Not My Job: Underwater Explorer Fabien Cousteau Gets Quizzed On Phish Sure he knows a lot about fish, but can he hold his own when it comes to the band Phish? Cousteau will play a game called "Man, just get cool with the flow of the jam, man."
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Not My Job: Underwater Explorer Fabien Cousteau Gets Quizzed On Phish

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Not My Job: Underwater Explorer Fabien Cousteau Gets Quizzed On Phish

Not My Job: Underwater Explorer Fabien Cousteau Gets Quizzed On Phish

Not My Job: Underwater Explorer Fabien Cousteau Gets Quizzed On Phish

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Parley for the Oceans
Oceanographer Fabien Cousteau is pictured in New York City on June 29, 2015.
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Parley for the Oceans

Some people are born into the family business; Fabien Cousteau was thrown into it, off the side of a boat, at age 4. The first grandson of famed underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau, he is an expert in oceans and the creatures that live in them, and the founder of the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center.

Since Cousteau obviously knows a lot about fish, we've decided to quiz him on the band Phish. He'll play a game called "Man, just get cool with the flow of the jam, man."

Click the audio link above to see how he does.


And now the game where we ask people who have led a lifetime of adventure to just sit still for a second and answer some dumb questions. Some people are born into the family business. Fabien Cousteau was thrown into it off the side of a boat at age 4. The first grandson of famed underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau, he is one of the world's foremost experts in oceans and the creatures that live there. He's the founder of the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center.

Fabien Cousteau, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.


FABIEN COUSTEAU: Thank you. Pleasure to be with you.

SAGAL: So let's do a fact check. We read that that's how you started scuba diving - your father threw you into the water with a tank on your back at the age of 4. Is that right?

COUSTEAU: Well, on my fourth birthday - it's slightly different. I actually went to the bottom of the pool with a family friend who was reading the newspaper while I was buddy breathing with him.

SAGAL: So buddy breathing is when you're sort of sharing one respirator back-and-forth, right?

COUSTEAU: That is correct.

SAGAL: And he's reading a newspaper at the bottom of a pool?

COUSTEAU: Yeah. Yeah. I guess he was bored. There's not much to see at the bottom of the pool. We didn't throw any fish in there.

SAGAL: I understand.

COUSTEAU: (Laughter).

SAGAL: But - and did you always want to go into what I guess is the family business in the Cousteau family?

COUSTEAU: I was actually never pressured to be in the family business. I was always encouraged to forge my own path. But it - the path always ended up turning back towards what we do as a family.

SAGAL: Yeah. That's funny. I'm just going to say this because I grew up watching your grandfather's TV show, "The Undersea World Of Jacques Cousteau." And, I mean, to me, what I remember as much as the film of the fish and the Calypso is your father's - your grandfather's, excuse me - amazing French accent.

COUSTEAU: (Imitating Jacques Cousteau) But of course.

SAGAL: Yeah. (Imitating Jacques Cousteau) Oh, there it is.


COUSTEAU: (Imitating Jacques Cousteau) We're diving into the briny deep.

SAGAL: (Imitating Jacques Cousteau) I know. That's the problem. I mean, literally, I'm talking to you...

COUSTEAU: (Laughter).

SAGAL: ...And I can tell that if you do not speak in a really elaborate French accent, I will not take you seriously as a...


COUSTEAU: (Imitating Jacques Cousteau) A mermaid stole it one time when I was 7.


SAGAL: Now, your specialty is sharks, right? And we were told that...

COUSTEAU: (Laughter).

SAGAL: ...You became interested in sharks because of the movie "Jaws."

COUSTEAU: Yeah. I - you know, as a kid growing up and going scuba diving, I had the opportunity to see them in the wild. And growing up a kid of the '70s, "Jaws" was definitely on the forefront of everyone's mind, and up until this day. So it always puzzled me why we're making them look so different on screen than we are out in the wild. And I was wondering why it ate boats and scuba divers and buoys and everything else in its path. But...

SAGAL: Well, one of the - I saw a film that you did.

PAULA POUNDSTONE: Wait. So that wasn't accurate?


COUSTEAU: The reality is you have over 460-some odd species of sharks out there. Very few have ever eaten a boat.

TOM PAPA: So to be clear, you're saying the shark in the movie was acting?


SAGAL: It occurs to me that, of course, from our perspective, "Jaws" is a horror movie, essentially, about a monster. But from a shark's perspective, it's the greatest movie ever made.


SAGAL: It's kind of a downer of an ending, but other than that, it's great. I saw a film of you diving with sharks inside - well, I don't know how to describe it. It's a big, artificial shark you hide in.

COUSTEAU: A shark-shaped submersible, yes.

SAGAL: Yeah.

COUSTEAU: I'd always wanted to approach great white sharks in a different way than the ugly, bubbling creatures in the cage throwing chum at these wild animals. The best way to go and learn a little bit more about them is to become a shark. So that became reality in 2006, 2007, where I built a shark-shaped submersible. Little did I know that doing such a thing was more challenging. And I ended up on the bottom more than I did with the sharks.

SAGAL: Really? So it would just - like, you'd go down there, and you'd be, like, hello, fellow sharks. And you just continue to sink right down.


SAGAL: And the sharks would be all, what's wrong with that guy?


COUSTEAU: Well, you know, it was meant to be a polymorphic shark where you could do male and female. Unfortunately, it got so complicated, we left the male parts behind. And as a female shark, I was hoping that, hey, maybe this was going to attract a shark...

SAGAL: Wait a minute.

COUSTEAU: ...And we'll have mating behavior here, you know?

SAGAL: You were hoping for that?

COUSTEAU: First human to do that.


SAGAL: You were...

POUNDSTONE: So wait. You had, like, a - you had female shark parts on this immersible...

SAGAL: Submersible.

POUNDSTONE: ...The submersible, and then you had male shark parts?

NEGIN FARSAD: But they were detachable.

COUSTEAU: They were detachable. That's right.


COUSTEAU: The male parts were detachable. You know - hey, you know, male sharks have two penises, or claspers, so they're lucky. Unfortunately...


POUNDSTONE: Not sure I would consider that lucky.

SAGAL: Yeah.

FARSAD: I'd say that's minus two points.


SAGAL: It's twice the maintenance fee. It's terrible.

COUSTEAU: (Laughter).

PAPA: But can they lick an envelope?

SAGAL: Yeah.


POUNDSTONE: I do have one more question...


POUNDSTONE: ...Which is, how accurate was "Finding Nemo"?


COUSTEAU: In my child's heart, very.

SAGAL: Yeah.


SAGAL: Well, Fabien Cousteau, it is a pleasure to talk to you. We could talk to you all day about the ocean. But we have, in fact, asked you here to play a game with us, and this time we're calling it...

BILL KURTIS: Man, just get cool with the flow of the jam, man.


SAGAL: You know a lot of fish personally, but what do you know about the band Phish?


SAGAL: We're going to ask you three questions about the legendary...


SAGAL: ...Vermont band that even some Grateful Dead fans find a little too meandering.


SAGAL: Answer 2 out of these 3 questions right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - the voice of anyone they might like on our show on their voicemail. Bill, who is Fabien Cousteau playing for?

KURTIS: Robert Loving of Los Angeles, Calif.

SAGAL: All right. You ready to do this?

COUSTEAU: Let's go for it.

SAGAL: All right. Here's your first question. How Phish got its name - it's P-H-I-S-H, by the way, Phish. How Phish got its name has been a subject of interest for their fans for decades. Which of these is a possible explanation from a fan quoted in Newsweek? A, that's what band leader Trey Anastasio says instead of cursing - aw, Phish; B, it's an acronym meaning psychedelic hypnotic instrumental sounds are happening, or C, it's a take on the psh (ph) sound that comes out when you're filling a balloon to do nitrous oxide at a party in Vermont?

COUSTEAU: (Laughter) I love C. I won't say that I've done that before, but (coughing) I did go to college.


COUSTEAU: Good question. B?

SAGAL: You're going to lean toward the acronym meaning psychedelic hypnotic instrumental sounds are happening?

COUSTEAU: I'm guessing that.

SAGAL: No, it was actually the nitrous oxide.

COUSTEAU: Oh, was it really?

SAGAL: Yeah. Well, that's at least the rumor. They've never come out and said, but...

POUNDSTONE: But that was what the...

COUSTEAU: I should have gone with my gut.

SAGAL: I actually - while researching this, I actually listened to a lot of Phish music, and I'm guessing it was the nitrous oxide.


SAGAL: All right. All right. Next question, Fabien. Lead singer Trey Anastasio was expelled from the University of Vermont for a prank that he has never described in public, but according to Phish fans, it was one of these. A, stealing a human heart and hand from a biology lab and sending them to a friend with a note, heard you could use a hand; B, getting the gig playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at a UV football game and keeping it going for 18 minutes...


COUSTEAU: Oh, my God.

SAGAL: ...Or C, pot brownies at a dean's reception?

COUSTEAU: Jeez. I - you know, if I were in his shoes, I would've done the same twisted humor of the hand - A.

SAGAL: Well, you're right. That's what he did.


SAGAL: According...



SAGAL: ...To established stories - there are various stories of what happened. One story is that it was sitting on some guy's porch. He didn't recognize it. He called the fire department to look at it. They opened it up, found a hand and a heart and started a murder investigation. But we may never know unless Trey comes clean.

Now last question. If you get this right, you win. Phish has a fair amount of celebrity fans, including which of these? A, Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep, who says he starts every day at 3 a.m. with, quote, "a spliff and my Phish bootlegs"...


SAGAL: ...B, the musician Rob Zombie, who says he plays Phish music to, quote, "go to my happy place," or C, actor Abe Vigoda, who played Detective Fish in the old "Barney Miller" TV show, who once joined the band onstage dressed as a wombat when he was 92 years old?

COUSTEAU: Well, it's definitely not C. I'm going to go with B on that one.

SAGAL: Let me ask you a question.


SAGAL: Why do you think it's definitely not C? What was your reasoning?

COUSTEAU: Well, at 92, he's - you never know.

SAGAL: Well, I mean, if it's not true, some - somebody had to make that up.

COUSTEAU: All right.


SAGAL: I think they all want you to go into the...


COUSTEAU: C, all right. Let's go with the C.

SAGAL: You're right. Yes. It was Abe Vigoda.


SAGAL: It was at one of their famous Halloween concerts where they like to...


SAGAL: ...Do various funny things.

PAPA: I'm actually friends with Rob Zombie.

SAGAL: Are you?

PAPA: Yeah. And he directed one of my stand-up specials. And I can tell you for a fact he has no happy place.


SAGAL: Rob Zombie went from directing "House Of 1,000 Corpses" to your stand-up special.

PAPA: And I killed.


SAGAL: Bill, how did Fabien Cousteau do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Fabien did well out of the water as well as in the water. He got 2 out of 3, and that's a win.

PAPA: Congratulations, Fabien.

COUSTEAU: Thank you.


SAGAL: Hey, Fabien, if somebody wanted to know more about what you do down there, how would they find out?

COUSTEAU: Oh, go to That's the easiest way. Or follow me on social media.

SAGAL: There you go. Fabien Cousteau is an aquanaut, an oceanographer and the founder of the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center. Fabien Cousteau, what a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

POUNDSTONE: Bye, Fabien.

COUSTEAU: Pleasure to be here. Thank you.


SAGAL: In just a minute, Bill writes the songs that makes the whole world sing. It's the Listener Limerick Challenge. Call 1-888-WAITWAIT 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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