SB8 and the Supreme Court; Plus Jo Firestone's 'Good Timing' : It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders Sam talks to Slate staff writer Mark Joseph Stern about the Supreme Court hearing challenges to the Texas abortion law and what it all means for Roe v. Wade. Plus, comedian Jo Firestone and her student Nicki Cochrane talk about their new comedy special, Good Timing with Jo Firestone. They also play Who Said That?

New threats to Roe v. Wade; Plus, Jo Firestone's 'Good Timing'

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So the last time we talked, I believe you were going on vacation and were hoping to get some time away from your job. Have you been able to have a little space and freedom from the court at all?

MARK JOSEPH STERN: No, absolutely not because the court has begun to issue these decisions late at night and on weekends that we call shadow docket orders. And it's like they aren't even thinking about my need for self-care. I'm really offended.

SANDERS: (Laughter).


AUNT BETTY, BYLINE: Hey, y'all. This is Sam's Aunt Betty. This week on the show, the new challenges to Roe v. Wade. All right. Let's start the show.


SANDERS: You're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Sam Sanders, and we are talking SCOTUS this week. It's been a big week for the Supreme Court, in large part because they heard oral arguments for two cases that concern a Texas abortion law called SB 8.


JOHN ROBERTS: We'll hear argument next in case 21-588, United States v. Texas.

ELIZABETH PRELOGAR: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the court, Texas designed SB 8 to thwart the supremacy of federal law in open defiance of our constitutional structure.

SANDERS: This law and these cases and all the potential ramifications - it's got a lot of people wondering about the future of Roe v. Wade. But some court watchers say SB 8 isn't the biggest threat to Roe. A bigger challenge is coming soon. To make sense of that looming fight and the current challenges to SB 8, I called up Mark Joseph Stern. He relentlessly covers the court for Slate.


SANDERS: Let's talk about SB 8. This is the very controversial Texas abortion law. Before we talk about the two challenges to this law that the Supreme Court is currently hearing, let's define what exactly SB 8 does in Texas.

STERN: SB 8 bans abortions after six weeks, and it does so in a unusual way. So instead of just saying no abortions allowed, anyone who performs them will be prosecuted, SB 8 empowers random people - private individuals - to file civil lawsuits against abortion providers, as well as anyone who aids or abets an abortion provider, and collect a minimum of $10,000 from them for performing an illegal abortion.

SANDERS: A bounty?

STERN: Yes, a bounty. That's right. That is a term, notably, that Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Chief Justice John Roberts use during oral arguments - a pretty loaded one, but one I think is correct because this law really puts a bounty on the heads of every abortion provider in Texas, as well as anyone who tries to help someone get an abortion - a friend who drives you to the clinic, a family member who helps to pay. All those people are liable to suit under SB 8.

SANDERS: When I read into it, it seems that part of the reason that private citizens are allowed to sue over abortions in this law is because that supposedly allows Texas to kind of use a loophole to challenge a right that is supposed to be enshrined federally.

STERN: Right. So Texas has passed a ton of abortion restrictions before, and a lot of them have been blocked by federal courts. And what happens is reproductive health care providers walk into a federal court, they file a lawsuit against the governor or the attorney general or state health officials, and they say, hey, federal judge, you need to issue a decision that blocks these state officials from enforcing this unconstitutional law. And they do. Here, there is no state official to sue because the attorney general's not enforcing the law. State health officials aren't enforcing the law. It's random private bounty hunters who are enforcing the law.

SANDERS: Huh. All right. So when SB 8 was first an issue for SCOTUS, they kind of said, meh (ph), we don't know. We can't do anything. But now they are hearing two cases that could challenge or block the law. What are these cases saying?

STERN: Yeah. So there's two different lawsuits here. One of them is brought by abortion providers, and one of them is brought by the Justice Department. And they're saying two different things, but they're fairly similar.

So the abortion providers are basically just asking for permission to sue Texas state court judges and clerks because remember, they can't sue the normal folks who would enforce this law. So they say, look, SCOTUS, do not let Texas get away with this loophole around your authority. Let us file this lawsuit against the state courts that are tasked with actually carrying out SB 8. The courts that would be hearing these cases, that would be issuing these $10,000 rewards - just let us sue them because we have to be able to sue somebody.

And the Department of Justice is saying something very similar. They're saying, let's just sue the state of Texas and everyone tasked with enforcing Texas law. And allow us to bring this suit so that we can say, look, you are violating constitutional rights, Texas. We are the government of the United States. We have an interest in protecting those rights. So we get an opportunity, under the Constitution, to file this suit and have our day in court.

SANDERS: So what changed between now, when the court is hearing these challenges, and a few months ago, when the Supreme Court allowed this law to stand? The law has not changed. What changed with SCOTUS?

STERN: So you know how the justices like to go on these publicity tours and claim that they never take public opinion into account? I am here to tell you that that is a bunch of garbage.


STERN: And what has changed in the two months between the first order saying, eh, we can't do anything, and these oral arguments is that there has been a massive and sustained outcry not just by the public, but also by Democratic members of Congress and by the legal community over the court's actions - or rather inaction - in this case. You know, this is such a blatant affront to the authority of the federal judiciary to protect constitutional rights. Today it's abortion, but tomorrow it could be guns.

SANDERS: And that's what Kavanaugh was saying. He basically said, this law might let people go too far. And his hypothetical was, well, if Texas allows citizens to sue over abortions, what's to keep a state like - I don't know - New York or California allowing its citizens to sue over guns?


BRETT KAVANAUGH: The amicus brief of the Firearms Policy Coalition says, quote, "this will easily become the model for suppression of other constitutional rights, with Second Amendment rights being the most likely targets."

SANDERS: What did you make of hearing someone like Kavanaugh say something like that?

STERN: I thought it was a reflection of a brilliant litigation strategy on behalf of the plaintiffs and the Department of Justice. Look; it doesn't take much imagination to envision a state like New York running with this idea but deciding to nullify constitutional rights that Republicans tend to like - for instance, the right to bear arms. And the whole game throughout this case has been trying to open the eyes of the conservative justices to this possibility, to make them see that this isn't just about abortion; it is about the authority of the Supreme Court.

SANDERS: Yeah. You know, we've mentioned a few of the justices so far, but I want to talk big-picture kind of where they all stand right now. In one of your pieces about this case and its challenges, you've said that there is a 3-3-3 split in the court right now, with the justices kind of in three camps. What are the camps, and who's in what bucket?

STERN: So there's the liberal camp, which is Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer. There is the hard right camp, which is Clarence Thomas, Sam Alito, Neil Gorsuch. And then there's this kind of squishy middle camp - John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett. Now, don't get me wrong. Those three justices are really conservative. Like, they are historically very far to the right. But they also reflect a pretty deep concern about the legitimacy of the court, about public perceptions of the court and about the court's authority. This is something that Roberts has said; I don't want to be the chief justice who presided over the disintegration of the Supreme Court.

And so in these big cases that are very divisive and very controversial, they are keeping an eye on public opinion. They are seeing those polls, those favorability ratings slide down. And they are looking for ways to strike a compromise that still keeps the law pretty far to the right but doesn't set the court's reputation on fire and doesn't make it look like they're just total partisans in robes.

SANDERS: There's a good chance that the court's going to issue some rulings around this and other stuff that makes liberals and conservatives mad. And we are in such a polarized climate politically. Do these folks really care? They have lifetime appointments. What does it really matter to them what we think of their rulings?

STERN: Well, if we look big-picture here, I think the problem is that the Supreme Court does not have an army to go enforce its decisions. The Supreme Court has a police force with a one-block jurisdiction. Where the sidewalk in front of the court begins, the Supreme Court Police's power ends. And so they can't...

SANDERS: Wait, stop. Pause right there. Pause right there. Just sidebar - did not know that SCOTUS has their own little police force, but just for a block.


SANDERS: Oh, my goodness. What are their uniforms like? I hope they have the little frilly things.

STERN: They just look like normal police officers. No, they don't have frilly hats. They don't look like the Vatican guards, which is what I really wish they looked like.

SANDERS: (Laughter) Yeah, yeah.

STERN: So they can't send their officers to, like, go to the California state Legislature or go into Congress and force lawmakers to abide by their decisions. The Supreme Court's power rests on a kind of magic. It's like the Tinkerbell effect. We believe their power exists, and so it exists. And if we stopped believing it exists, it might kind of disappear. And that has happened at points throughout American history, famously with Andrew Jackson and Indian removal. Like, the federal government has ignored the Supreme Court before, and there's nothing the justices can do about it.

And so I think that looking down the road, I mean, yes, they have life tenure. They're still going to be on the bench in the 2050s, maybe even the 2060s. Times change. The country changes. And they can all envision a future in which the court issues its decisions and everybody laughs and nobody abides by them. And they don't want to be the ones responsible for that. So they aren't necessarily going to push the court as far to the right as possible if that means provoking a huge public backlash. And I think that's probably wise on their part because it's kind of like boiling the frog. As long as they just nudge to the right, Democrats aren't going to rebel. They're going to retain their power, and they're still going to get most of what they want at the end of the day.

SANDERS: Based on the questions coming from the justices this week during oral arguments, what are you, as a Supreme Court reporter, expecting?

STERN: So I think that there is a majority to allow a lawsuit against SB 8 to move forward and allow the lower courts to block this law. It seems like Roberts, Barrett and Kavanaugh are deeply troubled by the precedent it would set if they let Texas just insulate this law from federal judicial review. The big question is, will it matter at the end of the day because in one month, the court's going to hear a challenge to Roe v. Wade itself, with none of...


STERN: ...These weird, convoluted problems, with none of this kind of, like, backdoor loophole stuff. It's just going to be, should we overturn Roe? And if the court overturns Roe, SB 8's not going to matter anymore because Texas already passed a trigger law that bans abortion at the moment Roe falls. So I think the news is good for those of us who believe in federal review of constitutional rights. But for those of us who believe in the constitutional right to abortion, the news is much more mixed.

SANDERS: And this new bill that they're going to consider, that one comes from Mississippi. What should we know about that law and challenges to it?

STERN: This is a challenge to Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban. And you might think, like, well, 15 weeks - what's so bad about that? Lots of other countries restrict abortion around that time. The answer is that it's really a challenge to the fundamental rule of Roe v. Wade that's been around for nearly 50 years, which is that a state cannot pass an absolute ban on abortion before viability, which occurs around 24 weeks.

So there's a possibility that the court could just move that line back to 15 weeks and say, OK, well, you know, we're moving it from 24 weeks to 15 weeks, and that's the end of that. But there is also a possibility that the court could simply abolish the framework that's been in effect for 50 years altogether and say - you know what? - we aren't dealing with this abortion stuff anymore. We don't think there's any right to abortion, period. So 15 weeks is fine, 12 weeks is fine, six weeks is fine, zero weeks is fine. We will let states do whatever they want and clear the field and get out of the abortion business altogether.

SANDERS: Mark Joseph Stern, you always make it so plain. Come back and talk with us very soon, sir, please.

STERN: Anytime, Sam. Anytime for you.

SANDERS: Thanks again to Mark Joseph Stern. You can find his work on or on Twitter. He's @mjs_DC.

All right, coming up, we talk to Jo Firestone and Nicki Cochrane. They are two of the stars of a new Peacock comedy special where all the comics are seniors. They'll tell me how it came together, and we'll also play Who Said That. Stay with us.


SANDERS: My next two guests recently released a comedy special. One of them has been doing comedy for a very long time and doing press interviews for a very long time as well. The other - not so much.

Did you ever expect that one day you'd be doing an NPR interview to talk about your stand-up comedy career?

NICKI COCHRANE: It's my dream come true. I'm honored and thrilled to be. I mean, I can't believe Jo, out of the entire class, picked me as a guest. She could've picked anybody in the class. By the way, I have the highest esteem for Jo. All the other Zoom teachers criticize and censor me, but not Jo.


COCHRANE: She doesn't know the meaning of those terms.

SANDERS: All right. That's Nicki Cochrane. She's one of the seniors featured in a new comedy special on Peacock. The special's called "Good Timing." Comedian Jo Firestone put the whole thing together, and she says Nicki was perfect for this interview and perfect for the special because, well, they're different.

FIRESTONE: So there's this one point in the special where everybody goes around and says what they think about as, like, an exercise to generate material. And, you know, people are going around saying, like, I think about my diet apps, I think about, like, where I left this - my keys or whatever. And then Nicki comes in, and she talks about how she thinks about the impending end of the world and how everything's just horrible.


COCHRANE: Every day, I lose all hope for mankind.


COCHRANE: Every day, I wonder when the world as we know it will end (laughter).

FIRESTONE: Thank you, Nicki. Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Quite uplifting.

FIRESTONE: And I don't think that anyone was expecting that, and it provided such a fun and interesting perspective that nobody else had.

SANDERS: So this whole special came out of an intro comedy class that Jo taught for seniors in Greenwich, N.Y. And in the special, you don't just see all the seniors tell their jokes in front of an audience. You also see what Jo did to get them ready.


FIRESTONE: I'm just going to say words, and you just say whether it's funny or not funny in - by itself, OK? Ready? Pumpkins.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: I don't think so.

FIRESTONE: Pumpkins are not funny.


FIRESTONE: Pumpkins are neutral.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Neutral, yeah.

FIRESTONE: OK, what about ghosts?





UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: Oh, the greatest of all time.

FIRESTONE: No, don't (laughter) - ghosts.


FIRESTONE: No, ghosts.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #10: Goats are funny.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #11: Honey, have you seen my goat?

FIRESTONE: OK, how about milk? Is milk funny?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #12: Milk is white.

SANDERS: The whole thing is just really endearing. I talked with Jo and Nicki earlier this week about that special and comedy and finding room to laugh, no matter your age. And when we talked, Nicki could just not stop singing Jo's praises.

COCHRANE: You know, first of all, I never imagined - and Jo is the only person capable of getting even a stone to get up and do comedy. I mean, she gives you the courage just to do it. I never thought I would ever get up in front of a live audience and do my own material, and I owe it all to her.


COCHRANE: And I just think she's the greatest individual...


COCHRANE: ...I've known because she's so devoid of normal human frailty.


SANDERS: Wow. Wow. OK. Jo, what say you to that?

FIRESTONE: (Laughter).

SANDERS: My goodness.

FIRESTONE: Devoid of all human frailty.

COCHRANE: No frailty.

SANDERS: She's basically saying you're Iron Man.

FIRESTONE: Wow, Iron Man.

SANDERS: You're Wolverine.

FIRESTONE: Thank you.

SANDERS: You're a superhero. How does it feel hearing that?

FIRESTONE: I mean, it's incredible. I do think that Nicki is somewhat of a, you know, a linguist. You know, they're going to obviously paint a very nice picture of me. Nicki, thank you. I don't know how we would've crossed paths without this comedy workshop, so I'm glad for that.

SANDERS: Yeah. So those classes teaching senior citizens comedy - I'm guessing it began in person, but eventually it became Zoom only because of the pandemic. So then, Jo, what was it like to make the transition to teaching comedy on Zoom? I mean, I have watched my friends take improv classes. It seems very physical when in person, or at least it leans towards that, no?

FIRESTONE: Well, I don't think I'm really teaching anything per se. It's more like "Hollywood Squares" or, like, some kind of panel show where, basically, I just come up with a prompt, and then just everybody pitches in jokes. It's kind of like a writer's room. And there's, like, these fun kind of inside jokes now 'cause we've been doing it for so long.


FIRESTONE: Like, I'd say, once a week, somebody makes a joke about the naked cowboy. There's a lot of sex jokes and a lot of jokes about Trump - well, not so much anymore, but, you know...


FIRESTONE: ...Everyone's very different. But it's kind of fun to see a voice coalesce.

SANDERS: So then, Nicki, when you hear that the team of folks taking this class are going to do a special for TV and you could be a part of it, what was your first reaction?

COCHRANE: I was thrilled and excited, but what Jo forgot to mention is before this achievement, she made us all write love letters to body parts. And then we performed the show at Littlefield, which is a fabulous venue in Gowanus in Brooklyn.

SANDERS: Really?

COCHRANE: And we had to recite what we wrote about our favorite body part.

SANDERS: Can you recall yours? Can you tell me? 'Cause I want to hear that.

COCHRANE: Mine was nose. I wrote a letter to my nose.


COCHRANE: Good evening.

My dear nose, without your help, it would be impossible to breathe or to participate in the various new-age exercise classes, which emphasize the importance of selecting the right nostril to inhale or exhale and the dire consequences...

SANDERS: I like it. I like it. So then let's flash forward to the taping of this special that is now on Peacock. Nicki, in the runup to it, getting ready for it, what was your emotional state? I would be really, really deathly nervous.

COCHRANE: Well, I expected to be very nervous, but I was amazed because it's the first time I've ever appeared in front of a live audience because Littlefield was on Zoom. And when I got up onstage, I felt completely at ease, which I was astonished because I thought I would be terribly nervous. But I wasn't at all. What made me nervous was getting ready for today. That's the first time I've ever been nervous.

SANDERS: Oh. Oh, my goodness. You know, I was really intrigued by the way most of the comics - I think - well, actually, all of the comics onstage in the special, all of the seniors, they really weren't concerned if they were getting laughs or not. There wasn't too much self-consciousness going on. You know, at one point, there's a moment in the special where one of the senior comedians falls over while trying to, like, show a prop. But she doesn't get discouraged. She keeps rolling with it.


BIBI: Well, I'll finish down here. That's fine.


BIBI: Two days after the surgery.

SANDERS: And there was just this air of not just resilience, but, like, no putting on any airs that I liked a lot. And I wonder, is that a senior thing? 'Cause I'm not sure that younger people would be as comfortable in their own skin and as resilient as the folks were on that stage when I watched the special.

FIRESTONE: Well, we've been doing this class throughout probably the worst time to be a senior. You know, this pandemic's been just terrible for seniors. And so the fact that they're even in a comedy class shows so much resilience, you know? And, Nicki, I'm sure you could speak to this more. For that woman in particular, Bibi (ph), when she fell, she told me that - 'cause I told her she only had four minutes to do her set. And so she was saying, well, I'm not going to waste one full minute getting up. I'm just going to keep doing my set from down here.

SANDERS: (Laughter) Yeah. And she did, and she did.

COCHRANE: You know, Bibi is in my Spanish class. And I brought it to everyone's attention how brave she was, how commendable her performance was. We've become friends as a result.

SANDERS: Yeah. Nicki, can you give our listeners any advice for aspiring stand-up comedians now that you are a stand-up comedian with their own comedy special?

COCHRANE: Well, the mistake that most comics make - A, they recycle the same material over and over again. You have to come up with fresh, original material. And secondly, they shouldn't talk about certain topics, for example, their personal genitalia or their personal family. You know, my favorite form of comedy is observational humor.


COCHRANE: People like Mort Sahl and John Oliver and Trevor Noah and people like that, they don't sink to this lowest pandering kind of subject matter.


COCHRANE: And I think we should have intellectual comedy that can still be very funny and accurate in terms of reflecting the state of society today.

SANDERS: Yeah. Did you learn anything about yourself, Nicki, in the process of taking these comedy classes and doing the special? Did you surprise yourself at all?

COCHRANE: Well, I learned that I was capable of doing things that I never imagined myself being capable of doing. And now, there's no more boundaries for me.

SANDERS: I love that. Jo, what did you learn from this process working with your seniors and doing the special? Anything new you learned about yourself or life or comedy, whatever?

FIRESTONE: I guess, you know, if you're going to do a comedy special by yourself or do it with 16 senior citizens, I think the way to go is 16 senior citizens. It was, like, so fun to see people succeed. And if you have the choice, I recommend choosing the 16.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think what I learned watching this special and talking with you both is kind of a bit of a reminder, like, everyone deserves a good laugh - everybody. It's good for the soul. We need more of it.


SANDERS: If you both stick around with me, we're going to take a break and come back and then play a game together. If that's all right with you both.


COCHRANE: I would love that.


SANDERS: You're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Sam Sanders, joined for this next segment by two comedians. Both of you introduce yourselves.

FIRESTONE: I'm Jo Firestone.

COCHRANE: Nicki Cochrane, but I don't call myself a comedian.

SANDERS: Now, Nicki, you have a comedy special on TV that anybody can watch. I would say at that point, you're a comedian.

COCHRANE: But I don't think anything that I said on that program is funny.

SANDERS: Oh, now, now, now. I think Jo and I would both disagree.

FIRESTONE: Yeah, I disagree.

SANDERS: Anyhoo, listeners judge for yourselves, watch the special. It is on Peacock right now. But with that, I want the both of you to play a pretty funny game with me. Every week on the show, we play a game called Who Said That?


KANDI BURRUSS: Who had been saying that?

PORSHA WILLIAMS: Who said that?

KENYA MOORE: Who said that?

SANDERS: And it's really simple. I share three quotes from the week of news, and you have to guess who said it. I'll give you a lot of hints. It's very low stakes. And you just yell the answer at once you think you have it. There are no buzzers. Just call it out. And there's also no prizes because it's public radio and we're broke.

FIRESTONE: (Laughter).

SANDERS: All right. You ready?



SANDERS: OK. So, Jo and Nicki, I will say the quote and then you just guess who said it. Here's the first quote - "whatever I wear, I will be serving painful Italian glamor from within." It's a famous pop star who's going to be in a film soon that requires her to wear Italian clothing.

FIRESTONE: OK, I'm going to go with Lady Gaga.


SANDERS: Nicki, you have an answer?

COCHRANE: I - this is an arena totally alien to me. I don't follow social media. I don't follow fashion. So this is, like, foreign territory to me.


COCHRANE: I wouldn't even recognize the name if you told me.

FIRESTONE: Maybe you could say Cher.


FIRESTONE: Maybe you could say Britney Spears as your answer.

COCHRANE: Well, I was only interested in her case because of the injustice part of it. So...

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.

COCHRANE: ...I did follow that - hopefully - but she's liberated.

SANDERS: But I will say, it's not Britney Spears.

FIRESTONE: (Laughter) OK.

SANDERS: Actually...


SANDERS: ...Jo got it right on the first try. The answer...


SANDERS: ...Is Lady Gaga.

FIRESTONE: OK, we're going to play as a team. Me and Nicki are going to be a team.

SANDERS: So this quote came from Lady Gaga. She was talking to British Vogue about a new film that she's working on called "House Of Gucci." And in the movie, she is playing Patrizia Reggiani. This is the ex-wife of Maurizio Gucci. And the trailer is already out for the movie, and it is comedic gold. It's got Lady Gaga in, like, dark hair looking brooding.


LADY GAGA: (As Patrizia Reggiani) A name that sounded so sweet, so...

SANDERS: And at one point in the trailer for the movie, she makes a sign of the cross, and she says father, son and house of Gucci. One other funny quote from this interview she gave to British Vogue, she was talking about - and I don't know how it came up - she mentioned the Capitol insurrection. She was talking about how she would have been a journalist in another life. And she said, quote, "I would have been a combat journalist. That was one of my dreams. When I was at the Capitol the day before the inauguration, I remember walking around and looking for evidence of the insurrection."


SANDERS: Imagine Lady Gaga on the case trying to prosecute the insurrectionists. I would watch that movie.

FIRESTONE: That's a - yeah - she's...

COCHRANE: Well, that's very commendable, if she's serious and genuine about it.


SANDERS: Keep shining, Gaga. All right. Jo, you got that point. But here's the next question. You can easily catch up, Nicki. Here's the quote - "you can shove your climate crisis up your arse." Who said that, Nicki?

COCHRANE: It sounds like our pumpkin-headed monster.


SANDERS: I think I know what you're talking about. And I'm going to go ahead and say, it's not him. It is, though, perhaps the most prominent climate activist right now. Who would that be?

FIRESTONE: Could we go with Greta?


SANDERS: We can go with Greta. We can go with Greta. Greta is the answer. That quote came from Greta Thunberg. She is a very young climate activist. She's now 18. But this week, she gave a speech outside of the COP26 U.N. climate summit in Glasgow.


GRETA THUNBERG: You can shove your climate crisis up your arse.

SANDERS: On November 1, she said not just you can shove your climate crisis up your arse. She also said no more blah, blah, blah.


THUNBERG: We say, no more blah, blah, blah. No more exploitation of people...

SANDERS: But here's what's really funny, you two. Her father was interviewed for a Wall Street Journal piece from Monday of this week. And he told the Journal - when asked if he was going to go or not, he said we have other things to do. We have jobs.

FIRESTONE: Wow, the shade.

SANDERS: Right? I want to ask you, Nicki - Greta Thunberg, what's your take on her?

COCHRANE: Well, I think she's - for such a young person to single-handedly go on this crusade is remarkable. If only all our young people in the whole world could mobilize together, we could really affect something.


COCHRANE: So I have the highest regard for her.

SANDERS: I hear that. This next quote, the last quote, it is from a pop star whose perhaps most popular song is really popular this time of year. Here's the quote - "it's time to smash that pumpkin and treat it as pie because we still got to get through Thanksgiving." Who said that?

FIRESTONE: I'm going to go ahead and take a leap and say Mariah Carey.


SANDERS: That's that. Nicki, were you thinking Mariah Carey as well?

FIRESTONE: Do you think it's also Mariah Carey?

COCHRANE: See, as I say, this is all foreign territory to me. If you ask me for quotes from Shakespeare, that's one thing.


COCHRANE: Because I'm all into literature and, you know, edification.

SANDERS: I would argue that the lyrics to "All I Want For Christmas Is You" are literature and prose of the highest sort.

FIRESTONE: Shakespearian, almost, yeah.

SANDERS: (Laughter) Yes. Yes. So this quote came from Mariah Carey this week on Twitter. She released a kind of joke video on November 1. And in the video, Mariah Carey is smashing a candy cane-colored baseball bat against Halloween pumpkins carved with the phrase it's not time.


MARIAH CAREY: It's time.


CAREY: (Singing) I don't want a lot...

SANDERS: And the whole thing is a joke about when it's actually appropriate to start playing her Christmas hit, "All I Want For Christmas Is You." A lot of folks say Christmas season starts the day after Halloween; some folks say, no, later. I want to ask you both - when does Christmas season officially began? Nicki, when does it begin for you?

COCHRANE: Well, I have to tell you, I have a deep-seated allergy to Christmas. Therefore, I always escape from the United States and go to a foreign country where they don't recognize that holiday. Every year, I save up and I travel. This time, I went to the island where Martin Luther King and Adam Clayton Powell went - the beautiful island of Bimini. And I followed the footsteps - or in a boat with the famous world bonefish - splendid gentleman who escorted Martin Luther King. And I took that same very same trip with him...

SANDERS: Really?

COCHRANE: ...And then went to his house - yes.

SANDERS: Well, Nicki, where are you going this year? And can I go with you?

COCHRANE: Yes. Well, I'm contemplating a few options. I would love to go to Antarctica.


COCHRANE: I want a no frills, basic scientific and, you know, serious trip.

SANDERS: Wow. OK. So, Jo, when do you think Christmas season actually starts or should start?

FIRESTONE: Yeah, I'll probably - I'll go ahead and say September.


FIRESTONE: Yeah, I'm kind of - you know, me and Nicki, it's like sugar and salt, you know.

SANDERS: Water and oil (laughter).

FIRESTONE: Yeah (laughter).

SANDERS: So we've reached the end of the game. And, Jo, you got the most points technically.


SANDERS: But I want to say spiritually and emotionally, Nicki won this game for me...

FIRESTONE: That's fair.

SANDERS: ...And I'm going to ask you, kindly, if we can just give the crown to Nicki this week. Is that cool?

FIRESTONE: I understand, and I respect that decision.

SANDERS: OK. Nicki, you won. How does it feel?

COCHRANE: It feels very ennobling, and I appreciate the moral support.

SANDERS: Oh, my goodness. Well, listen, it was an honor and a pleasure to speak to you both. This, like your comedy special, warmed my heart. Jo, Nicki, I can't thank you both enough. This made my day and my week.

FIRESTONE: Thank you, Sam.

COCHRANE: Thank you so much. It was a rare privilege and honor to be on your program. And I just want to commend the whole NPR phenomenon.

SANDERS: Thank you, Nicki. Come back soon. Y'all take care.

FIRESTONE: All right. Bye.

SANDERS: Thanks again to comedian Jo Firestone and lifelong learner Nicki Cochrane. "Good Timing With Jo Firestone" is now streaming for free on Peacock.

AUNT BETTY: Now it's time to end the show as we always do. Every week, listeners share the best thing that happened to them all week. We encourage folks to brag, and they do. Let's hear a few of those submissions.

CYNTHIA: Hi, Sam. The best thing that happened to me this week was I got to take care of my only grandchild by myself for two whole days. It was two of the best days of my life.

NICK: Hi, Sam. This is Nick (ph) from Cleveland. I was born with a malformed right foot and ankle called clubfoot. Despite that, I completed my first marathon on Sunday. It was the culmination of hundreds of physical therapy sessions, painful training runs and mornings that I woke up so sore I could barely hobble from my bed to the dresser. So much went into me finishing that race, and I am so proud of myself.

JOANNA: Hi, Sam. This is Joanna (ph) from Lancaster, Pa. And the best part of my week was the class I taught of 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds where we created characters for a play we're going to write. And they came up with a spaceship that turns into a rocket that shoots marshmallows. And there's also a sloth and a pirate who lassos water balloons, as well as a fairy and a zombie who are roommates. Their imaginations are just stunning, and it gives me hope for the future.

ERIC: Hi, Sam. This is Eric (ph) from Los Angeles. I just wanted to share the best thing that happened to me this week. Last night was the last game my daughter played for her high school volleyball team for the year. And they lost. She came home really sad, despondent in the car driving to school this morning. The person next to us was kind of looking at the car and dancing around, banging on their steering wheel. So my daughter's like, what's going on with that person? So I looked over, didn't understand. Got up to the next light. He pulled over next to me on my side, had us roll down the window, and he said, I saw you guys looked a little depressed, so I was just trying to, like, sing and dance and get you going a little bit to bring up your day - and got my daughter to smile and laugh and really put a good start to the rest of the day. Thanks.

CYNTHIA: Thanks so much for your show, Sam. I really appreciate it, and I appreciate you.

JOANNA: Thank you for everything you do and that you put out into the world. Take care.

SANDERS: Thanks again to all those listeners you heard there - Eric, Joanna, Nick and Cynthia (ph). And, listeners, don't forget. You can send us your best thing at any time throughout any week. Just record yourself and send a voice memo to us via email at That's


SANDERS: All right. This week's episode of IT'S BEEN A MINUTE was produced by Jinae West, Audrey Nguyen, Liam McBain and Diba Mohtasham. We received engineering support from Patrick Murray. Our intern is Nathan Pugh, and our fearless editor is Jordana Hochman. Our big boss is NPR's senior VP of programming, Anya Grundmann. Till next time, be good to yourselves. I'm Sam Sanders. We'll talk soon.

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