PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where we ask really important people to waste their time on unimportant things.
SAGAL: One of the most popular Democratic candidates of the 2018 election cycle was Stacey Abrams of Georgia.
SAGAL: She ran against Georgia's secretary of state, who oversees elections. It's a little bit like playing a baseball game against the umpires.
SAGAL: She narrowly lost the race for governor, but that has not kept her off the national stage - most recently, giving the Democratic response to the State of the Union address. And now she's here. Stacey Abrams, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
STACEY ABRAMS: Thank you. Thank you so much.
ABRAMS: And welcome to Georgia.
SAGAL: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here. We didn't know that everybody comes to Georgia gets to meet you. If I'd known, we should start by saying you've been - you've presumably been listening from off stage. Do you have a response to the first half of our show?
ABRAMS: I do, but it requires a teleprompter, a fake nongreen screen and union hall.
SAGAL: All right. All right.
SAGAL: I really want to find out about the process of giving the State of the Union response. But first of all, you must know that that is a cursed job, right?
SAGAL: Right. So...
ABRAMS: I don't have a job right now, so I was free.
SAGAL: That's true.
SAGAL: But whenever anybody mentions the response to the State of the Union - it doesn't matter what party - people say, oh, yeah, Bobby Jindal looked like a baby. And Marco Rubio with the water and the Democrat with the lips. And so you - how did you say - how did you plan that you would not end up on that list?
ABRAMS: I drank a lot of water early.
ABRAMS: I used a low gloss but very moisturizing lipstick.
ABRAMS: And I prayed really hard.
SAGAL: Did you - it's technically called a response.
SAGAL: Did you think at all about what you anticipated President Trump might say, so you could respond to it?
ABRAMS: I would put it this way - I have heard him speak before.
ABRAMS: I assumed it would be some combination of demagoguery, self-aggrandizement, two lines about something nice that he would three lines later overrule.
PETER GROSZ: Did you know that it would rhyme?
ABRAMS: You know what? That I missed. And, you know, I feel sorry for whoever thought that was the right way to go.
SAGAL: Another big question for the State of the Union response is where you're going to do it and what the background is - people have tried various things. You went for it - it was a union hall, you say?
SAGAL: And behind you had all these people. But it was also true that, unusually, they were all blurred out. So you were, like, looking at us, speaking to us. And there were these blurry figures behind you. And I was, like, oh, those are the ghosts that are haunting Ms. Abrams...
SAGAL: ...Until she completes for them the tasks they left undone in life.
ABRAMS: Those were the ghosts of votes uncounted.
SAGAL: There we go.
MO ROCCA: Can I ask you a question? Have we met before? Because...
GROSZ: ...I went to theater camp with at least three girls named Stacey Abrams.
ABRAMS: It's entirely possible.
ABRAMS: Were you at my bat mitzvah?
SAGAL: So everybody knows you for your 2018 gubernatorial campaign here in Georgia. But what people may not know is that you have this completely different career writing romance novels. Can you tell us about that?
ABRAMS: So I had this very bad breakup with one of my boyfriends. He is a chemical physicist. He's a wonderful person. We're friends now. I read his dissertation when I was in law school on microzeolite (ph) technology - anyway, nobody cares.
ROCCA: For that alone - oh, my God.
ABRAMS: It was actually really interesting.
ABRAMS: And so I thought, oh, this thing he discovered - I was, like, you could incorporate it and create this chemical weapon that could be discovered by this chemical physicist. And I told him about it. And he was, like, that could never happen. I was like, this is why we broke up. You have no imagination.
ABRAMS: So in law school, I decided to write two things. I wrote a very exciting treatise on the operational dissonance of the unrelated business income tax exemption.
ABRAMS: And then I wrote "Rules Of Engagement," which is a romantic suspense novel. So I technically write romantic suspense. I kill a lot of people. And then those who survive can fall in love.
SAGAL: Oh, really?
ABRAMS: And then "Rules Of Engagement" - my ex-boyfriend in the genesis of the story languishes in prison for the rest of his natural life.
SAGAL: Stacey Abrams, it is such a pleasure to talk to you. We have invited you here to play a game we're calling...
BILL KURTIS: It's a fond (ph) bromance.
SAGAL: ...So we've established that you are a successful writer of romances, but what do you know about bromance?
SAGAL: Bromance, the love that dare not speak its name but instead shouts it at frat parties.
SAGAL: We're going to ask you three questions about bromances. Get two right - you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, the voice of anyone they like giving a response on their voicemail. Bill, who is Stacey Abrams playing for?
KURTIS: Eli Irvin (ph) of Pooler, Ga.
SAGAL: There you go.
SAGAL: All right. Ready to do this?
ABRAMS: I am.
SAGAL: Here's your first question. Bromances go way back. Which of these is a real example of a historical bromance? A, St. Augustine used to invite his best pal Olympias to hang out in an actual cave with him in the mountains, which he called our beloved man cave.
SAGAL: B, in the early 1800s, composer Franz Schubert was such close friends with poet Franz von Schober that he referred to themselves together as Schobert.
SAGAL: Or C, although it was edited out of many Bibles, there's one paragraph in the book of Genesis about Adam and his friend Jeff.
ABRAMS: I'm going to go with A.
SAGAL: You're going to go with St. Augustine?
ABRAMS: I'm going to go with St. Augustine.
SAGAL: Invented the man cave.
ABRAMS: He did so much for the world.
SAGAL: He did.
ABRAMS: But because I listen to the audience...
GROSZ: Listen to the people.
ABRAMS: The people believe the answer is B. And therefore, I will throw myself on their mercy and blame them if I lose again.
SAGAL: All right. They're right this time.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: All right. One of the most famous bromances is, of course, is between Bert and Ernie on "Sesame Street."
SAGAL: We all know about the rumors that they're gay. They're not gay. They don't exist from the waist down.
ROCCA: You can still make it work.
SAGAL: There is another rumor that haunted Bert and Ernie for at least a decade. What was it? A, that they were a hot dog and hamburger brought to life by a wizard.
SAGAL: B, that they were intended to be a sly parody when they were invented of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew.
SAGAL: Or C, that Bert was secretly dead.
ABRAMS: That got dark really fast.
SAGAL: It did - yeah.
ABRAMS: I feel like B is the answer.
SAGAL: I'm going to give you a hint. The hint is that this rumor was most prevalent in the '90s.
GROSZ: Maybe it is A?
ABRAMS: I think it's C.
SAGAL: You think it's C?
ABRAMS: I think it's C because we were really dark in the 90s.
SAGAL: She's right. It was C.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: It was exactly like the whole Beatles thing. There was, like, a conspiracy theory. You can tell he's dead because X, Y and Z. But no, he's not dead. He was never alive.
SAGAL: Last question. The bromance between Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce started in Paris in the 1920s, of course. Joyce and Hemingway would often go to bars together. And their nights usually ended when which of these happened? A, Joyce would get really drunk, start spouting gibberish. And Hemingway would write it down, eventually creating "Finnegans Wake."
SAGAL: B, Joyce would get really drunk, pick fights and then hide behind Hemingway screaming, deal with him, Hemingway. Deal with him.
SAGAL: Or C, Hemingway would get really drunk and then eventually try to pick up Joyce, saying, come on, so what if you have a mustache. Joyce is a woman's name, right?
ABRAMS: I don't think it's the first one. I don't think Hemingway shared. So I don't think the last one. So I think by the process of elimination, it has to be B.
SAGAL: You're right. That's what it was.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: So, Bill, how did Stacey Abrams do in this little contest?
KURTIS: She won this one.
SAGAL: Stacey Abrams is the founder of Fair Fight Action, the author of "Minority Leader." More information can be found at fairfightaction.com. Stacey Abrams, thank you so much.
ABRAMS: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OUR ROMANCE")
CLYDIE KING: (Singing) Can't you understand I'm trying to romance with you?
SAGAL: In just a minute, we all get greasy fingers in our Listener Limerick Challenge. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT 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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