OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:
I am so excited for our next two guests. Bethany Van Delft is a comedian who hosts the PBS Digital series about the science of parenting called "Parentalogic," and she also hosts a podcast for kids about news called "The Ten News." Donwill is half of the hip-hop duo Tanya Morgan. Their latest single is called "A Whole Mood" from their upcoming album "Don & Von." Donwill, Bethany, welcome to ASK ME ANOTHER.
BETHANY VAN DELFT: Hi.
EISENBERG: So wait a second. So I know you - obviously, Bethany, I know you from many shows, comedy way back. Donwill, I know you from comedy shows in New York...
EISENBERG: ...Whole smattering of them. But how do you know each other?
VAN DELFT: We did a show - I did a show that he was DJing on. And I was deeply in my anxiety. And so I don't know what happened. I think I performed. I'm not sure.
VAN DELFT: And then I went upstairs. Everybody went upstairs and had drinks. And while I was gripping my highball glass just trying to get the drink to shoot into my face so I could feel OK, there was music on in the background. I believe it was Chaka Khan, and it was "Papillon." And that...
DONWILL: It was.
VAN DELFT: ...Just - it calmed my heart. It calmed me. And it - like, Chaka was like, get out of here, anxiety. And I was like (singing) enchan (ph) papillon...
DONWILL: (Singing) Papillon.
VAN DELFT: And I don't even know if those are the words or not. And then another song came on and another song. It was like the soundtrack of my life. And then I was happy, and I was calm. And I looked over. Donwill's spinning. He's looking right at me. And I was like, oh, you saw that auntie over in the corner bouncing - bouncing, singing the wrong French words to "Papillon."
VAN DELFT: And you're like check this out auntie. And I was like, OK. I see you. Thank you. Thank you.
DONWILL: So the DJ side of that story is that usually when we're DJing, we find a - like, we find a person that we - that's really vibing out. And we're like, I'm DJing for her (laughter).
JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: Yeah.
EISENBERG: Oh, nice.
DONWILL: Especially if it's just a roomful of people casually milling about, and, like, there's nobody really paying attention. You just find that person that's, like, into it. So I was like, oh, she likes it. So I was playing, like, that vein of songs. And I say show some papillon. I don't know what they're saying. But I say show some. I don't even know if papillon...
VAN DELFT: (Singing) Show some papillon.
EISENBERG: I like that.
VAN DELFT: Show some butterfly, man.
EISENBERG: Show some butterfly.
DONWILL: But - so after the show ended, we all ended up upstairs in the little thing indoors. And we were just kind of, like, hanging out. And her question did get kind of, like, deep. I don't remember what the question was, but the funny thing about me is that I live for the deep. Like, I'm the person that - like, meeting me at a party is kind of weird because I'm like, so what's the most stressful thing about your life right now? Like, I just want to know.
DONWILL: There's no light conversation with me. So it was just kind of, like - I was like...
VAN DELFT: We were, like, meant to be friends.
DONWILL: Yeah. I was like, I see something in her.
VAN DELFT: 'Cause I'm like, oh, my God. Let me tell you. The galaxy is expanding, but no one knows how fast.
EISENBERG: And, Bethany, you know, we've shared many a stand-up stage. But you also - you host a digital series on PBS about the science of parenting, "Parentalogic."
VAN DELFT: I don't do the science part, but yes.
EISENBERG: Yeah, but you're there to - you absorb the science part. You've - and as you as a parent, is there - help me. Is there anything, any...
VAN DELFT: No. As a parent, there's nothing you can do.
VAN DELFT: It helps to have a pediatrician friend that you can text.
VAN DELFT: Just keep it all in one text.
VAN DELFT: Don't use texting as punctuation. Yeah, that helps. You have no idea how many times I've texted Alok and been like, oh, my God. Is this a thing? And then he is chill. He's a guru. He's like, she's going to figure this out. And I'm not going to respond, so I don't embarrass her. And then he gives me enough time to figure it out. And then I text him back and go, figured it out. And then he texts right away, I knew you would.
EISENBERG: Aww, that's nice at the end. There's no reprimanding. It's just like, good for you. I believe in you. It's just that I believe in you.
VAN DELFT: You can do this.
EISENBERG: OK. Donwill, I was just thinking that, obviously, I've seen you on stage for a while, but you have a new album coming out. You've created some content.
DONWILL: I do. The album's titled "Don & Von." So it's just - we're the guys behind the rap group named after a fictitious woman.
DONWILL: It's kind of, like, letting the facade down a little.
DONWILL: And the first single is called "A Whole Mood," featuring Jack Davey from J*Davey fame. And yeah, it's just a song talking about discovering what we love and hate about ourselves and deciding, like, you know, everybody's making do and pushing through.
DONWILL: It's my little campaign slogan - making do and pushing through. Vote for Tanya Morgan.
COULTON: Making do and pushing through.
VAN DELFT: That is so good.
EISENBERG: All right. Well, let's play some games.
VAN DELFT: Yes.
EISENBERG: So here's how this works. You get to work together in this one. And Jonathan Coulton is going to sing you the clues in the game called Other Aughts.
COULTON: Yes. This is the latest in our Award Eligible series...
COULTON: ...Of decade-themed music parodies about history. We rewrote popular songs from the 2000s, aka the aughts, to make them about things from the aughts of other centuries - so the 1900s, the 1800s, going all the way back to year zero. So to earn full credit, just tell me what I'm singing about or tell me the song that I'm parodying or the artist who made it famous. And then for extra credit, there's a bonus point. You can guess what century's aughts the thing comes from.
VAN DELFT: Oh. OK. OK.
COULTON: All right. Here we go. (Singing, playing guitar) It's got hammers and strings. Alicia Keys plays it. It's got black and white keys. Billy Joel plays it. It can be grand or upright. Ray Charles plays it. Though he couldn't reach the pedals, Keyboard Cat played it. Meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow.
VAN DELFT: I know what it's about.
COULTON: All right.
VAN DELFT: Piano.
COULTON: A piano. That is correct.
DONWILL: It is Beyonce - "Put A Ring On It."
COULTON: Yeah, Beyonce's "Single Ladies." That's right. Well done. For a bonus point, can you tell me, when do you think the first piano appeared?
DONWILL: Beethoven was out here playing the piano.
DONWILL: So we know the piano existed in Beethoven's...
VAN DELFT: At least in the 1700s.
VAN DELFT: So before that, right?
DONWILL: I'm very bad with years.
VAN DELFT: 1600s?
DONWILL: 1600s. Let's go with 1600s.
VAN DELFT: I feel like they started with harpsichord, and then when people were like, (imitating harpsichord)...
EISENBERG: Too much harpsichord.
VAN DELFT: Yeah, somebody was like, yo, yo, hang on. Hang on. How about this? And then it was like (vocalizing). And there was a piano.
EISENBERG: Someone also was like, we need something to fall on cartoon characters.
COULTON: Right. Harpsichords aren't heavy enough. Nobody's going to buy it.
COULTON: You're very close. It actually is the 1700s when pianos first arrived on the scene. But your description of the history is correct. There were there were other keyboard instruments before the - harpsichord, the clavichord, all these other things. And the piano - the thing about the piano was that you could play loudly or softly on it because it has these hammers. And the way the mechanism works, you can hit it softly or loudly. It's called the - it was called the pianoforte, meaning soft loud.
DONWILL: I like it.
VAN DELFT: I like it.
DONWILL: My new name is Pianoforte.
VAN DELFT: That is a very - that's a dope rap name, Pianoforte. It really is.
COULTON: (Laughter) Pianoforte.
DONWILL: I like it.
COULTON: All right. Here's another one. (Singing, playing guitar) Tried to stop the getaway car, but it won't go, go, go. I should have fled, but my phone is dead. Oh, no, no, no. Electricity - lack of it is screwing me. Without this little power source now, my life is gonna blow, blow, blow.
DONWILL: OK. It's about a phone charger.
COULTON: That's actually a good guess. We're actually looking for a battery. I'll give it to you because that's - you were basically on to the power thing. But battery is what we were looking for.
VAN DELFT: And it is Amy Winehouse.
COULTON: That's right. Amy Winehouse, "Rehab."
DONWILL: A jam.
COULTON: It is absolutely a jam. For a bonus point, can you tell me in which century's aughts did Alessandro Volta invent the first true battery?
EISENBERG: Oh, nice.
COULTON: That's right. In the aughts of the 1800s - that's right. It was known as the voltaic pile, which is another fantastic rap name - the voltaic pile.
DONWILL: The voltaic - that's the name of the album.
VAN DELFT: I feel like that's a punk band.
COULTON: (Laughter) Yeah, right.
VAN DELFT: Don't you think? (Vocalizing, singing) Voltaic pile.
VAN DELFT: Maybe hardcore.
EISENBERG: So Alessandro Volta - so volts are named after Volta?
COULTON: Yeah, that's right.
COULTON: I know.
EISENBERG: That's how you do that. You got to get famous first.
COULTON: You got to invent a thing.
VAN DELFT: I can't wait for Ophies (ph).
VAN DELFT: What are Ophies going to be?
EISENBERG: Measurements of fatigue.
VAN DELFT: How are you doing? How are you doing today? I'm all right. I mean, I feel like 11 or eight Ophies.
EISENBERG: That sounds perfect.
VAN DELFT: Eleven or eight.
COULTON: Eleven or eight.
VAN DELFT: I can't even say numbers in order.
EISENBERG: Eleven or eight is excellent.
VAN DELFT: My mouth said that without my permission.
DONWILL: That means you are actually at two Ophies.
EISENBERG: That's right. You're at about two or three Ophies.
DONWILL: You're overestimating your Ophies.
COULTON: All right, here's another one.
(Singing) I use you when I need to emphasize titles of books, films and albums. You kind of look like cursive to my eyes. Push the font to the right. Don't you know that you're slanted?
DONWILL: I know it.
VAN DELFT: Let's do it together.
DONWILL: OK, on the count of three - one, two, three - italics?
VAN DELFT: Italics.
COULTON: Italics is correct. That's right.
VAN DELFT: Yes.
COULTON: And the song - did you recognize the song?
DONWILL: I did recognize the song. Did you, Bethany?
VAN DELFT: I sure did.
DONWILL: On the count of three, let's do it again - artist and song.
VAN DELFT: OK, let's do it.
DONWILL: One, two, three - Britney Spears, "Toxic."
VAN DELFT: ...Two, three - (mumbling) Spears - OK.
EISENBERG: Yes. That was good. That was good.
COULTON: And for a bonus point, can you tell me in what century's aughts were italics first used?
DONWILL: I want to go with - I'm going to get specific - late 1700s, early 1800s.
COULTON: Very specific but incorrect.
COULTON: Much earlier in fact.
EISENBERG: I like all the detail, but here's the truth.
COULTON: It was in the 1500s, in the aughts of the 1500s. According to Britannica, italics were first invented by a printer in Venice who wanted to emulate the look of informal handwriting.
VAN DELFT: Wow, OK.
DONWILL: Wow - 1500s?
COULTON: Yeah, 1500s.
DONWILL: They were out here fonting (ph) in 1500s?
VAN DELFT: Out here in these streets fonting it up.
DONWILL: That's crazy. I thought it was just - (laughter).
VAN DELFT: They were like, it's going to be called Leany (ph), and Italo (ph) was like, no, it's Italo. I'm Italo. I made it up. This is called italics.
COULTON: All right, here's another one.
(Singing) Mass is like energy's true brother. They can change into each other, where the lightspeed and you'll be fine in this equation from Einsteina (ph), -steina (ph), -steina, -steina, -ein (ph), -ein, -ein - from Albert Einsteina (ph), -steina, -ein, -ein, -ein.
VAN DELFT: That's RiRi.
COULTON: It is RiRi. That's right.
VAN DELFT: Rihanna. Rihanna.
DONWILL: The song is...
VAN DELFT: "Umbrella."
COULTON: Mmm hmm. And you know what I was singing about?
DONWILL: I want to say energy.
COULTON: It is.
COULTON: Actually, it is Einstein's theory.
VAN DELFT: Theory.
COULTON: Einstein's equation - energy equals - E equals...
DONWILL: MC squared.
COULTON: MC squared - that's right. The theory of special relativity.
VAN DELFT: Yep, the theory of relativity.
EISENBERG: And just so you know, if you would have said general relativity, we would have said no.
VAN DELFT: Oh, I thought you knew that.
COULTON: Totally different theory.
EISENBERG: Yeah, that's 10 years later.
DONWILL: Yeah, that's just who your cousins and aunts and uncles are. Like, that's general relativity.
VAN DELFT: If she's old as an aunt, and she's known your mother more than 30 years, she is an aunt.
EISENBERG: That's right.
DONWILL: True, indeed.
COULTON: Yeah, that's the rule. For a bonus point, in what century's aughts did Albert Einstein first publish the theory of special relativity?
VAN DELFT: Nineteen.
COULTON: 1990s - that's right. Exact year was 1905.
DONWILL: It was just, like, yesterday.
COULTON: All right. All right, this is the last one.
(Singing) It's "Me At The Zoo" or Charlie biting someone's finger. Just upload and watch, yeah, yeah. Thanks to you we all saw "Will It Blend?" and got Rick-Roll'd (ph).
DONWILL: You got a guess?
VAN DELFT: Yes.
VAN DELFT: Kelly Clarkson, "Since U Been Gone." Oh, I'm sorry. You first.
COULTON: No, no. No, no, that's good. Kelly - you're right.
EISENBERG: You got it.
COULTON: Kelly Clarkson, "Since U Been Gone."
DONWILL: Yeah, 'cause I didn't know the song at all. So thank you. Like, I...
DONWILL: Like, I could hear it, but I couldn't place it. But I think it's about YouTube?
COULTON: It is about YouTube. Yeah, that is correct.
DONWILL: When you said Charlie biting the finger, that was when I lost it. I lost it.
EISENBERG: Right. You were brought back to that moment of watching that.
DONWILL: Yeah, I think about that video at least once a week and laugh.
COULTON: For a bonus point, in what century's aughts was the first YouTube video, "Me At The Zoo," uploaded?
DONWILL: I feel like it was 2000s?
COULTON: (Laughter) Yes.
VAN DELFT: Yeah, yeah.
COULTON: It was the 2000s. That is correct.
EISENBERG: Well done. I know. It was - like, for a brief second, you're like, was it?
DONWILL: Oh, God, was it 1900s?
EISENBERG: More with Bethany and Donwill after the break. Plus, from "Better Call Saul" and "The Mandalorian," I'll talk to TV bad guy Giancarlo Esposito. This interview will blow you away. I'm Ophira Eisenberg, and this is ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
COULTON: This is NPR's ASK ME ANOTHER. I'm Jonathan Coulton. Here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.
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