Mo Rocca Vs. The Knitters An offhand comment by panelist Mo Rocca sparks a run-in with a group of ferocious knitters.
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Mo Rocca Vs. The Knitters

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Mo Rocca Vs. The Knitters

Mo Rocca Vs. The Knitters

Mo Rocca Vs. The Knitters

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An offhand comment by panelist Mo Rocca sparks a run-in with a group of ferocious knitters.

CARL KASELL, Host:

From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME! the NPR news quiz. I'm Carl Kasell. And here's your host, at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.

PETER SAGAL, Host:

Thank you, Carl.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Thank you, guys. Thank you so much. Now listen, WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME! - we are sometimes accused of favoritism or bias. Nothing could be further from the truth. On this show, we make fun of everyone, regardless of species or genus. This week, we're going to prove it.

KASELL: On today's show, it's WAIT WAIT's Wild Animal Kingdom: stories from our recent shows about animals - sometimes stories about animals and their humans, sometimes animals doing it for themselves. We're going to begin with a story that started small and went viral. It all began with Paula Poundstone answering a question on a show from February 2009, along with panelists Tom Bodett and Mo Rocca.

SAGAL: Paula, we read this week about an unsung hero, Jo Eglen of Norwich, England. She stood up and called upon the people in her community to help her out. And together, they were able to provide 1,500 sweaters for what purpose?

M: Her to wear.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: No. They weren't for her. It was more selfless than that.

M: To make sweaters?

SAGAL: Yeah.

M: I hate homemade sweaters.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Little sweaters.

M: They were little sweaters.

SAGAL: Yeah.

M: Oh, for cold dogs.

SAGAL: No, not dogs. Apparently...

M: Hamsters?

SAGAL: No.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: That would be cute, though.

M: They would be itchy. Homemade sweaters are always itchy.

SAGAL: No.

M: You know what, if you got a cold hamster, just get it on the wheel.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Yeah, that's true. Get on the wheel. That's true.

M: Say to them when they wake up: I know you're cold now, but once you get up and get on the wheel, you're going to warm right up.

M: Yeah. Don't take a shower first, just get right on the wheel.

M: That's exactly what I say to my son when I wake him up in the morning. I say, I know you're cold and tired now, but once you get up and going - you'll feel better, and then I...

M: Oh, you're not putting him on a wheel.

M: Put him on the wheel. Oh sure, I do.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Here's a hint. Here's a hint, Paula. Apparently...

M: What do you mean? I don't need a hint.

M: Yeah, I guess it's not hamsters.

M: Yeah. Don't talk down to me. What?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Apparently, Sy Sperling's Hair Club for Hens hasn't reached England yet.

M: For bald chickens?

SAGAL: For bald chickens.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Wow. Bald chickens, naturally.

SAGAL: Bald chickens. They don't have many options, of course. Chicken-strength Rogaine is still years away from FDA approval. Thus, they have to depend on the kindness of people like Ms. Eglen. Egg factory chickens, you see, lose their feathers from stress.

M: No, I didn't know that.

SAGAL: It's true. Enter Ms. Eglen and her little Hen Rescue Center. Her sweaters are a huge hit with the birds, not nearly as messy or labor intensive as the feather plugs they had been providing.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: Oh, geez.

SAGAL: And the worst thing is the chickens with the plugs, they'll walk around and they pretend no one can tell. And you know.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SAGAL: Now, if you weren't paying attention, you may have missed Mo's comment about the itchiness of homemade sweaters.

KASELL: As you can imagine, such a slanderous statement about sweaters inspired a backlash, and an apology the very next week.

SAGAL: On last week's show, we stepped into a bit of controversy, thanks to our panelist Mo Rocca. We were talking about a woman who made sweaters for bald chickens - you know, in the way that you do.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: When Mo said - and I quote Mo - ug, I hate homemade sweaters. Homemade sweaters are always itchy. Well, the knitting community was not amused by this.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And they let us know. Mo Rocca joins us now. Mo, you had something you wanted to say?

M: Yes, Peter, I have a prepared statement, and I'd like to read.

SAGAL: Go ahead.

M: Last week, I used insensitive and inflammatory language, including the "I" word, to describe homemade sweaters. I sincerely regret offending anyone, even if there is an explanation. You see, 20 years ago as an exchange student in Quito, I stayed with a host family of alpaca farmers.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: The Garcias were never less than gracious, but their home was small. So I was forced to bunk with their teenaged alpaca, Chucho(ph).

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: And so for months afterwards, I couldn't stop scratching myself.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: None of this makes my recent comments any less offensive, so please accept my apology.

SAGAL: Very gracious, Mo. Now, some of these knitters, particularly from Ravelry.com, the knitting site, they say they're going to prove you wrong by making and sending you a soft, non-itchy sweater.

U: I'd like to have a soft, non-itchy car.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

U: I'd like to have a bald chicken.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: I'd love a sweater. Is it made from alpaca?

SAGAL: I don't know. They haven't said.

U: It's made from that very alpaca.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: They tracked it down. Well, Mo, thank you so much for your gracious apology.

M: No, I thank you for your time, and I'll be happy to model whatever sweater is made with - me with pride.

SAGAL: All right, Mo, we'll see you soon. Thanks for joining us today.

M: Thank you, bye.

SAGAL: Bye-bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

KASELL: And then finally, on a show we did in May of 2009 with Mo, Paula and Adam, a face-to-face confrontation - and a conversion.

SAGAL: Back in February, Mo Rocca did the unforgivable on our show. He insulted homemade sweaters. He said he hated them. He said they were quote, too itchy.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, this caused quite a stir among an online community of knitters at Ravelry.com.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: And I might be - there they are. I might be surprising and scaring Mo when I say, they are here right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: I can feel their needles.

SAGAL: There are knitters in the house. And they're here, and we understand they've actually brought you some gifts they made.

M: Well, that's very flattering. It's so great. I'll make sure to insult the makers of BMW next week.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: So after the show, after the show is over, we're going to take some photos of Mo modeling his new, homemade knitwear.

M: Oh, great.

SAGAL: And we're going to post it to our website.

M: For premium members only.

SAGAL: Yes, of course.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: You know what I hate? Zenya suits.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I hate real estate.

M: Yeah?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I hate large, valuable tracts of coastal land.

M: You know what really burns me up?

SAGAL: What burns you up?

M: Those bricks of gold.

M: Yeah.

SAGAL: Yes, exactly.

M: Gold bricks, they're so uncomfortable.

M: Yeah, I...

M: Who can spend those?

M: I really hate the bailout.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Photos of Mo modeling the sweater can be found at our website, waitwait.npr.org.

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