Bluff The Listener Our panelists read three stories about someone getting a big break in an unusual way, only one of which is true.
NPR logo

Bluff The Listener

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/604574060/604590501" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Bluff The Listener

Bluff The Listener

Bluff The Listener

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/604574060/604590501" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Our panelists read three stories about someone getting a big break in an unusual way, only one of which is true.

BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. We are playing this week with Mo Rocca, Helen Hong and Maz Jobrani. And here again is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

Thank you, Bill.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Right now, it's time for the WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME Bluff The Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play our game on the air. Hi, you are on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

ARNALDO ORTIZ: Hi, this is Arnaldo Ortiz calling from Boonton, N.J.

SAGAL: I know where Boonton is. What do you do there?

ORTIZ: I'm actually a graphic designer and a yoga instructor.

SAGAL: Are you really? That's very cool.

ORTIZ: I am.

SAGAL: I was thinking if there's any way to combine those skills.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: But I'm not sure there is. Draw things in a headstand. I guess not.

ORTIZ: Sure, why not?

SAGAL: Absolutely. Well, welcome to the show, Arnaldo. You are going to play the game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what is Arnaldo's topic?

KURTIS: My big break.

SAGAL: You can get discovered in the traditional ways - auditioning for a movie, yodeling in line at Walmart.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: But this week, we heard about someone getting an unusual big break. Our panelists are going to tell you about it. Pick the one who's telling the truth, you will win our prize - the voice of your choice on your voicemail. Are you ready to play?

ORTIZ: Absolutely.

SAGAL: All right. First, let's hear from Maz Jobrani.

MAZ JOBRANI: When opera director Francesco Mariangela (ph) moved from Verona, Italy, to Oklahoma City to revive the failing Oklahoma City Opera House (ph), he had no idea that the man who would help him save this historical landmark would be a local baseball umpire named John Hurley Thompson (ph). One day, when Mariangela went to watch his 9-year-old son play baseball, he discovered Thompson and knew that this American was a natural-born opera singer. Mariangela states, (in Italian accent) I go to my son baseball game.

(LAUGHTER)

JOBRANI: (In Italian accent) First of all, I'm not so much understanding the baseball.

(LAUGHTER)

JOBRANI: (In Italian accent) Why you no kicking the ball?

(LAUGHTER)

JOBRANI: (In Italian accent) Why are you hitting it with a fat stick?

(LAUGHTER)

JOBRANI: (In Italian accent) But the umpire, I hear him say, you're out.

(LAUGHTER)

JOBRANI: (In Italian accent) And I think to myself, this guy got the voice of an angel.

(LAUGHTER)

JOBRANI: So Mariangela approached Thompson and convinced him to go in for an audition. Not only did Thompson nail the audition, but he got the lead in the local production of Puccini's "La Boheme." Thompson, whose only experience singing before had been in the shower, states, it's all kind of a crazy dream; I never thought I would be an opera singer; I don't even speak Italian; truth be told, I have no idea what I'm saying up there.

(LAUGHTER)

JOBRANI: But the crowd seems to love it. And the crowds keep coming. The opera house has been sold out for six weeks straight as fans come from all over the region to experience this new local star. Some have even compared Thompson to Luciano Pavarotti, nicknaming the little league umpire Umpirerotti (ph). Mariangela, who looks great for having discovered this talent, states, (in Italian accent) sometimes you just find a gem when you least expect it; speaking of gems, why you call it a baseball diamond?

(LAUGHTER)

JOBRANI: (In Italian accent) It's just four bases of equal distance. That makes it a square.

(APPLAUSE)

HELEN HONG: Why do you always end up, like, Christopher Walkening (ph) it?

(LAUGHTER)

JOBRANI: (In Italian accent) I don't know.

HONG: I don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: All right, Maz's story is about how an opera singer was discovered as a baseball umpire working in Oklahoma City. Your next story of an unlikely discovery comes from Helen Hong.

HONG: Ian Fincher (ph) had been struggling to get his novel published for years. But it seems the publishing world wasn't quite ready for an epic survival story about a man who is allergic to peanuts but somehow gets trapped inside of a Skippy factory and has to maneuver his way out before succumbing to anaphylactic shock.

(LAUGHTER)

HONG: He had been rejected by 37 publishers and was starting to doubt his skills as a storyteller. Perhaps the novel needed some jokes in between the harrowing drama? He took his only hard copy of the novel, which he had printed at home and hand bound in leather, and headed to his favorite hiking trail for some inspiration. On the trail, he came upon another hiker who had fallen off one of the steep ridges and was moaning in pain. They determined that the injured woman had broken her leg and would need a splint to help her get back down the hill. After hesitating for just a moment, Mr. Fincher whipped his leather-bound novel out of his backpack and secured it tightly around the injured woman's leg.

The two made it back to safety and called paramedics. Recognizing the awkwardness of asking for his novel back, Ian watched his now-bloodstained life's work get loaded onto a stretcher and carted off in an ambulance. But, it seems, this is what turned the hapless writer's luck around. The injured woman was none other than Mary Fayish (ph) of Fayish Books (ph). Ian had been rejected by this publisher a year earlier, but Mary Fayish had plenty of time to reassess the novel during her hospital stay. I mean, what can I say? The guy's wordy as hell, but those thick pages saved my leg.

(LAUGHTER)

HONG: They at least deserve a 50-print run.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: A writer gets his novel published because he used it as a splint for the injured leg of a publisher. Your last story of an unlikely way of gaining fame comes from Mo Rocca.

MO ROCCA: Some of us are old enough to remember Riff Trucks (ph) delivering books and climbing uphill to spread the message that, indeed, reading is fundamental. Well, in Canada, literacy has never been cooler. In fact, an indie rock band has been rediscovered by a whole new generation after appearing in a literacy test. This year's Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test featured a 2013 article about the Ottawa-based pop band Brothers Dube. The band members, who are brothers, had opened for the Beach Boys not long after losing their mother to cancer. The brothers used the appearance to raise money for research - an inspiring story that sent test takers to the Web, where they discovered that in the last couple years, the group has transformed itself into a stoner band.

(LAUGHTER)

ROCCA: Today, they're simply known as Dube because, well...

(LAUGHTER)

ROCCA: ...Dube. Education officials were none too pleased, but the band members are thrilled by their new popularity. Said brother Jig Dube, we got so many comments from people saying, wow, you were the best part of the test; I'm pretty sure I passed because of you guys. But don't expect band members to be touring in Riff Trucks - Spliff Trucks (ph), maybe.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: All right, somebody...

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: ...Found a degree of fame through an unusual way. Was it, from Maz Jobrani, a baseball umpire in Oklahoma City with beautiful calls was recruited to become an opera singer in that city, from Helen Hong, a frustrated, unpublished novelist rescues a publisher by strapping his novel to her leg and gets it printed, or from Mo Rocca, an indie band gets a second life when an essay about them appears in a literacy test for students? Which of these is the real story of an unexpected step to fame?

ORTIZ: I'm a huge baseball fan. The delivery of that first story was fantastic, so I want that so desperately to be true.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And are you going to choose it?

(LAUGHTER)

KURTIS: Are you picking?

SAGAL: ...Because I'm waiting for the but here, is what I'm...

(LAUGHTER)

ORTIZ: No, no. Let's go for it.

SAGAL: All right. How am I supposed to argue with that? All right. So you've chosen Maz's story of the baseball umpire who became an opera singer discovered by a really legitimate-sounding Italian guy.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, we spoke, actually, to one of the people who was in fact discovered. Here they are.

JIG DUBE: We recently found out that we were included on the Ontario literacy tests.

(LAUGHTER)

DUBE: And we kind of went viral.

SAGAL: That was Jig. That's his name.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: He's the lead singer and bassist of the band Dube up in Canada. I am afraid, Arnaldo, you were - as so many were, were fooled by Maz's brilliant impersonation.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So you earned a point for him, which he earned, which he totally earned.

JOBRANI: Fantastico.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Fantastico.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Magnifico.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Thank you so much for playing, Arnaldo.

ORTIZ: Thank you.

SAGAL: Take care.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FAME")

DAVID BOWIE: (Singing) Fame.

Copyright © 2018 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.