R.L. Stine, I love your books. I've read so many of your books, my parents have to escort me to the bathroom.
SAGAL: And that - he was thanking you for this?
STINE: What? Yeah, that's not a good letter reason.
SAGAL: Now, the "Goosebumps" movie came out. And what's fun about it is it's not so much about one of your stories. It's about all of them, and it's about you. You're a character...
STINE: It's about me...
SAGAL: Yeah, you're a...
STINE: ...Can you imagine?
SAGAL: Yeah, I know. And so when they said you're going to be in the movie, there's going to be a character named R.L. Stine, author of the "Goosebumps" books, were you excited?
STINE: I was amazed. Why did they do that? Why would you make a movie about me?
SAGAL: And did you get to...
STINE: I was shocked.
SAGAL: Did you get to help choose who played you?
STINE: Well, there was a big discussion about it. And I knew - well, first, I asked my son Matt - I said who do you think should play me in the "Goosebumps" movie? And he said Morgan Freeman.
STINE: Then I knew they were talking to Jack Black, and I thought that was just terrific. But, you know, a lot of people on Twitter said you should play yourself.
STINE: They said who can play you better than you? You should play yourself in the movie. And I went to my wife Jane - and I have to warn you, this is a devastating line - I went to my wife...
SAGAL: Bracing myself.
STINE: ...And I said, you know, a lot of people think I should play myself in the "Goosebumps" movie. And she said you're too old to play yourself.
SAGAL: That is pretty tough.
STINE: That's horrifying, right?
SAGAL: That's, like, your next novel - "The Cutting Wife."
SAGAL: R.L. Stine - or I should say Bob Stine...
SAGAL: We're friends now, Bob Stine, what a pleasure to talk to you.
FELBER: Jovial Bob.
STINE: Oh, thanks Peter.
SAGAL: We have invited you here today to play a game we're calling...
KURTIS: R.L. Meet RL.
SAGAL: You are probably, despite your vast success, only the second-most famous RL in the world. So we thought we'd ask you about number one - that would be fashion mogul Ralph Lauren...
SAGAL: ...Born Ralph Lifshitz in the Bronx. Answer three questions about this billionaire, you'll win prize our prize for one of our listeners - Carl Kasell's voice on their voicemail. Bill, who is Bob Stine playing for?
KURTIS: Peter Donaldson of Portland, Maine.
SAGAL: All right.
FELBER: I want to say somewhere the ghost Robert Louis Stevenson accustomed is sobbing.
STINE: Yes, we left him out. Also, I always wanted to own an Acura RL.
STINE: Yeah, but my wife wouldn't let me. She thought that was too much.
FELBER: She's so negative.
DICKINSON: She's so mean.
SAGAL: We're really - we're a little concerned about your relationship with your wife.
STINE: Her job is to keep me humble.
STINE: And she does it very well.
SAGAL: I was about to - yeah.
SAGAL: I was about to - congratulations to her for a job well done.
SAGAL: Yeah, you may be, like, the best-selling American author alive, but that toilet is not going to clean itself.
STINE: That's a true story. How did you say that? I did the "Today" show one morning...
STINE: It went really well. And I got home and there was a note for me. And it said you were terrific, now plunge the toilet.
FELBER: That's awesome.
STINE: That's a true story.
SAGAL: Well, here's your first question, Bob. Ralph Lauren, the other RL, has some very serious devotees of his work around the world, as in which of these? A, in the '80s, there was a rough New York street gang that only wore Ralph Lauren-designed close, B, the ruling sheikh of the United Arab Emirates, who tried to commission Mr. Lauren to design his next wife, or C, a shepherd in Labrador who tried to create breeds of sheep with wool that would occur naturally in Ralph Lauren's fall colors.
STINE: I would - (laughter) God - I would take the middle one, B.
SAGAL: Middle one - the ruling sheik of the United...
SAGAL: ...Arab Emirates...
SAGAL: I will add a wife to my harem. I would like you, Mr. Lauren to design her.
SAGAL: No, in fact it was A. It was the street gang.
STINE: Yeah, I'm - oh boy.
SAGAL: They were known as the 'Lo-Lifes - 'Lo-Life as in Polo Lifes. They all wore Polo jerseys.
STINE: Oh man.
FELBER: Oh man.
FELBER: Looks like there's going to be a rumble. They're turning up their collars.
DICKINSON: They could really swing a mallet...
SAGAL: Next question - Mr. Lauren has also made some enemies in his astonishing rise, such as whom? A, a rancher living next to Mr. Lauren's Double RL Ranch in Colorado who was asked to move his cattle because they were not, quote, "stylish cows," B, the U.S. Polo Association who legally cannot use the word Polo on any of their merchandise, or C, a Mr. Ralph Lauren of Bloomington, N.J., who sued the more-famous Ralph Lauren for, quote, "diminishing his personal brand."
STINE: (Laughter) All three of those are good, aren't they?
SAGAL: They - I think so.
STINE: They're really good. Yes, I would go with the second one again.
SAGAL: The U.S. Polo Association - you're right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
STINE: Oh, right. OK.
SAGAL: One of the ironies is...
SAGAL: Mr. Lauren got there first with his Polo brand of clothes. He owns it. He owns the brand - sorry actual polo players. Now you have a problem.
BODDEN: Now, did he send the Polo gangsters to talk to the polo players?
FELBER: Nice horse. It'd be a shame if something happened to it.
SAGAL: All right, here's your last question. Get this right, you win. Mr. Lauren, in his long career, has had his share of controversy. For example, the uniform's he made for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team all included what feature? A, a holster complete with little gold six-gun...
SAGAL: ...B, letters across the backs spelling out We USA You DOA, or C, a tag that said made in China?
STINE: Uh-huh, I would take the first one.
SAGAL: You're going to go with that...
STINE: Oh, no. Oh no.
BODDEN: Maybe not.
SAGAL: Yeah, I think the audience has taken the role of the person who screams don't go through that door.
STINE: Why are they all ahead of me?
SAGAL: I don't know.
STINE: I will take C.
SAGAL: You're going to take C, a tag that said made in China? Is that your pick?
SAGAL: The audience likes that, and they were correct. You're right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: That's the answer.
SAGAL: Mr. Lauren made sure that our athletes who represented America at the Olympic Games wore Chinese-made clothes just like we do at home.
SAGAL: Bill, how did R.L. Stine do on our quiz?
KURTIS: Two right, one wrong - we have a happy ending, R.L.
SAGAL: R.L. Stine's newest book is "Can You Keep A Secret?" It's the latest in the "Fear Street" series. It comes out on April 12. R.L. Stine, thank you so much for joining us. What a joy to talk to you.
SAGAL: Take care, bye-bye.
STINE: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SAGAL: In just a minute, Bill smells like love. It's the Listener Limerick Challenge. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to join us on the air. We'll be back in a minute with more WAIT WAIT... DON’T TELL ME from NPR.
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