Failing Pile Guest host Tom Hanks performs what is perhaps the greatest role of his lifetime.

Failing Pile

Failing Pile

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Guest host Tom Hanks performs what is perhaps the greatest role of his lifetime.

BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR News quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. And here is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in Chicago, Peter Sagal.


Thank you, Bill.


SAGAL: So we are reaching back into the closet this week and pulling out things that have never seen the light of day and maybe never should have. Now, at the beginning of this year, we made a man's lifelong dream come true. Sure, he was the most popular movie star in the world, but what he'd always wanted to do was host a radio show.

KURTIS: Tom Hanks was a natural, almost as if he had some experience in performing.


KURTIS: We didn't broadcast everything he did, so here are some highlights, including what may be Tom Hanks' greatest dramatic role.



OK, it's time for a brand-new game that we are calling...

KURTIS: The role of a lifetime.

HANKS: Ah. Now, as you may know, I make my living putting on clothes that are not mine, changing my hair, my stride, my physique, but rarely my voice. And I pretend to be someone I am not. And right now I am going to take on a role from this week's news. And panelists, I will get into character and you will ask me questions to try to figure out the role I have assumed, the role I am playing. Then at the end we'll see if anybody can guess. Does that not sound like a lot of fun?

PAULA POUNDSTONE: Yeah, it sounds like fun.

HANKS: All right.

LUKE BURBANK: I usually pay, like - this is, like, $16 to see you do this normally.

HANKS: Not...

BURBANK: And this is happening for free here.

HANKS: You don't get Netflix?


HANKS: All right. Now, at this point, we're going to let the audience know how I have been cast, but it will be kept a secret from our panel.

KURTIS: Tom is playing the role of a failing pile of garbage.

HANKS: Now, I'm going to start getting into character now. Let's see, back story. My parents were both successful. I'm struggling. And you should have seen the raccoons that took things off of my dad. I've had it with those recycling bins. Ooh, they think they're all better than me. Don't get cocky, buddy. You're going to come back as a yoga mat. Big deal. OK, I think I'm there. I think I'm there. Can we have quiet in the hall please? Faith, start us off. Ask whatever you want. Yeah.

FAITH SALIE: Your parents came from wealth.

HANKS: I'm saying they were successful. Not...

SALIE: They were successful.

HANKS: If they came from wealth it was after they were no longer needed.

SALIE: Oh, you're not a person. You're a thing.

HANKS: What are you talking about?

SALIE: Right? Are you a thing? Are you an object?

HANKS: I'm going to leave that up to my judge, Bill Kurtis. Am I a thing?




HANKS: Faith, Faith, I am a thing. And I know something about you.


HANKS: I know you eat way too much takeout and you never finish your kung pao chicken. I can tell.

SALIE: Oh, you...

HANKS: It's all over me.

SALIE: Oh. Has a little, furry, green, grumpy puppet lived inside you ever?

HANKS: Oh, Faith, you suck.


POUNDSTONE: Green, furry...

HANKS: You're close. I get what you're...

SALIE: I'm thinking of Oscar the Grouch.

HANKS: You are thinking of (unintelligible).

SALIE: I am. I don't think you're Oscar the Grouch. I'm wondering if Oscar's inhabited you, but no.

HANKS: That's all for you. Let's go on to Luke.


HANKS: I've got to tell you, Luke...


HANKS: Luke, I've noticed you've been chugging a lot of Miller High Life lately, all those empties. Have some self-respect, man. You're going down a shame spiral. At least do it with some good stuff. Let's see some - let's see some premium bottles, shall we?

BURBANK: But it's the champagne of beers.


BURBANK: Also, why are we whispering?


HANKS: Because I'm in character.



HANKS: Any question you want ask me, Lukey (ph), baby?

BURBANK: Are - how old are you?


HANKS: I've been piling up for a while here.

BURBANK: OK, like over or under 50 years old?

HANKS: Well, that depends on what street corner of Chicago you go to.


BURBANK: I got nothing.

HANKS: OK, Paula.


HANKS: Ask me if I'm bigger than a bread box, Paula.

POUNDSTONE: Are you bigger than a bread box?

HANKS: No, but there's a rusty bread box inside of me.


HANKS: Right next to some oily rags and a week's worth of coffee grounds.

POUNDSTONE: How did your parents make their money?

HANKS: Recycling.


HANKS: Who's got it? Anybody? I am a thing.

POUNDSTONE: You're a thing. You're...

HANKS: I'm a collection of things.

BURBANK: Are you a manila - wait, are you a pile of manila envelopes?

HANKS: If only.

POUNDSTONE: Are you a dumpster?

HANKS: I am - close enough. I am a pile of garbage.


HANKS: A failing pile of garbage.


KURTIS: If you need even more motivation to donate to public radio, well, let's listen again to Tom Hanks discussing our working conditions.


HANKS: I've got to tell you - and also, in your mind's eye, you're coming to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME and you have visions of where you'll be working and the office system and the read - it is - it is - it's a sad little folding table in the middle of a bull pen in truly the sad little stepchild orphanage section of WBEZ in Chicago. I walked up so many stairs in order to get to what essentially is the attic for, you know, hacking your way to death. You know, room (coughing) that kind of a - oh, welcome, Tom. Here, let me pour you a cup of Postum as we work over some of the limericks that Bill will be saying. I was thinking that it would be like something out of "Mad Men," you know?

KURTIS: Oh, yeah.

SALIE: Oh, wow.

HANKS: Secretaries and coffee...

KURTIS: (Unintelligible) Glass.

HANKS: ...Designer chairs.

POUNDSTONE: It's public radio, Tom. You know, you send in 10 bucks and you get a mug.


BURBANK: It's a terrible business model.

HANKS: You know what they...

POUNDSTONE: That's only a $5 profit.

HANKS: They handed me - I said, could I get a cup of coffee and they gave me a WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME mug that they then took back...


HANKS: ...At the end of the thing.

POUNDSTONE: Well, you have to donate to get a mug.

HANKS: Oh, do you not - I took a steno pad off a shelf and I started writing notes, and Mike Danforth, the boss of the whole thing, says, you're not going to use that whole thing, are you?


HANKS: I said, no, just a couple of pages. Well, good, man, because this is NPR and we need that steno - we need that steno pad back.

POUNDSTONE: Yeah, I think this only reassures our supporters that we're not wasting money at NPR. We reuse our steno pads.

SALIE: I don't - I can't believe you fell for that. They're selling it on eBay. It's Tom Hanks' notes from his week guest hosting.

HANKS: Well, that might - that might work. I - look, I don't want - the people were great. The hang was - I'm just saying that the facilities were not quite as glamorous as one would have thought. And also...

POUNDSTONE: Most wouldn't have thought it.


HANKS: I'm also...

POUNDSTONE: This is my point to you, is that maybe we're not living parallel lives.


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