Not My Job: We Quiz Anthony Bourdain On A Bored Dane (Namely, Hamlet)
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where we ask people who have been everywhere about the little things they might have missed along the way. It's called Not My Job. Anthony Bourdain never was a celebrity chef. As he says, most of the restaurants he worked at closed. But his funny and profane books about his life in the kitchen and then his travels around the world have made him famous and led him to host two travel shows, the latest being "Parts Unknown" on CNN. He has a great new cookbook out now. And we are delighted to have him with us.
Anthony Bourdain, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
ANTHONY BOURDAIN: Thank you.
SAGAL: So I do want to clarify this, you say you were never one of those celebrity chefs, those of Rick Baylesses or other guys who, like, become famous for running a restaurant. That wasn't you, right?
BOURDAIN: No, I had a long but checkered career, let's put it that way. Not - I was more of a, like, the Chuck Wepner cooking.
SAGAL: (Laughter) The fact that I have no idea who that is I think makes your point.
SAGAL: So - and you wrote fiction for a while, but - and again, correct me, your first big book that made a splash was "Kitchen Confidential" about your life back there in the kitchen.
SAGAL: When you wrote that book, which is incredibly honest and profane and - did you worry that, like, you were spilling the secrets of the industry, that you'd never work in kitchens again?
BOURDAIN: No, because I was quite sure when I wrote it that no one would read it.
SAGAL: (Laughter) Really, you didn't think anybody...
BOURDAIN: I wrote it - I pretty much wrote it for the entertainment of my fry cook and my dishwasher. And if they both bought it I would've been happy. That was pretty much my highest expectation.
SAGAL: In all your travels, is there anything you're - or are just in your eating in restaurants all over the world, is there anything you're bored with? Is there some trend you've had enough of?
BOURDAIN: I mean, I could live the rest of my life without, like, truffle oil or oblong plates or - do we really need pumpkin spice? I mean, really?
SAGAL: I have to say, I was reading through your cookbook and I was loving it because I read cookbooks from time to time, I try to cook. And there's so much like, oh, let me give you a secret about what to do. And your attitude is like stop doing that.
SAGAL: Which I love. So is there like - can you take some time now and just tell the cooks who listen to our show like just the stupid things they should stop doing?
BOURDAIN: I mean, you know, don't try to improve on a hamburger. You know, it's already perfectly designed - a slab of, like, ground meat, you know, some processed cheese and a good, squishy potato bun. I mean, you know, a brioche bun, you know, a garlic aioli or chutney on it - I hate all of that. The third slice of bread on a club sandwich, I think, is a satanic invention.
SAGAL: I have heard from other chefs I know that when they go to a - when they're well-known, as you are, and they go to somebody else's restaurant it can be it to do, you know? They know that they're going to be watched, they have to finish all the food. What effect - because you have a different reputation than some other chefs, what effect do you have on a restaurant when you go in? Oh, my God, Anthony Bourdain's in front, let's blank him.
BOURDAIN: Yeah. What are your standards for language and practices here because there is an expression for this among chefs.
SAGAL: Go for it.
BOURDAIN: It's called being food [expletive].
SAGAL: Please explain, sir.
BOURDAIN: Now, what that means is, you know, Thomas Keller, you know, or want Bobby Flay for that matter, walks into a restaurant, all he wants is a hamburger. And, you know, there are eight well-meaning cooks in the kitchen, and, you know, suddenly there's, you know, nine courses coming out, all with, like, foam and tweaked with little sauces. And, you know, to be polite, you kind of got to take one for the team.
TOM BODETT: So can I...
SAGAL: Go ahead, Tom.
BODETT: This is Tom Bodett. I like your show, and you eat a lot of really horrible things on it, sometimes. Can you just eat bad food?
BOURDAIN: Unless it's a Johnny Rockets, yeah. You know...
SAGAL: Wait a minute. I should say - I'm going to interrupt just to say that Johnny Rockets is a chain of burger places that's intentionally kind of a replica of the old '50s...
BOURDAIN: The '50s in Bulgaria.
SAGAL: Right, exactly.
BOURDAIN: I'm alone, there's three cooks standing there, a manager and a counter guy, and I order a burger. And they just sort of grab a precooked burger, put it on to a - half way on half way off a bun, reach into the fry basket and, you know, grab some cold fries. They don't even dunk them in the hot grease. And then they bring them over to me and they all stand there and we all kind of share this moment looking at each other. And we all know that, you know, we aren't where we want to be right now.
ROXANNE ROBERTS: You did your interview with President Obama in Vietnam, is that right?
ROBERTS: What was the most memorable thing about that meal?
BOURDAIN: At one point, you know, he was enjoying drinking beer out of the bottle. And this took place over a few months ago. And we're sitting there in this sort of grimy, family-run noodle restaurant upstairs in the old quarter of Hanoi. And he seemed to really be enjoying the beer, and I said, you know, Mr. President, you know, one of the problems in my life being on TV is, like, I can't go out to an old-man bar at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, sit there and, you know, drink whiskey and listen to depressing songs on the jukebox and - you know, you ever miss that? And he looked at me with a really deep, longing look in his eyes and said, in about six months.
SAGAL: Well, Anthony Bourdain, it is so much fun to talk to you, but we have, in fact, asked you here to play a game we're calling...
BILL KURTIS: To be or not to be, who cares?
SAGAL: So you're Anthony Bourdain, so of course, quite naturally, we decided to ask you about the world's most famous board Dane. That would be "Hamlet."
BOURDAIN: All right.
SAGAL: I know.
SAGAL: We've been doing this for a long time. You knew we'd become desperate eventually.
SAGAL: So answer two out of three questions about "Hamlet," you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - Carl Kasell's voice on their voicemail. Bill, who is Anthony Bourdain playing for?
KURTIS: Frank Povich of Baltimore, Md.
SAGAL: Here is your first question, sir. There have been many movie versions of "Hamlet," of course, one of the most successful was the 1990 version directed by Franco Zeffirelli starring Mel Gibson in the title role. Gibson brought his own special stamp to the set of the film by doing what? A, getting drunk every night and ranting about Jews in the movie business; B, mooning the cast after every particularly serious take; or C, constantly arguing that they should be doing the play in the original Danish.
BOURDAIN: (Laughter) Wow, that's tough, but I'm going to have to go with mooning.
SAGAL: You're right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL, LAUGHTER)
SAGAL: That's exactly what he did.
SAGAL: Apparently, after every really tough scene, like, you know, Ophelia's funeral, he'd moon the cast. According to Helena Bonham Carter, who played Ophelia, Gibson's sense of humor was, quote, "a bit lavatorial and not very sophisticated."
SAGAL: I know, plus, we've taught you all a new word. I love that, lavatorial. Next question, there have been many experimental productions of "Hamlet," as you would imagine, including one in which the play was done how? A, entirely in the Klingon language; B, by hamsters - the hamster "Hamlet" - or C, entirely in emoticons described outloud by the cast.
BOURDAIN: Wow, that's tough. I mean, as much as I'd like to see an all hampster "Hamlet," I mean, really would, I like small woodland creatures.
SAGAL: Especially breaded and fried...
BOURDAIN: But it seems to me that the emoticon would be the way to go.
SAGAL: You're going to go for emoticon. That does sound great, if someone's listening, try that. It was actually in Klingon, And here, just to prove it, we have a small excerpt. Here is the famous to be or not to be soliloquy in Klingon.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (Speaking Klingon).
SAGAL: There you are.
ADAM BURKE: By the way, whatever that guy just ordered, I'm pretty sure Anthony has eaten it.
SAGAL: And that's probably true.
SAGAL: All right, now, this is exciting. You're an entertainer. You know how this works. It all comes down to this. You get this last one right, you win. There have been many tributes to "Hamlet" through the centuries, including which of these? A, a British sandwich called the hamlet with cheeselet (ph) and mustardlet (ph).
SAGAL: B, a Las Vegas stripper who called herself the Lady I'll Feel Ya.
SAGAL: Or C, a "Hamlet"-themed bingo night in Canada called B2 or not B2.
BOURDAIN: If any one of those answers are correct, I'm going to go hang myself in the shower.
BOURDAIN: I'm going to have to go with the Canadians.
SAGAL: You're going to go with the Canadians, the bingo night B2 or not B2? You are right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL, APPLAUSE)
SAGAL: That's what they did. Bill, how did Anthony Bourdain do on our quiz?
KURTIS: Well, he got two out of three, that's a win in this quiz.
SAGAL: One more place, you came and you ate our lunch. What can I tell you?
BOURDAIN: (Laughter) It's my finest hour. Thank you.
SAGAL: I think so. Anthony Bourdain's charming, funny profane and beautifully illustrated new cookbook is called "Appetites: A Cookbook." Anthony Bourdain, thank you so much for joining us. What a joy to talk to you.
BOURDAIN: Thank you.
SAGAL: Take care.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EVERYBODY EATS WHEN THEY COME TO MY HOUSE")
CAB CALLOWAY: (Singing) Have a banana, Hannah. Try the salami, Tommy. Get with the gravy, Davy. Everybody eats when they come to my house.
SAGAL: In just a minute, Bill offers you ice cream in bed. 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 of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR.
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