Not My Job: 'Good Wife' Star Alan Cumming Gets Quizzed On Bad Wives This week, we invited Alan Cumming, actor, singer, author, director and proud son of Scotland, to play our quiz. He's now on tour performing songs from his new album, Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs.
NPR logo

Not My Job: 'Good Wife' Star Alan Cumming Gets Quizzed On Bad Wives

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/504093940/504256514" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Not My Job: 'Good Wife' Star Alan Cumming Gets Quizzed On Bad Wives

Not My Job: 'Good Wife' Star Alan Cumming Gets Quizzed On Bad Wives

Not My Job: 'Good Wife' Star Alan Cumming Gets Quizzed On Bad Wives

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/504093940/504256514" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Jeff Christensen/AP
Actor Alan Cumming poses for a portrait on Dec. 1, 2010, in New York.
Jeff Christensen/AP

This week, we've invited Alan Cumming, actor, singer, author, director and proud son of Scotland, to play our quiz. He's currently on tour performing songs from his new album, Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs.

Since Cumming plays Eli Gold on the TV series The Good Wife, we're asking him to answer three questions about bad wives.

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

And now the game where we talk to people who do everything and ask them to do something they haven't done yet. Now, you know Alan Cumming. You probably don't know who he really is. He's Eli Gold on "The Good Wife," but he's not really a Jewish-American crisis manager. He was Nightcrawler in the "X-Men" movies but he's not really a German mutant. He is an actor, singer, author, director and proud son of Scotland. He is with us today.

Alan Cumming, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

ALAN CUMMING: Thank you. Thanks very much.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: I often ask this to people like yourself, but I always secretly know the answer. In your case I don't. What do people most often recognize you from?

CUMMING: Oh, it's so hard to tell. I used to sort of gauge people when they'd come up to me by their age, or their - you know, some sort of demographic. But now I can't even tell. It's really amazing. Like, there'll be some little kid that will come up and go, I love you on "Masterpiece Mystery." And then some old granny will come up and say, I loved you in, you know, "X-Men." It's just so difficult.

SAGAL: Yeah.

CUMMING: I was in a cafe in Louisville, and a lady came up to me and was - I loved that film you were in when you played the imaginary friend. And I was like, that's an imaginary film.

(LAUGHTER)

CUMMING: I don't know what you're talking about.

SAGAL: You've done all these extraordinarily different movies, everything from "Eyes Wide Shut" to "Viva Rock Vegas."

CUMMING: That's right.

SAGAL: Yeah. Do you have a rule by how you pick roles?

CUMMING: Obviously, not if you look at my...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: "The Flintstones In Viva Rock Vegas," that was just for the aesthetic challenge I'm sure.

CUMMING: Totally, I always wanted to, you know - I'm a Fred Flintstone fanatic. So I wanted to get dressed up in a green outfit and be suspended in wires for weeks on end.

SAGAL: (Laughter) And the check cleared, I'm sure.

CUMMING: Yes, definitely.

LUKE BURBANK: But it weighed 200 pounds and it was made out of stone.

CUMMING: (Laughter) Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I thought I knew your career because I'm a theater fan and I knew of all the work you've done there as well as the movies. We were looking through your resume. We found some things I had never heard of. You hosted a talk show with your dogs?

CUMMING: So it wasn't really a talk show. It was called "Midnight Snack." What I did was I would introduce a film, and my dogs would be there on the set with me. And at the end I would come back and talk a little bit more. And my dogs would kind of grade the film.

SAGAL: Were they - how would they - how did they indicate their opinion of the film?

CUMMING: Well, Honey (ph), she was the bigger dog. She would do two paws up or two paws down.

SAGAL: Sure.

(LAUGHTER)

CUMMING: And sometimes four paws up if she really like the film...

SAGAL: Yeah...

ADAM FELBER: Wow, enthusiastic.

CUMMING: And then my chihuahua, Leo (ph) - and what we eventually ended up doing is he would howl if he liked it, that was the gag.

FELBER: That was also how Siskel and Ebert used to review movies in the very early days.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Yeah. Now you are touring with your own cabaret show...

CUMMING: Yes...

SAGAL: ...Called, "Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs."

CUMMING: Correct.

SAGAL: I got the record, you have a record of the show...

CUMMING: Yeah...

SAGAL: ...Or a version of the show. And I was, like, oh, sappy songs, I like sappy songs. One of the great things about the record, and I'm assuming this is true of the live show as well, is the stories you tell.

CUMMING: Yes.

SAGAL: You tell some amazing stories about yourself. Like, there's one about a tattoo that I found quite amazing.

CUMMING: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

CUMMING: So I - so 16 years ago I met this boy and we start - we, you know, became a couple. And after - and it was a very intense, crazy relationship, really stupid. And after - so much so that after two weeks of knowing each other we had our names tattooed on each other's bodies, on our groins.

SAGAL: Right.

CUMMING: And...

SAGAL: How did - who brought up that idea?

CUMMING: You know, I can't remember. I think it was just one of those sort of things that seemed like a great idea. And we both just thought it was, you know - have you wanted another tattoo? Me too, let's get each other's names tattooed. We love each other, let's do it, yay. And then four months after that we'd split up. It was a four and a half month relationship and...

(LAUGHTER)

CUMMING: ...I had - his name was Raven. And I was going to change it to like ravenous or (unintelligible)...

(LAUGHTER)

CUMMING: But then - so any - but then I didn't - so I had it removed in a very, very painful and...

SAGAL: Yeah.

CUMMING: With the laser, laser, you know, tattoo removal thing because basically when I started, you know, having - going into - getting into the dating game again it was - it became really embarrassing when people would be in that area and they would like, who's Raven?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Yeah, well, I mean, didn't - so there you are, you meet somebody, things are going well, you think it's going to proceed to the next step. And do you start thinking to yourself, OK, I need to warn this person?

CUMMING: Well, like, then - when I had the tattoo?

SAGAL: Yeah, when you had the tattoo...

CUMMING: Obviously, but I was like well, you know, if you're going down there I should say something.

(LAUGHTER)

CUMMING: There's a strange word very near where you're going to be busy.

FELBER: Do you know what became of Raven's tattoo?

CUMMING: I do that's the punchline to the story.

SAGAL: Yes, please.

CUMMING: So - and actually, Raven is coming - he lives in Cleveland and I'm doing a concert there on Sunday evening.

SAGAL: Oh, wow.

(LAUGHTER)

CUMMING: Raven is going to be coming. And I'm really hoping he will come on stage and show us his tattoo because...

SAGAL: Is it in the same place that you...

CUMMING: His - yes, it's exactly the same place. So I got mine removed, and then we met up, you know, nine months later and had this kind of awkward evening. And he sort of said to me, do you still have your tattoo? And I was like, no, I had it wrenched from my body by laser.

(LAUGHTER)

CUMMING: And then I said, do you still have yours? And he went, kind of. And right there, where it used to say Alan, now it says balance.

(LAUGHTER)

FELBER: Nice.

HELEN HONG: Well done, Raven.

CUMMING: Yes, exactly. A for effort again.

SAGAL: Well, Alan Cumming, we are so delighted to have you with us.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: We really are. And you know, everyone knows why. But we have, in fact, asked you here to play a game we're calling...

BILL KURTIS: Bad Wife, Bad Wife.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So you of course starred in the TV series "The Good Wife," so naturally we thought we'd ask you about bad wives. Get two right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - the voice of Carl Kasell. Bill, who is Alan Cumming playing for?

KURTIS: Sam Robinson of Mesa, Ariz.

SAGAL: All right, you ready to do this?

CUMMING: Mhmm.

SAGAL: OK. You've done harder things. One thing that makes a bad wife might be attempted homicide. In 2015, a British woman failed in her attempt to murder her husband and then was caught - how? A - he attempted to assassinate her at exactly the same time and they realized they still had a lot in common.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: B - she faked a suicide note for him in which he said, supposedly, he wanted a death with dignity, but she misspelled it dignirty (ph); or C - it turns out the website assasinsareus.org (ph) is not a real business.

(LAUGHTER)

CUMMING: I think B. I think this misspelling.

SAGAL: That's exactly right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: That's what happened.

CUMMING: Yay.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: And the husband survived the poisoning attempt. And the police were investigating, and they actually said to her, would you just write the word dignity. And she wrote dignirty, and they were like, you're busted. Another bad wife is Vicky Lowing (ph) of Australia. She showed her true wifely qualities when she did what to Mr. Lowing? A - she sold his kidney on the internet while he was still using it.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: B, attempted to kill him with a Vegemite overdose; or C, chose her beloved pet crocodile over him.

CUMMING: I think, perhaps, the kidney thing.

SAGAL: No, it was actually the crocodile. She said I can't stand this crocodile, either he goes or I do. And she said goodbye, I'm sticking with Scaly (ph). All right, this is good. This is exciting...

CUMMING: Oh, it's a tie-breaker in this situation. That's nice.

SAGAL: I know, it's a tie-breaker, you can win it all with this one. So there was a Romanian woman who did not report her husband's death for two weeks. Why not? Was it, A - she said, I enjoyed the quiet.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Was it B - it took that long, she maintained, for him to start smelling worse than he did when he was alive?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Or C - she was convinced he was faking it so he could sneak off with a mistress.

CUMMING: (Laughter) Gosh, I think we're going to go with A.

SAGAL: I'm sorry, it was actually C.

CUMMING: Rubbish.

SAGAL: I know, I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

CUMMING: The mistress? She thought he was dying - pretending to be dead for two weeks...

SAGAL: Yeah, she actually convinced - she was convinced that he was trying to, like, somehow sneak off. So he sat there and just - she sat there and looked at the dead body for two weeks. And when he failed to move, she was like, all right.

CUMMING: Fair enough.

SAGAL: Yeah. Bill, how did Alan Cumming do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Alan, no one loses on this show.

CUMMING: OK.

KURTIS: So you did, great, 1 out of 3.

(APPLAUSE, LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Alan Cumming is on tour now, performing songs from his new album. This weekend, he'll be at the Palladium in Carmel, Ind., and at Playhouse Square in Cleveland where there will be an interesting reunion, or so we hope. Alan Cumming, thank you so much.

CUMMING: Thank you, very much.

SAGAL: Alan Cumming, ladies and gentlemen.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Bravo.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOLD ON, I'M COMING")

SAM AND DAVE: (Singing) Just hold on, I'm coming. Hold on, I'm coming. I'm on my way, your lover.

SAGAL: In just a minute, Bill ruins chocolate for everyone in the Listener Limerick Challenge. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to join us on the air. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.