BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. We're playing this week with Brian Babylon, Hari Kondabolu and Paula Poundstone. And here again is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
Thank you, Bill.
SAGAL: Right now, it's time for the WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play our game on the air.
Hi, you are on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
PHOEBE HOPPS: Hi. My name is Phoebe Hopps.
SAGAL: Hey, Phoebe. Where are you calling from?
HOPPS: I'm across the lake in Traverse City, Mich.
SAGAL: Traverse City.
SAGAL: Clearly, we have some Traversians here who've traversed the way.
SAGAL: I've been up there. It's remarkably beautiful in that neck of the woods, quite literally.
HOPPS: It's beautiful - cherry capital of the U.S.
SAGAL: Did you - do you like cherries?
HOPPS: Eh, I do. They're OK.
SAGAL: Well, welcome to our show, Phoebe. You're going to play the game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what is Phoebe's topic?
KURTIS: You know what's not cool? Five thousand dollars.
SAGAL: There's not a lot you can do for just $5,000 - buy a cheap used car, 1,000 footlong sandwiches from Subway or one bag of groceries from Whole Foods.
SAGAL: But this week, we read about someone doing something extraordinary for just five grand. Our panel is going to tell you about it. Pick the one who's telling the truth, and you'll win our prize - the WAIT WAIT-er of your choice on your voicemail. You ready to play?
HOPPS: Yes, absolutely.
SAGAL: All right. First, let's hear from Paula Poundstone.
PAULA POUNDSTONE: The knock against Tesla is that they only make cars for the uber-rich, not the Uber driver. That's been absolutely true until now. Elon Musk has created a car that will retail brand-new for $5,000. The body of the car is made of pounded soda cans.
POUNDSTONE: It is remarkably light. And the advertising potential for the beverage companies may even further lower the overall cost of these unique vehicles. The cars have no temperature controls. The seats do not move. There are no computer components. There is no phone charger. There is no radio or sound system. Musk laughingly suggests that this Tesla should be the real Hummer because if the driver wants music, they'll have to hum.
POUNDSTONE: He says that maybe these drivers will return to the practice of deep thought while they drive or even the practice of thinking about driving.
POUNDSTONE: The car seats only one. So although it is not a family car, it is a car for someone who has spent a lot of time with their family.
POUNDSTONE: The majority of the interior of the car is storage for the large containers of vinegar and baking soda that power it.
POUNDSTONE: The company says they don't expect to sell a lot of the $5,000 cars, but that's not the point. The point is to shut up all the people complaining about how much their other cars cost.
SAGAL: Tesla comes out with $5,000 model powered by vinegar and baking soda. Your next story of a miracle being done with just $5,000 comes from Brian Babylon.
BRIAN BABYLON: Gentrification can mean improvements in the neighborhood, bringing money and services, although it often forces out longtime residents and replaces them with public radio listeners. Andrew Johnson (ph) saw it happening in his neighborhood of Bronzeville in Chicago. He owned his building but had to find a way to make a living off his new neighbors with very little money to do it. On the day after Christmas last year, Johnson, by chance, played a scratch-off lotto ticket and actually won $5,000. And later that night, his son came over with his white girlfriend. He asked, what do you and your friends like? The answer - goat yoga and late-night ramen restaurants. He didn't know where to get a goat or to do yoga, but he knew where to find some ramen. A quick trip to Costco for three crates of the stuff at 6 cents a unit, plus two big soup pots, and welcome to the hottest ramen spot on Martin Luther King Drive, Community Coin Ramen. It's been recommended by Oprah and that brought in new part-owner, comedian and actor Hannibal Burress and his signature cheddar fire ramen - that's a 25 cent bag of Flamin' Hot Cheetos crushed on a 6-cent ramen.
BABYLON: And that is sold for $11 a bowl.
BABYLON: With a BYOB policy and at 3 am closing time, it's now one of Bronzeville's hottest spots. The trick, Johnson says, is to be patient. Eventually, they'll get drunk enough and just show up here.
SAGAL: Five thousand dollars...
SAGAL: ...And a lot of 6-cent ramen leads to a successful restaurant in Chicago. Your last story of someone coming in under budget comes from Hari Kondabolu.
HARI KONDABOLU: Most people go to high school plays bracing themselves to see yet another production of "Death Of A Salesman" with a pimply Willy Loman or a fully clothed version of "Hair" or, God forbid, an all-white "Raisin In The Sun."
KONDABOLU: But audience members at North Bergen High School were amazed and surprised to see a stage version of the 1979 science fiction horror movie "Alien" with spaceships, spacesuits, one facehugger and a very scary full-grown Xenomorph all done for just $5,000, or the cost of 10 laptops for poorer students.
KONDABOLU: Originally, the school had planned to do "Romeo And Juliet," but students felt the play about teenagers being overly emotional and overreacting to being told no just didn't seem realistic.
KONDABOLU: So they went with "Alien."
KONDABOLU: The film about a space crew that is forced to fight a terrifying, sharp-toothed extraterrestrial was adapted for the stage and directed by English teacher Perfecto Cuervo and was designed by fellow teacher Steven Defendini. Their names clearly indicate that they are both in the Witness Protection Program.
KONDABOLU: The fact such a production could cost only $5,000 dollars is a testament to some ingenuity and hard work, especially given that everything was made with recycled materials. The play went viral, and the response has been incredible. Patton Oswalt, who saw a clip of the play, tweeted, this blows my high school's adaptation of "Pink Flamingos" out of the water. The students are anxiously awaiting the review in their school paper, which will almost certainly say, quote, "the play was lit or whatever, but don't forget they're all still nerds."
SAGAL: So one of these things...
SAGAL: ...Costs only $5,000. Was it from Paula Poundstone - a low-end model of a Tesla that runs not on battery power but on baking soda and vinegar? From Brian Babylon - a ramen restaurant opened for only $5,000 because, really, that's what ramen costs? Or, from Hari Kondabolu - $5,000 pays for a high-school production of a dramatic adaptation of the movie "Alien." Which of these is the real story of frugality in the news this week?
HOPPS: Oh, man. I'm going to go with number three, "Alien."
SAGAL: Right. You're going to choose "Alien."
SAGAL: Apparently, everybody in the audience is fans of that, as well. Well, we spoke to somebody who was deeply involved in this remarkable project.
BRIAN BONACCI: Hard to convey an alien popped out of someone's chest on a small budget with high-school kids, but it kind of worked.
SAGAL: That was Brian Bonacci. He's the technical and lighting director for the North Bergen High School production of "Alien." I've never been prouder to come from New Jersey than this very moment.
SAGAL: And if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend finding online the videos taken of this production. It's arguably better than the movie.
SAGAL: But meanwhile, congratulations, Phoebe. You got it right.
SAGAL: You earned a point for Hari. You've won our prize - the voice of your choice on your voicemail. Very good. Thank you so much for playing.
HOPPS: Thank you so much.
SAGAL: All right. Bye-Bye, and send cherries.
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