Not My Job: Katie Couric Gets Quizzed On Bad Interns
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where people who've come a long way get to glimpse for a minute what they thought they had left behind. It's called Not My Job. So Katie Couric has held every job in broadcast journalism. She started as an intern at a local radio station, then she manned the front desk at a TV station, then she became a correspondent, and then the host of "The Today Show" and then the evening news anchor and a daytime talk show host. And now she's hosting a brand new podcast. Yes, that last one left us a little surprised, as well. Katie Couric, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
KATIE COURIC: Thank you. Nice to be here, Peter.
SAGAL: Nice to talk to you.
SAGAL: So let's talk about your early career. And we're very interested in a particular chapter of it because our understanding is that one of your first jobs was an internship at a radio station in Virginia.
COURIC: Yes, it was WAVA all-news radio, and my boss in my very first internship in media was none other than Carl Kasell.
SAGAL: It's true.
PAULA POUNDSTONE: Wow.
SAGAL: He used to brag about you all the time.
COURIC: Oh, well, he was so nice. He had that Army haircut...
COURIC: ...And was just the nicest person in the world. And it was really nice, as I progressed in my career, for him to say he really introduced me to broadcasting because it's true. And I think the world of him, and I hope that he'll do the voice on my answering machine, too, 'cause I'd be very excited.
SAGAL: I - from what he's told me, he'll do anything you ask.
POUNDSTONE: Well, all right, but you do have to win, Katie.
SAGAL: There - in the movies about - particularly about female broadcasters - there's always that moment where they run out, and they do that story that makes their reputation. Did you have a moment like that?
COURIC: Yes, actually. I think - well, I think I got noticed when I was doing a tour of the White House with Barbara Bush. And I didn't think that President Bush was there, but suddenly I heard his cocker spaniel or springer spaniel - what was that name of that dog? I can't remember. Millie or something?
SAGAL: Millie, yes. It was Millie. Millie wrote a book.
COURIC: Yeah, coming into the room, and President Bush was following him. And suddenly I had to do an interview with the president of the United States that I wasn't prepared to do. I was just getting a tour of the White House. So that was sort of where I found my career path before my eyes. But I was able to come up with enough questions to keep him there for something like 19 minutes and 20 seconds.
COURIC: So that was kind of a big moment.
SAGAL: Oh, I'm sorry, something like 19 minutes and 20 seconds.
SAGAL: You can't quite remember, but it was in the vague neighborhood.
ADAM FELBER: It could've been 19 minutes and 19 seconds. We're not sure.
COURIC: So, you know, I had to ask him about Iran-Contra and all these things that were in the news. But I hadn't really thought about it because I wasn't prepared to do the interview. So that was sort of where the rubber met the road, and I was able to pull it off. So I think I did get some attention for that.
SAGAL: Did you - I'm guessing - you were a pioneer, of course. You were the first woman, need we say, to host the evening newscast. You must have dealt with some sexism coming up.
COURIC: Yeah, I always say that I started in television when harassed was two words instead of one.
FELBER: Now, that's a good one.
SAGAL: Did you...
COURIC: I also - Peter, I got another one. I also used to say that - gravitas - because they used to question if I had enough gravitas to do the "CBS Evening News" - but I used to say gravitas was Latin for testicles.
SAGAL: When you when you moved to "CBS Evening News" to be their lead anchor, did you have to, like, go to anchor school? Or you were just doing what you did as the morning show host?
COURIC: Well, no. I had to kind of get a lobotomy because I couldn't really have a personality as much on the evening news as I was able to have on "The Today Show" when, you know, we're cutting up or cooking with Martha Stewart. So I had to be very, very serious.
SAGAL: How smart.
FELBER: You know, all across the country right now, anchormen and anchorwomen are looking up the word lobotomy and going - hey.
SAGAL: I want to talk to you about - well, I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's your most famous interview these days. And that is your famous interview in 2008 with Sarah Palin...
SAGAL: ...Where you ask that terribly unfair gotcha question of - what newspapers do you read?
COURIC: Oh, gosh. Yes, that was - you know, that was a big interview for that campaign. And I think we did talk about a lot of important issues, like Iran. We talked a lot about tax cuts, et cetera, et cetera. I wanted to really see how she would approach some of the most challenging issues of our time.
But then we were just doing a little B-roll, as Bill knows what that is, just kind of to cover parts of the interview. And so we were doing a little walk and talk. So I said, what newspapers and magazines do you read on a regular basis that helped establish your world view? And that's when she said, all of them. And then I - she wouldn't name any specific publications, which I was surprised about. She could have said Field and Stream, even. I don't care.
SAGAL: And wasn't it true that after that, they complained about you and your aggressive, liberally biased gotcha questions about her reading habits?
COURIC: You know, I felt bad for her. She was embarrassed by that interview, so she basically said that they were gotcha questions. And, you know, I think most people, if you watch the whole interview, you can see that the questions were really quite legitimate and fair.
SAGAL: As I'm sure they will be when you interview Donald Trump.
COURIC: He won't let me.
POUNDSTONE: Oh, is that true?
SAGAL: Have you tried?
COURIC: No, I've tried.
POUNDSTONE: After the hatchet job you did on Sarah Palin, no wonder.
COURIC: Paula, you have to call - you've got to call him.
SAGAL: This is the - you mentioned this. Now, after your illustrious career doing everything there is to do in television, you're now hosting a podcast. What happened, Katie?
COURIC: (Laughter) Well, Peter, the older I got, the more I had a face for radio, I think.
SAGAL: Some of us were born this way.
SAGAL: Katie Couric, it is a pleasure to talk to you. And we have asked you here today to play a game that this time we're calling...
BILL KURTIS: Some Copying, a Little Filing and Some Light Malfeasance.
SAGAL: So we have established you were hired way back when as an intern by our very own Carl Kasell, and he always told us you were a very good one. So we've decided to ask you three questions about bad interns. Get two right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl Kasell's voice on their voice mail saying good job, good job.
COURIC: Oh, God. OK.
SAGAL: All right. Who is Katie Couric playing for?
KURTIS: Karen Davis of Gilbert, Ariz. Happy Birthday, Karen.
SAGAL: Oh, it's her birthday. Extra pressure.
POUNDSTONE: (Singing) You say it's your birthday.
SAGAL: All right, Katie. You ready to do this?
COURIC: Yeah. I'm not sure how I play, but I think I'll get the hang of it.
SAGAL: All right. We'll give it a try. Here we go. So Jeffrey Garofano worked as an intern for the Colorado Senate campaign of Michael Bennett in 2010, but he was let go after he did what? A - he tried to sell meetings with the candidate for $2,400 each. B - he wore a beret and asked the candidate for a, quote, "special hug."
SAGAL: Or C - told a local newspaper out there that his political hero was Che Guevara.
COURIC: OK, I'm going to say C.
SAGAL: You're going to go for C, that he told the newspaper his political hero was Che Guevara.
COURIC: Uh-huh (ph).
SAGAL: No, I'm afraid it was actually the first one.
SAGAL: He tried to sell meetings with the candidate for $2,400.
COURIC: OK, that was my second choice.
ALONZO BODDEN: Is that not legal?
SAGAL: Apparently, you're allowed to do that, but you're not allowed to say you're doing it or something like that.
POUNDSTONE: Oh, I was going to say, here in Illinois, that would make him governor, wouldn't it?
SAGAL: I know.
SAGAL: That was just a warm-up. You just throw that one away. Doesn't matter 'cause you still have two more chances. An unidentified intern described in a column in USA Today got fired after he did what. A - started using the company's conference rooms for band practice. B - listed himself as CEO heir apparent on the company's website. Or C - installed a bed, complete with sheets, pillows and shams, in the middle of the office for his naps.
COURIC: OK, I'm going to say B.
SAGAL: You're going to say B - he listed himself as CEO heir apparent on the company's website. I just want to give you a little bit of a trivia that prior to about two days ago, I did not know what a sham was.
POUNDSTONE: I have a cat named ShamWow.
SAGAL: Also, Katie, Paula has a cat named ShamWow.
POUNDSTONE: All of this should help you.
COURIC: Are you saying - well, I don't get a second try, do I?
SAGAL: No, well, you - I - until I tell you the answer, you can still flail about.
COURIC: Oh, really?
COURIC: Oh, C.
SAGAL: Yes, you're right.
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SAGAL: How did you know?
SAGAL: He did. And the best thing about this, according to this workplace column in USA Today, is it was one of those open office plans where everybody sits in big tables. So he just set up his bed next to one of those big tables 'cause he liked his naps.
COURIC: Can I - that is super creepy.
SAGAL: It's a little strange. All right. You have one more chance here. If you get this one, you win. A group of interns at NASA did something a little bit wrong in 2003. What was it? A - they stole $21 million worth of moon rocks. B - they accidentally launched a rocket a day early. Or C - they sent out a press release announcing the end of the world via asteroid.
COURIC: Oh, God. Well, they sound all terrible, except for the first one, so I'm going to say the first one.
SAGAL: You're right. They stole $21 million worth of moon rocks.
POUNDSTONE: All right.
SAGAL: And this is interesting. The intern who did it, who led this ring, did it to impress his girlfriend, another intern at NASA. And they didn't just steal the moon rocks. Before they got caught, they made one small step for mankind on top of them.
POUNDSTONE: You know, who can really put a price on moon rocks? Who - how do you value a moon rock? I mean, who...
BODDEN: The cost of fuel to go get it.
SAGAL: Bill, how did Katie Couric do on our quiz?
KURTIS: Well, she got one wrong, but she drilled deep for the truth and came up with two rights. She's a winner.
SAGAL: Congratulations, Katie.
SAGAL: Katie Couric, of course, is a legendary broadcaster, and her new podcast is called "Katie Couric."
COURIC: (Laughter) How original.
SAGAL: Katie, thank you so much. It's such a pleasure to talk to you. Thanks for joining us on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
COURIC: Thank you, guys, so much.
FELBER: See you, Katie.
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