Not My Job: We Quiz 'West Wing' Creator Aaron Sorkin On Hot Wings
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where an important person does something completely trivial. It's called Not My Job. So have you ever said to a friend, you can't handle the truth? Or maybe, a million dollars isn't cool. You know what's cool? A billion dollars. Well, if you have, first of all, start thinking of your own things to say.
SAGAL: But secondly, you were quoting Aaron Sorkin, author of "A Few Good Men," creator of "Sports Night," "The West Wing" and "The Newsroom" and now the author of "To Kill A Mockingbird" on Broadway.
Aaron Sorkin, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
AARON SORKIN: Thank you. Thank you. It's good to be here.
SAGAL: It's great to be with you.
SORKIN: It's great to be with you. You know, I came in in the middle, and the very first thing I heard was, exfoliating his butt with a pickle.
FAITH SALIE: Then you're at the right place, sir.
SORKIN: What's about to happen to me?
SAGAL: My first question is, I know so many people who are especially fans of "The West Wing," the TV show you wrote and created for so many years...
SORKIN: Thank you.
SAGAL: ...Who are so disappointed in real life because the people in real life, especially in politics, are nowhere nearly as smart, interesting and mostly articulate as they are on your shows. So my first question is, are you just as disappointed as they are?
SORKIN: I'd go a step further. I mean, I'd say that most fifth-graders are smarter than...
SORKIN: ...What we're generally seeing.
SAGAL: You did - one of the things that I was amazed at, given your talent and your productivity and the awards you've won, is I always assumed that you grew up wanting to be a writer because you're so, frankly, good at it. But that's not the case, right?
SORKIN: When I was in high school, I thought I was going to be an actor. I was in all the school plays and community theater, and then I went to college and studied acting. And it wasn't until really the day after I graduated from college that I for the first time wrote for pleasure and wrote dialogue. And I felt a confidence that I'd never felt with acting. And I was a pretty cocky actor.
PAULA POUNDSTONE: What did you write that day?
SORKIN: I started writing "A Few Good Men."
SORKIN: Yeah. My older sister Debbie had just graduated from law school, and she went into the Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps, the JAG Corps. And she told me a story about this trip she was about to take to Guantanamo Bay.
SORKIN: And it became the inspiration for "A Few Good Men." I moved to New York after college, and I got a job bartending in Broadway theaters. And I wrote "A Few Good Men" on cocktail napkins during the first act of "La Cage Aux Folles."
POUNDSTONE: Oh, I love that.
SORKIN: And I was a bartender in theaters. You work during the walk-in, and you work during intermission, but you're not doing anything during the first act. And there was an unlimited supply of cocktail napkins.
SAGAL: I'm just envisioning, like, this cocktail napkin, and on it is, you can't handle - and you turn it over - the truth.
SALIE: Aaron, you're so, of course, known for your dialogue. Does it just come into your brain, and you quickly write it down? Like, do you hear the back and forth? Or is it something that you actually have to conjure?
SORKIN: On a good day, I do. But I don't have many good days.
SORKIN: I kind of start pacing around and trying to get into an argument with myself. And if I can get a good one going, then it starts going down on paper.
SALIE: Like, out loud? Do you do this out loud?
SORKIN: Oh, yes.
SORKIN: While I was doing "The West Wing..."
POUNDSTONE: Didn't you...
SORKIN: A messenger came to my office with a package from the president of NBC.
SORKIN: And in it was a headset that you're supposed to pair to your car phone. And there was a note from the president of NBC saying, I was next to you at a red light today. Please wear this anytime you're driving your car. You look like a madman.
SAGAL: So because you were just, like, shouting at imaginary people in your car...
SORKIN: I'm shouting at C.J. and Bartlet and Sam. Everybody's fighting in my car.
SAGAL: Right. And so the idea was if you just wear a headset, you will at least look like you're shouting at a real person.
SORKIN: At least it looks like I'm being mean to somebody.
POUNDSTONE: Hey, Aaron, one of the questions on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME was about you one time. There was this story...
POUNDSTONE: ...Where you were working on dialogue, I guess, at your house. And didn't you accidentally hit your head on, like, a...
SORKIN: I broke my nose writing.
SAGAL: You're right. I had forgotten that.
POUNDSTONE: Let me just say, you were holding the pen wrong.
SORKIN: I did. I was writing an early episode of "The Newsroom," and I got up in the middle of the night because I had an idea just for a sort of a classic comic beat where Jeff Daniels was going to lunge at one of the staffers, and two staffers were going to hold him back in one of these, you know, I'm going to get you kind of moments. And I was really excited about it. It was going well. And I happened to be kind of acting into the mirror, and I lunged as Jeff Daniels would. But there was no one there to hold me back.
SORKIN: So I smashed right into the bathroom mirror.
SORKIN: And there...
SAGAL: Did you go to the emergency...
SORKIN: ...Blood everywhere.
SAGAL: Did you go to the emergency room? And, if so, what did you tell them?
SORKIN: I called that friend that you have that you can call at midnight when you've broken your nose writing.
SORKIN: And she came over, and she took one look at me and said, you know, we have to go to the emergency room. And I said, OK, but just read the scene because I think it's pretty good.
SAGAL: Well, Aaron Sorkin, it is an honor actually for us to talk to you. But we have asked you here to play a game we're calling...
BILL KURTIS: Welcome To The Hot Wing.
SAGAL: You famously created "The West Wing." So we're going to ask you about hot wings, the delicious American staple foodstuff grown on the great wing farms of the American Midwest. Answer 2 out of 3 questions, you'll win our prize one of our listeners - the voice of anyone they might like from our show.
Bill, who is Aaron Sorkin playing for?
KURTIS: Jon Chaplin of St. Petersburg, Fla.
SAGAL: All right. You ready to play?
SORKIN: OK, John of St. Petersburg. Here we go.
SAGAL: Here we go. First question - wings have been at the center of some surprising legal battles, including which of these? A, a man convicted of assault with a deadly weapon was released after judges agreed a hot wing was not deadly; B, a law in Colorado that declared from henceforth, chicken wings will be considered sandwiches...
SAGAL: ...Or C, a lawsuit between two restaurants in El Paso, Texas, over who owned their common name, The Lord of the Wings?
SORKIN: (Laughter) OK. The first two, A and B, are certainly the funniest. But the answer's got to be C.
SAGAL: I'm somewhat disappointed that you didn't...
SORKIN: Oh, no.
SAGAL: ...Find the last one funny...
SAGAL: ...But - because the real one was B, actually.
SAGAL: In Colorado, there's a law that certain kind of bars can't sell liquor unless they also have sandwiches. And so in order to relieve certain bars from a problem, chicken wings are sandwiches in Colorado.
SORKIN: OK, John of St. Petersburg...
SORKIN: I'm sorry. I'll try to do better...
SAGAL: All right. Next question - chicken wing aficionados will go to great lengths to show their love for the food, as in which of these? A, a jewelry company in Los Angeles sells earrings made of discarded chicken wing bones; B, a man in Tennessee created the first ever wing pit - just like a ball pit, but you jump in and bounce on the chicken wings...
SAGAL: ...Or C, a Virginia man used two cups of wing sauce to go out in wing face last Halloween.
SORKIN: OK. I'm going to say C.
SAGAL: You're going to say C.
SORKIN: C, yeah. Wing face.
SAGAL: It was, in fact, A. You know - you should know this. You live in LA. Of course, somebody would make jewelry out of chicken.
SORKIN: You know, even as I was saying it...
SORKIN: I thought, yes, definitely somebody's making earrings out of chicken wings.
SORKIN: OK. I'm going to give the third one everything I've got.
SAGAL: All right.
POUNDSTONE: This is sort of like the position Cohen was in.
SAGAL: What do you mean?
SORKIN: It's nothing like the position Cohen was in.
POUNDSTONE: Well, then, you know, the die has been cast, but he's going to try one more time.
SORKIN: This is brutal.
SAGAL: It is.
SAGAL: Here we go. In 2014, Philadelphia's 22nd annual buffalo wing eating contest was won by 125-pound Molly Schuyler. She ate a record-shattering 363 wings. Yay for her. But the question is, how did she celebrate her win the following day? Did she, A, drive to the Des Moines Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival and eat five pounds of bacon in three minutes; B, celebrate with a free meal at IHOP, which she won by eating 59 pancakes in one sitting; or C, to go to Jethro's BBQ in Iowa and eat a sandwich with pork tenderloin, chicken tenders, white cheddar sauce, fried cheese curds, apple with smoked bacon and a pound of french fries in just 15 minutes?
SAGAL: Which of those did she do?
SORKIN: I honestly have no idea how someone who only weighs 125...
SORKIN: ...Pounds ate over 300 chicken wings.
SAGAL: It's pretty bizarre.
SORKIN: You know what? I'm going to say A, that she ate a ton of bacon.
SAGAL: You're right. But she also did the other two.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: She did all...
SAGAL: ...Things. Bill, how did Aaron Sorkin do on our quiz?
KURTIS: Aaron, you can't handle the truth.
SORKIN: I know.
SAGAL: Aaron Sorkin is the creator of "The West Wing," "Sports Night" and "The Newsroom." His play "To Kill A Mockingbird" is on Broadway now. Please see it if you have the opportunity.
SAGAL: ...An absolute honor.
SORKIN: Thank you.
SAGAL: Thank you for all your great work.
POUNDSTONE: Bye, Aaron Sorkin.
(SOUNDBITE OF W.G. SNUFFY WALDEN'S "WEST WING MAIN TITLE")
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