Not My Job: Mayim Bialik Of 'Big Bang Theory' Gets Quizzed On Big Bangs
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where very smart people answer questions about really dumb things. It's called Not My Job. Mayim Bialik was a successful child actor starring in the '90s sitcom "Blossom." But many child actors see their careers end prematurely, so Mayim took an important step to make sure that didn't happen. She got a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA. That was just what she needed to land a job playing a neurobiologist on "The Big Bang Theory" 'cause everybody knows actors are never allowed to fake anything.
SAGAL: Mayim Bialik, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
MAYIM BIALIK: (Laughter) Thank you.
SAGAL: I should say, before - I don't know how to do this. Congratulations on your character's marriage, which was the season finale...
BIALIK: Thank you. I appreciate that.
SAGAL: ...Of "The Big Bang Theory." Amy got married...
SAGAL: ...To Sheldon.
SAGAL: How long did that relationship take to develop, either years of the characters or seasons?
BIALIK: Well, it's actually the same. We keep the years the same as the seasons. It took five years for them to even have coitus for the first time.
BIALIK: And then...
BIALIK: ...Another two to get married.
SAGAL: That's very nice. I understand that that's exactly what either of your characters would call it.
BIALIK: That is absolutely correct.
SAGAL: As I said, a lot of younger actors - their show ends or whatever, and let's be honest, they fade away because people don't want to see them as adults. They like them as children. But you decided that you would go to school, and you got yourself first a degree, and then an advanced degree in neurobiology.
BIALIK: Correct. In neuroscience. And then I had my first son.
SAGAL: I'm sorry. I cannot keep you and Amy straight.
BIALIK: That's OK. It's very confusing. I know.
SAGAL: I'm sorry. You look alike. What can I tell you?
BIALIK: I had my first son also in grad school and got pregnant with my second the week I filed my thesis, so I came out of the 12 years I left the industry with a Ph.D. and two children.
SAGAL: Right. Which is a pretty good hiatus, if you're going to take one.
BIALIK: You know, for 12 years, that's not bad.
SAGAL: And I remember this vaguely because we heard about it back in the time. And there was this sense that you left acting because you were bitter. You - it was a, you know, cesspool. It was, like, a horrible place.
BIALIK: Well, A, it's nice to know you remember me vaguely. And B, it's nice to know that you remember me with bitterness - that I left acting because I was bitter.
SAGAL: Was it weird? Did people give you grief? You can't leave your acting business. You're a sitcom star.
BIALIK: Yeah, but honestly, you know, the other kind of jobs and job opportunities that would've been available to me were other sitcoms, which no insult to sitcoms, 'cause clearly, they are how I make my living. You know, I'm the grandchild of immigrants, and I really wanted to go to college. And I wanted to be appreciated for the things inside of my head and not just sort of what I could offer people.
BIALIK: And I really, truly did fall in love with science in high school while being tutored on the set of "Blossom," and so I really wanted to explore science.
SAGAL: Did the tutor get in trouble for distracting you away from acting?
BIALIK: I don't think so. She's an oral surgeon, and she lives in Beverly Hills and has four children and, I'm sure, drives a really nice car.
SAGAL: So she's fine.
BIALIK: So I think her life turned out OK.
SAGAL: That's how we measure these things.
SAGAL: So when you came - and then did you make a conscious decision - say, OK, I've got my doctorate. I'm going to go back to acting? Or did people start seeking you out?
BIALIK: Oh, no. How about neither?
BIALIK: Option C was that no one was offering me work. I was running out of health insurance, and I figured if I can work here and there, at least I can get health insurance to support my toddler and newborn. So that's a much less romantic answer, but it's the true one.
SAGAL: Yes, I understand that. Do you use your science knowledge on the show?
BIALIK: Sometimes. Sometimes our writers or producers will ask, like, hey, what part of the brain would need to be messed up if we want these symptoms for a joke?
BIALIK: But we - but a lot of the science can't be perfect because it also has to kind of work on television and work for comedy's sake.
BIALIK: So we know we're not perfect all the time.
SAGAL: Right. You never find yourself looking at the camera and going, no, it's not like this?
BIALIK: No, and other actors don't - other actors don't appreciate when you, like, point things out that are wrong or flaunt your Ph.D. It doesn't go over well.
SAGAL: You've written now two books. The first was called "Girling Up," and the new one is "Boying Up."
BIALIK: I've actually written four books, but, yes.
SAGAL: Oh, excuse me. I was...
BIALIK: But of this series, this is the second of the series.
SAGAL: You are, of course, correct because you wrote a book about attachment parenting and a book about your vegan diet.
SAGAL: But these two books - these two books are about - they're books for young people about, I think, what they used to call, when I was a young person, the changes that they go through.
BIALIK: Correct. "Girling Up" I wrote a year ago, and it was a New York Times best-seller, which was very, very exciting. And "Boying Up" is about the process by which boys become men. And it's not simply, you know, the biology, puberty, physiology stuff, but also a bit more about the kind of sociological prophecies by which we place men in our society, with voices of real men throughout the book, and also my experience as a mom raising two boys.
SAGAL: And are you aware of anybody who just, instead of having an awkward conversation with their child, just hands them your book and says, here, read this, talk to me next week?
BIALIK: You know what? I heard from so many parents that that's what they did with "Girling Up."
BIALIK: And so I have a 50 percent chance of that being true with this book.
SAGAL: I - you know, I got to say, I would much rather have you do it here.
BIALIK: I hear that from friends of mine all the time.
SAGAL: Has anybody ever asked you to come over to their house? Would you explain...
BIALIK: Yes. Several friends of mine.
SAGAL: No. Really?
SAGAL: Would you explain - tell me how they ask you to do that.
BIALIK: Can you come over and talk to my child about puberty?
SAGAL: Well, this is really fun. I think we could talk a long time, but we have business to do 'cause, Mayim Bialik, we have invited you here to play a game we're calling...
BILL KURTIS, HOST:
Big Bang meet big bangs.
SAGAL: So as we have discussed, you're a star on "The Big Bang Theory," the most popular show on TV. So we thought we'd ask you about some different big bangs - hair metal bands from the '80s.
SAGAL: Get two out of three right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - the voice of anyone from our show they choose on their voicemail. Bill, who is scientist and actor Mayim Bialik playing for?
KURTIS: Rishi Talati of Austin, Texas.
SAGAL: All right.
SAGAL: Ready to do this?
SAGAL: For your first question, it's Def Leppard. In that band's early days, Def Leppard once infuriated lead singer Joe Elliott's mother. How did they do that? A, while writing the hit song "Pour Some Sugar On Me," Elliott poured sugar all over his mom's kitchen to see how it would inspire him; B, mother was 20 minutes late to church because she had to wait for the entire band to finish drying their hair and get out of the bathroom, or C, after the band crashed overnight in her house, she thought they had snuck girls in because of all the makeup on the sheets?
BIALIK: I'm going to go with C.
SAGAL: You're right. It was C. They left a lot of makeup...
BIALIK: I'm a huge Def Leppard fan...
SAGAL: Are you really?
BIALIK: ...So I'm not surprised I got that right.
SAGAL: Are you actually a big Def Leppard fan?
BIALIK: I am a very big Def Leppard fan.
SAGAL: Wow. Did you ever do your hair like that?
BIALIK: No, I didn't have enough.
SAGAL: That was very good and very confident. Your next question is, many hair band stars have moved on to other careers, as in which of these? A, Bret Michaels of the band Poison now sells heavy metal-themed pet supplies called Pets Rock; B, the members of Dokken help old rockers find more stable jobs in a seminar they call, From Dokken to Dockers, or C, John Corabi of Motley Crue is now Donald Trump's Secretary of Labor?
BIALIK: I'm going to go with B again.
SAGAL: From Dokken to Dockers?
SAGAL: No, it was actually Bret Michaels and his pet supply brand, Pets Rock.
BIALIK: Oh, shoot. Shoot.
SAGAL: Like, you can get, like, those, you know, those studded collars.
BIALIK: Yes. Yes.
SAGAL: You can get them for your actual dog.
SAGAL: All right. This is exciting, though, because if you get the third one, you'll still win. Finally, some people have profited from hair bands in surprising ways, as in which of these? A, the manager of the Anthrax Forever website made $38 in ad revenue just from web hits in the week after 9/11; B, in 2010, an Arizona man got $5.50 when he successfully sold on eBay an air guitar that had been used at a Bon Jovi concert...
SAGAL: ...Or C, in 2002, a Connecticut woman selling a Jaguar on Craigslist made $2,000 over asking just by claiming it was the car Tawny Kitaen writhed on top of in that famous Whitesnake video?
BIALIK: I'm going with C.
SAGAL: You're going to go with C - that the woman sold the Jaguar that Tawny Kitaen writhed on?
SAGAL: Even though she was in Connecticut? No, I'm afraid it was the air guitar.
BIALIK: (Screaming) Oh, Jesus Christ.
HELEN HONG: Are you serious?
SAGAL: (Laughter) Yes. That is hilarious. I just - I don't think - I mean, I'm sorry you lost, but your reaction to losing was great.
BIALIK: Oh, for Pete's sake.
SAGAL: (Laughter) Yes. In fact, he advertised an air guitar that he said was used at a Bon Jovi concert, and somebody sent him $5.50.
BIALIK: I'm super fed up right now. I don't even want to hear you explain this.
SAGAL: Bill, what was Mayim Bialik's score?
KURTIS: Proving that even Ph.D.s can have an off day, Mayim, you got 1 out of 3.
SAGAL: I've had so many people who've won on this show, but I've never enjoyed that more than...
BIALIK: Oh, thanks.
SAGAL: (Laughter) You're welcome. Mayim Bialik is the author of the new book "Boying Up," a sequel to her New York Times best-seller "Girling Up." She's also a neuroscientist. She's the star of CBS' "Big Bang Theory," which just wrapped up its season with her character's wedding. Mayim Bialik, what an absolute delight to talk to you. Thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
BIALIK: Thank you so much. It's an honor to be here.
SAGAL: Thank you. Bye-bye.
KURTIS: Bye, Mayim.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BIG BANG THEORY THEME")
BARENAKED LADIES: (Singing) Our whole universe was in a hot, dense state. Then nearly 14 billion years ago expansion started - wait. The earth began to cool. The autotrophs began to drool. Neanderthals developed tools. We built a wall. We built the pyramids. Math, science, history, unraveling the mysteries that all started with the Big Bang. Hey.
SAGAL: In just a minute, Bill is mean to his ficus tree in the Listener Limerick Challenge. Call 1-888-WAITWAIT to join us on the air. We'll be back in a minute with more WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR.
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.