Stephen Merchant plays Not My Job on NPR's "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!" Stephen Merchant is the co-creator of some of the most influential comedies of all time, from The Office to Extras, but what does he know about unscrupulous businesses, aka Thievin' Merchants?

'Wait Wait' for April 23, 2022: With Not My Job guest Stephen Merchant

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The following program was taped before an audience of no one.


BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR News quiz. Hey down there. Look out Bill-low (ph). I'm Bill Kurtis. And here's your host. The rest of his intro was redacted due to an ongoing investigation. It's Peter Sagal.



Thank you, Bill. And thanks, as always, to our fake audience. Our guest today, Stephen Merchant, may be the most successful TV producer in history because the show he created with Ricky Gervais for the BBC, something called "The Office," inspired remakes in 10 different countries, including, of course, the U.S. Their key insight - whoever or wherever you are on this globe, your boss is an idiot. Oh, and by the way, Doug Berman, hope you're enjoying your vacation out there. We miss you. First, we want to hear you prove that you are smarter than whoever you might work for, so give us a call. The number is 1-888-WAIT-WAIT. That's 1-888-924-8924.

Let's welcome our first listener contestant. Hi. You're on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

HANNA MORRIS: Hello, hello.

SAGAL: Hello, hello. Who's this?

MORRIS: This is Hanna Morris (ph) from Charleston, S.C.

SAGAL: Oh, a beautiful place where I've only seen the airport, but that's another story. What do you do there?

MORRIS: I am an ADHD coach and also a neurofeedback technician.

SAGAL: What is a neurofeedback technician?

MORRIS: A neurofeedback technician is a person who basically helps people who have dysregulated brain waves regulate their brain waves.

MAZ JOBRANI: Doesn't weed do that?

SAGAL: Yeah.

ASHLEY RAY: That's what I was always told.

MORRIS: Oh, yes. Yes. Yes.

SAGAL: Anyway, Hanna, welcome to the show.

MORRIS: Thank you.

SAGAL: Let me introduce you to our panel this week. First up, it's a comedian, writer and host of the podcast "TV, I Say." It's Ashley Ray.

RAY: Hi.


RAY: I'm so glad to be here.

SAGAL: Next up, a comedian and host of the podcast "Back To School." You can see him at the Netflix Comedy Special in Los Angeles on April 29. It's Maz Jobrani.

JOBRANI: Hey, how are you? It's a festival, but I'll call it a special. Why not?

SAGAL: Finally, it's the contributor to "CBS Sunday Morning" whose off-Broadway show, "Approval Junkie," is now available as an audio play exclusively on Audible. It's Faith Salie.




SAGAL: Hanna, you're going to play Who's Bill This Time? Bill Kurtis is going to read you three quotations from this week's news. If you can correctly identify or explain two of them, you will win our prize, any voice from our show you might choose on your voicemail. You ready to play?

MORRIS: Yes, sir.

SAGAL: OK. Here is your first quote.

KURTIS: This is your pilot speaking. This is the most important announcement I've ever made.

SAGAL: That was a pilot on Alaska Airlines midair on Monday, just before he announced the end of what?

MORRIS: Oh, mask mandates.

SAGAL: Exactly.


SAGAL: The ending of the mask mandate. On Monday, a judge in Florida struck down the federal mask mandate on airplanes and public transit on the legal grounds of, quote, "sounds fishy to me." She said that the Centers for Disease Control exceeded their authority when they tried to control a disease. Now, people treated this like it was the end of this 2.5-year pandemic. It was amazing, the celebrations. I saw a sailor grab a nurse in Times Square and kiss her, and now they both have COVID. Did you guys celebrate? Were you like, yay?

RAY: No, no. Didn't choose to celebrate. I - you know, I did love the videos, though, of just all of the people who you saw ripping their masks off and then the one person, like, every four seats who just looked like they wanted to kill everyone.

SAGAL: Right. And oddly enough, the irony is the other people are going to kill them.

RAY: Yeah. And there it is.

SAGAL: There you go.

JOBRANI: I - listen, I'm happy to not wear a mask, but I'm going to wear a mask. Meaning...

SAGAL: Right.

JOBRANI: I - the fact that people are cheering it - I mean, Jim Jordan supposedly tweeted something like, Fauci loses, people win. It's not a competition. Coronavirus is not a football game. This - you - the mask is for your own safety. First of all, the fact that pilots are cheering this breaks my heart because pilots used to be good. Now I'm waiting for the pilot to be like, no mask, and the election was fake. We're storming the Capitol. I'd be like, oh, no. Oh, no.

SAGAL: Yeah. I mean, the least they could have done, the pilots, as they made these announcements, could have been like - they still could have stuck to the like, standard, Chuck Yeager-style pilot voice like, (imitating Chuck Yeager) hello, ladies and gentlemen. On your left, you can now see the Grand Canyon. On your right, you can now see the ugly face of the person sitting next to you because you can take off your masks.

RAY: (Laughter).


SAGAL: That would have been better. But no, they - the celebration was weird. I mean, it was so tragic, though, that on Monday, one flight experienced a sudden drop of cabin pressure, and the oxygen masks dropped down, and everybody yelled, ha, we don't have to anymore. And sadly, they all died.


SAGAL: All right. Back to you. Here is your next quote.

KURTIS: Are you still watching?

SAGAL: That prompt that we've all seen took on a new meaning this week when what streaming service announced record losses?

MORRIS: Netflix.

SAGAL: Yes, Netflix.


SAGAL: Netflix stock plummeted this week after they announced they had lost over 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter of this year. It was shocking news that made people everywhere ask, wait, I still subscribe to Netflix?

RAY: I mean, I checked in with, you know, my ex-boyfriend's mom's sister's aunt, and her account that we all share is still working. So she hasn't left the platform yet.


SAGAL: Now, part of the problem, apparently, with Netflix - lot of competition and there's just a lack of must-see shows on the service. "Stranger Things," for example - one of their biggest hits, yes, but it premiered six years ago. These kids are so old now. The stranger things they're dealing with are Roth IRAs and sciatica.


JOBRANI: As I get older, I forget that I'm getting older until you say things like that, Peter. Like, when they said that that fourth booster was available or third booster was able to 50 and older...

SAGAL: Yeah. I had the same reaction.

JOBRANI: Yeah. I was like...

SAGAL: And I'm like, yeah, who cares about that? But - wait a minute.

JOBRANI: I was like, oh, that's cool. It's available to 50 and older. Then I was like, wait a minute. That's me. It was such a bummer. And then I think - I don't know if you heard, but when Donald Trump heard that Netflix lost 200,000 subscribers, he said they weren't lost. They were stolen. Hey.

SAGAL: I'm sorry. Hey.


JOBRANI: Also...

SAGAL: Bill, do you have the snare drum where you are? I left mine - I just moved. It's in a box somewhere. I cannot find it.

JOBRANI: I think what Netflix need to do is they need to focus on communities and collaborate. The kids are collabing nowadays. So what they do is, for example, they get a Netflix just for Middle Easterners. We love nuts. It's called Nutflix (ph). It's just a bunch of shows about almonds. Or they do one for people who like to watch Netflix for breakfast. It's called Cornflix (ph).

KURTIS: (Laughter).

SAGAL: Just so you know, we're docking your pay with each one of these, Maz.


SAGAL: We should also point out that in addition to the Netflix news, in another streaming disaster, CNN Plus was canceled...

RAY: Oh, R.I.P.

SAGAL: ...Less than a month after its launch, largely due to their inability to answer the question, plus what?

RAY: What?

SAGAL: Well, apparently, the idea of CNN Plus was that you would pay extra to spend extra time with your favorite CNN personalities - the cooking show called "Hungry Like The Wolf Blitzer." But they may have miscalculated with "Zoomin' With Jeffrey Toobin."


JOBRANI: So is that like a Patreon for CNN people, basically?

SAGAL: Apparently, yeah. I mean, it really...

RAY: It kind of sounds more like an OnlyFans.

SAGAL: Yeah. Well, I think it depends. I mean, it's Patreon for Wolf Blitzer and OnlyFans for Anderson Cooper because let's be honest, right?

RAY: There you go.

SAGAL: All right, Hanna, we have one more quote for you. Here you go.

KURTIS: Pink hearts, yellow moons, green clovers and red balloons.

SAGAL: No, that was not a leprechaun. It was Bill Kurtis - I know - surprise - reading the description for a cereal that the FDA is now investigating for causing multiple cases of food poisoning. What product has turned on us?


SAGAL: I'm sorry. Say that again.

MORRIS: I said beef. It's usually beef.

SAGAL: No, it's a breakfast product, a breakfast cereal.

JOBRANI: Beef (laughter).

SALIE: Beef?

SAGAL: Maybe you have a very unusual breakfast habit. I don't know.

JOBRANI: Beef flakes.

SAGAL: Things are different in Charleston.

SALIE: Beef crunch.


SAGAL: No, not beef. Pink hearts, yellow moons?

MORRIS: Oh, God. Froot Loops.

SAGAL: Magically delicious?

MORRIS: Froot Loops?

SAGAL: No. You know, I think...

JOBRANI: So close. So close.

SAGAL: You know, there are certain things I think you're actually blessed to not know about, and this is one of them. And you've already won, so I'll tell you. We're talking about Lucky Charms.

MORRIS: Oh, yes. Of course. Of course. Of course.

SAGAL: Lucky Charms. Yes. The FDA is investigating Lucky Charms cereal after hundreds of people reported getting sick after eating it.

SALIE: What?

SAGAL: The problem is everybody always focuses on the marshmallows. No one ever noticed that the other pieces in Lucky Charms cereal - it's all uncooked shrimp.


JOBRANI: That's disgusting.

SAGAL: Why is anybody surprised by this? Why is anyone surprised by this? Oh, the reason I'm feeling horrible today is because of my breakfast marshmallows? That can't be.

RAY: Peter, I'm really curious. What were the symptoms reported? Did they, you know, suddenly start looking for gold, speaking like a leprechaun?

SAGAL: No. Well, it was a digestive difficulty. And all I really want to say about that on a family radio show is if you happen to find this leprechaun's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, do not look inside.


JOBRANI: There was a rainbow coming out of places the sun don't shine, you see.


SAGAL: As it were. Bill, how did Hanna do on our quiz?

KURTIS: She got 2 out of 3. That's a win.


SAGAL: Congratulations, Hanna. That's great.

MORRIS: Thanks. Thank you so much. I love this show, and...

SAGAL: Thank you.

MORRIS: ...Beef is going to be my answer for everything moving forward.

SAGAL: Just say beef.

SALIE: (Laughter) Solid.

SAGAL: Whatever the question, beef is always the answer. Thank you, Hanna. Thanks so much.

MORRIS: Thank you.

SAGAL: Take care.


DAFT PUNK: (Singing) She's up all night to the sun. I'm up all night to get some. She's up all night for good fun. I'm up all night to get lucky. We're up all night to the sun. We're up all night to get some. We're up all night for good fun.

SAGAL: Right now, panel, it is time for you to answer some questions about the week's news. Faith, there's a house for sale in Wisconsin. It's drawing attention thanks to its current owners' love of those art prints that have inspirational phrases on them, you know? For example...

SALIE: Oh, dear.

SAGAL: ...There's a poster in the playroom that says, keep exploring, and a print in the kitchen that says, this kitchen is for dancing, and a sign above the bed in the main bedroom that says what?

SALIE: Oh. Does it say Pound Town?

SAGAL: Yes. It says, welcome to Pound Town...

RAY: To Pound Town.


SAGAL: ...Is what it says.


SAGAL: Now, again, this is one of those you know, Zillow finds. People scan Zillow for - looking for strange things. And this one was found. So this is a photo that is supposed to make people want to buy the house...

SALIE: (Laughter).

SAGAL: ...Right? And there is a sign above the bed - says, welcome to Pound Town, 'cause who doesn't want to walk into their very own bedroom in their very own home and be greeted by a pickup line from the worst guy at the hotel bar?

RAY: (Laughter).

SALIE: Oh, my gosh. I have so many questions.

SAGAL: Please, Faith. I'm here to answer them, if I can.

SALIE: I'm just trying to think - as a parent, I'm wondering if this is a family, and there are children who walk in and see that about their parents' bed. It says, welcome to Pound Town. Mommy, Daddy, how was I born? Well, when two people love each other very much, they buy tickets to Pound Town (laughter).

SAGAL: To Pound Town.

RAY: To Pound Town.

JOBRANI: Well, what's sad about this is a young couple will buy this. And then as they grow older and gain a lot of weight, it's going to have a whole different meaning, and they're going to be depressed.

RAY: (Laughter) Yeah.

SAGAL: Well, here's the thing, though. I mean, some real estate professional decided, you know, what would make this house look particularly enticing? - that sign, welcome to Pound Town.

RAY: Welcome to...

SALIE: (Laughter).

SAGAL: Right?

RAY: Yeah.

SAGAL: By the way, while we're talking, let's not let the, this kitchen is for dancing, off the hook. Do they live...

RAY: Yeah.

SAGAL: ...In a heart medication commercial?


SAGAL: Coming up, the one thing somebody's doing over and over and over again. It's our Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR.

From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. We are playing this week with Faith Salie, Maz Jobrani and Ashley Ray. And here again is your host, a man who is beginning to regret the full box of Lucky Charms he had for breakfast this morning - Peter Sagal.


SAGAL: Thank you, Bill. 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're on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

TIM: Hello, this is Tim. I'm from Mississauga, which is a suburb about a half an hour west of Toronto.

SAGAL: Oh, wow. You're a Canadian, then?

TIM: Yes, I am, eh?

SAGAL: (Laughter) Oh, I would - now, if you hadn't admitted it, I would have recognized it by the classic Canadian argot. What do you do there?

TIM: I am a high school drama and Indigenous studies teacher.

SAGAL: A high school drama teacher - mine was Mr. Schneider (ph), Mr. Norman Schneider, extremely important in my life. So I appreciate you doing that work. I'm sure you're either steering kids toward careers of glory and fame or very subtly trying to steal them away from it.

TIM: My philosophy is, I'm not going to make you a doctor, a lawyer or, you know, a businessperson, an electrician. I'm just going to make you a better one.

SAGAL: There you are. I like that. I like that attitude. Well, Tim, welcome to the show. Now, you, of course, are going to play the game in which you have to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what is Tim's topic?

KURTIS: Twelve thousand two hundred seventy-two.

SAGAL: Now, that may sound like Bill was just trying to sing the song from "Rent" and not remembering the lyrics, but that number means more. This week, we read about somebody who did something exactly 12,272 times. And our panelists are going to tell you about it. Pick the one who's telling the truth. You'll win the WAIT WAITer of your choice on your voicemail. Ready to play?

TIM: Oh, yeah.

SAGAL: All right. First, let's hear from Faith Salie.

SALIE: In 1988, Saul Fleschner (ph) walked into a deli in Cedarhurst, N.Y., and left with an everything bagel with cream cheese. He walked right back in demanding more cream cheese. He's done the same thing every morning for over 33 years. At first, it was annoying, says Riva Cohen (ph), owner of Five Towns Deli. But after decades of pissing and moaning, Saul is now our mascot. Deli employees hail Saul, now 77, when he arrives. Regulars give him high-fives. When he leaves the store with his bagel, customers and workers alike yell a countdown to see how long it takes him to come back in and ask for more cream cheese. Last week, the deli honored Saul by creating a wall of kvetch. His whole family came, and his 9-year-old grandson, Max, calculated that his grandpa has been asking for extra cream cheese 12,272 times and counting. The deli immediately sold out of T-shirts to commemorate the occasion. They feature Saul's grumpy face and declare, don't fear the extra schmear.

SAGAL: All right, a man who has returned to the deli he bought his bagel from to demand more cream cheese. Your next story of someone doing a whole lot of something comes from Ashley Ray.

RAY: This week marked 420, a marijuana holiday celebrated by cannabis users across the country. In celebration, Chris Simmons (ph), a self-described, quote, "evangelist of the power of the flower" from Encino, Calif., attempted to set a world record for most joints smoked in one day. To pull the stunt off, Mr. Simmons had to start blazing at the stroke of midnight and had to keep smoking for all 24 hours. At one point, he even maintained a joint while finishing an entire footlong and two bags of Doritos, which was made easier by the 300 joints he had already smoked at that point. Despite Mr. Simmons saying, quote, "What's a number?" when asked how many joints he finished, a careful count of roaches on the floor confirmed the number at 12,272. While Mr. Simmons starts petitioning the Guinness Book to recognize his feat, celebrities Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson and Seth Rogen released a joint statement saying, we didn't know we were supposed to be counting.

SAGAL: A guy who smoked 12,272 joints, presumably setting a new record. And your last story of 12,272nd times comes from Maz Jobrani.

JOBRANI: Kids love watching planes fly overhead, but most adults don't. In fact, during 2021, there were over 13,000 noise complaints filed at the Dublin airport. And as even more proof of how much people hate plane noise, 12,272 of the complaints were from one guy. The unidentified person averaged 34 complaints a day. That means in a 12-hour day, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., this person was stopping every 20 minutes to lodge a complaint against the noise. We don't know who this person is, except we know he lives close to the airport and has been making thousands of complaints for the past few years, including 6,000 in 2020, when the world was on lockdown and nobody did anything - except, apparently, this guy. One would think, why hasn't the person just sold his house? But then again, imagine trying to sell a house that has planes flying over it all day. You'd have to time the viewing just perfectly so the new buyers wouldn't know. Yes, we can show you the house. Could you come by sometime between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.? That's when you really get a good feel for the neighborhood.

SAGAL: All right.

SALIE: Maz, thank you for doing an Irish accent (laughter).

RAY: Thank you for the accent, yeah.

JOBRANI: Yes, you're welcome, and my drama teacher was Michelle Swanson (ph). Thank you.

SAGAL: All right. Here are your choices. Somebody did something 12,272 times. Was it, from Faith Salie, a guy who demanded more schmear on his bagel that many times over the years at the same deli every morning; from Ashley, a guy who smoked that many joints to set a world record; or, from Maz, a guy who complained about the noise at the Dublin airport that many times in one calendar year? Which of these is the real story of an overachiever?

TIM: I'm just wondering what part of Scotland the Irish accent was from.

SALIE: (Laughter).

TIM: OK, well, I love bagels. I'm a high school teacher, so I know my kids love 420. But I grew up near an airport, so I'm going to go with the airport complaint.

SAGAL: All right, then. That's your choice, Maz's story. Well, we spoke to someone familiar with that real story.

JOHN MACHADO: You can call a thousand times a day. It's not going to change anything. The aircraft still has to land. The flights have to come in, and the flights have to come out.

SAGAL: That was John Machado (ph), who is a retired air traffic controller, talking about the 12,272 complaints at the Dublin airport. Congratulations, Tim. You got it right.


SAGAL: You earned a point from Maz, and you've won a prize for voice of your choice on your voicemail.

TIM: Thank you. It's been a pleasure. Love listening to you guys. Keep up the good work. You made me smile during COVID.

SAGAL: We will do that as long as we can. Thank you so much, Tim.


"RENT" CAST: (Singing) Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes, 525,000 moments so dear.

SAGAL: And now the game where somebody has done a lot is asked to do a little more.

There's a lot of ways we could introduce Stephen Merchant. He's the guy who, along with Ricky Gervais, created "The Office." He's written and performed in many other TV shows and films. But maybe the best way to introduce him is to quote his character, introducing himself in his newest TV show, "The Outlaws." And I quote, "hello. I'm 6 foot, 7 inches tall. And no, it's not in proportion."

Stephen Merchant, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.


STEPHEN MERCHANT: Thanks so much. What a lovely introduction.

SAGAL: Well, you wrote it, my friend. So I figured I'd use it. You could not object. With someone like yourself, who has a remarkable career, I usually like to ask what people recognize you most frequently for.


SAGAL: But as you yourself point out, you're 6 foot, 7 inches tall. I imagine people more often ask you what team you played for.

MERCHANT: (Laughter) That's right. Whenever - I mean, I never played basketball with any skill in England 'cause it's not really a thing in England - basketball. But whenever I occasionally go to a Lakers game in LA, I like to think that people think, wow, that must be some kind of English retired pro.


MERCHANT: But I am - but yes. No. But you're right. Like you say, even from a young age, people have been fascinated by my height, which seems, you know, endlessly fascinating to people. And they feel they can make comments when you're very tall in the way they wouldn't, I think, if you're very short. So, like, you know, you'll be in a bar, and you'll order a drink. And just a complete stranger will be like, that's a tall order. And everyone will laugh.


MERCHANT: And, like...

SAGAL: Like, oh, wow. You're right.


SAGAL: I did not notice this man's hand escaping the light fixture.


SAGAL: But yes, now that you point it out...


SAGAL: ...That is obviously true. Does it ever - like, do you ever, like, go all Cyrano on them and get indignant...

MERCHANT: (Laughter).

SAGAL: ...And, like, throw back better tall jokes at them or something like that?

MERCHANT: (Laughter). Not really, no. I think I just was raised to be kind of polite, I think, and also slightly scared of people. I just - you know, particularly - I get it a lot from guys driving by in vans - (inaudible). And I always had that slight anxiety that they might pull over and beat me to death with a tire iron.

JOBRANI: (Laughter).

MERCHANT: I mean, you never know. Like, in LA once, I was - I literally was walking, like, two blocks to meet a friend. And someone drove by - a complete stranger - and just leaned out the window and shouted, hey, loser, get a car.



SALIE: Oh, my God.


SAGAL: That's just happens in LA.

JOBRANI: Was it Ricky Gervais? Was it Ricky Gervais?

RAY: Yeah. What...

MERCHANT: It wasn't Ricky 'cause he can't drive. So it was everybody other than Ricky.

JOBRANI: (Laughter).

SAGAL: So I need to ask about "The Office." Most people associate it with more with Ricky Gervais, your partner in it, because he was on camera playing the original boss, David Brent. And did you, like, look at Ricky Gervais in that first thing as, like, some day, like, India will be the 10th country to adapt this to their own culture?

MERCHANT: I mean, we only ever hoped that maybe a million people would - it would be their favorite thing.

SAGAL: Yeah.

MERCHANT: That was our ambition.

SAGAL: Right.

MERCHANT: Like a cult band, you know?..

SAGAL: Yeah.

MERCHANT: ...That hopefully there would be a big fan base. And the BBC did a test screening, and it got the lowest score ever except for women's lawn bowls...


MERCHANT: ...Which...

SAGAL: So basically, it was, like - way down at the bottom of the list, it was you.


SAGAL: And then it's women's lawn bowls - only thing.

MERCHANT: Women's lawn bowls, which I don't even know what that is exactly or, indeed, if it's televised.

SAGAL: Right.


MERCHANT: But yes, that was - and also took a little while for people to tune into it and get the idea of it. I was actually - because, as you say, I wasn't on screen. I remember a few days after the pilot aired in England, I was on a train. And two women were sat opposite me, and they didn't know who I was. And one of them said, did you see that documentary last night about an office? The boss was absolutely hysterical. And her friend said, no, I don't think that was a documentary. I think that was a sitcom. And the other woman said, oh, well, it wasn't very funny then.


SAGAL: I was reminded of something just a moment ago, which is that Ricky Gervais at one point was your boss. Is that true?

MERCHANT: He was very briefly, yes. When I came out of university, I was keen to get into radio. And he had somehow sweet-talked his way into a radio job and had never done any radio and sort of just charmed people. And he immediately said he needed an assistant (laughter) and didn't need an assistant 'cause he wasn't doing any work. But I sent a resume in by chance. And I think mine was on the top of the pile. And he's a very lazy man, or was back then...


MERCHANT: ...And called me in for an interview. And we hit it off. And he called me up. And suddenly I was his assistant...


MERCHANT: ...For a handful of weeks before, like I say, I jumped ship.

SAGAL: Was he a good boss?

MERCHANT: Well, I remember once there was a balloon - a promotional balloon had been brought in with a bunch of cereal in it. It was a promotional item someone had brought in. And it was sat above my desk. And one day I'm doing some work, and he - I just heard a pop, and all the cereal just landed on my head. And Ricky was just giggling like a child and turning around on his chair. So if that's a good boss, then sure.


SALIE: Stephen, is it true that you got to destroy an actual Banksy in filming your show?

MERCHANT: I did, yes. I - well, I'm from a place called Bristol in the U.K. And the show is set in Bristol. And Banksy is also an infamous sort of son of Bristol. And we don't know entirely if he comes from there. But a lot of his street art began its life and is still up in and around Bristol. And so we knew he had a local connection. And because the characters in the show - I, among others, play a bunch of people doing community service. And so to pay back the community, they are renovating a building. And so it's covered in the kind of street art that you see all around Bristol. And we thought, it would be very funny. What if there was a Banksy in amongst that, and these guys didn't realize what it was...

SALIE: Gosh.

MERCHANT: ...And painted over it? It seemed like a funny idea for a bit. And then we thought, well, what if we can get the real Banksy to do it? And that would make it even more fun. And so we sort of found a go-between, and we reached out to him. And I thought it would appeal to him 'cause he, you know, is quite - he likes that playfulness with his art, right? So I was like, what if you paint something, and then we destroy it, and then it only exists in the show?

SAGAL: But he doesn't want anyone to know who he is or what he looks like. So did you all have to, like, cordon off the set and...

MERCHANT: Well, no. So that's what would happened. So we said - we told him where the set was. And he said, take your - just have your security go home early. And if I can come, I'll come. And so we sort of sent our security guy away. And then he must have - I mean, at least, he must have jumped over the fence 'cause there's a high fence to protect the set. He must have climbed over it somehow 'cause the next morning, in we come, and there is this Banksy...


MERCHANT: ...You know, hidden amongst the stuff. And so what we did was we hid it from the cast and the crew. We didn't tell anybody. And so the morning we were going to do it - then I went to Christopher Walken, who was in the show. Yeah, you heard me - Christopher Walken. And I went to him in his trailer, and I said, Chris, how did you feel about destroying a Banksy this morning? And he's like, yeah, sure, 'cause, you know, he's game for laugh. And so, yes, we had him paint over it for this scene.

SALIE: Whew.

MERCHANT: And there it was. And so it only exists in the show. But people seem to think that this Banksy existed, and we found it, and we destroyed it. He did paint it especially for us.

JOBRANI: You could have sold the Banksy and paid for Season 2 - just saying.


MERCHANT: Yeah, exactly.

SAGAL: Well, Stephen Merchant, it is really fun to talk to you. But we have asked you here to play a game that this time we're calling...

KURTIS: Stephen Merchant, Watch out for Thievin' Merchants.


SAGAL: One of our producers tried to say your name right after getting punched in the face. And as a result, we're going to ask you three questions about crooked shopkeepers, or thievin' merchants.

MERCHANT: (Laughter).

SAGAL: Answer two out of three questions correctly, you'll win a prize for one of our listeners. Bill, who is Stephen Merchant playing for?

KURTIS: Alissa Martin (ph) of Los Angeles, Calif.

SAGAL: All right. You could run into her on the street. She could be the next person who yells at you from their car, so...


MERCHANT: Well, if I lose, she will.

SAGAL: Exactly.

KURTIS: (Laughter).

SAGAL: All right. Here's your first question. Some shady merchants, especially online, will sell cheap knockoffs of high-quality products. But if you look carefully, you can spot the difference, as in which of these actual products you can buy - A, McDuggan's (ph) French Frogs, B, Meats by Dre brand headphones or, C, Nookie (ph) basketball shoes.

MERCHANT: Meats by Dre feels like it should be sort of, you know - it should be cold cuts or something, you know, in a butcher shop. It doesn't feel like it should be headphones. I feel like it's C. I don't know why. I feel like the sneakers maybe is.

SAGAL: No. It's actually Meats by Dre brand headphones.

MERCHANT: Oh, come on. What?

SAGAL: I'm sorry. It's true...

KURTIS: (Laughter).

SAGAL: ...That you can buy them. And weirdly, Meats by Dre brand headphones come in a box with an apple on it. So apparently, they're confused.

SAGAL: But Meats has no relationship to sound.


MERCHANT: That's why I'm disappointed that they've gone to that much effort, and they've done it so poorly.

KURTIS: (Laughter).

SAGAL: OK, here's your next question. You have to be especially careful with online merchants. One shopper saw a photo on Amazon of a cute kid sleeping on an even cuter dinosaur-shaped pillow as big as he was. But after ordering it, they did not receive a large, kid-sized, dinosaur-shaped pillow. Instead, they got what - A, a box of kid-sized melatonin tablets; B, a cheap pillowcase with that photo of the kid sleeping on the dinosaur printed on it; or C, a knock-off DVD of "Jurassic Park"?

MERCHANT: I feel like it has to be B. That seems like the only viable option there.

SAGAL: I think you're right. That's what it was. Yes.



SAGAL: So it was a beautiful picture of a kid sleeping in this adorable dinosaur pillow. Any kid would love to have it. And what they got was a pillowcase with the picture printed on it.

MERCHANT: (Laughter).

SAGAL: All right. Here's your last question. If you get this correct, you win. Anyone can be a thieving merchant over on Kickstarter. Which of these is a real Kickstarter product that never delivered to its backers - A, anti-radiation underwear which promises to protect your private bits from cell phone radiation; B, a razor that uses lasers instead of blades to shave your face; or C, just a guy who said, pay me to make a single serving of potato salad, and he raised $55,000?

MERCHANT: I mean, I think radiation underwear is a smart idea, but I - it feels like C, just because that seems like the sort of crazy thing that someone would do and that people would give money towards.

SAGAL: Yes, you're right.


SAGAL: That is the kind of crazy thing that people would give their money towards. But so were the other two. They were all real.

MERCHANT: Oh, they're all real?

SAGAL: Yes, because you're right. I would buy radiation - especially these days...


SAGAL: ...Radiation-proof underwear. Bill, how did Stephen Merchant do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Stephen, you're a winner - 2 out of 3.

MERCHANT: I'm very, very - I mean, when this makes it to network TV, I hope you'll remember me.

JOBRANI: We're going to be on CNN Plus. Look for us.


SAGAL: Stephen Merchant stars in "The Outlaws," as well as writing and directing it. You can watch it now on Amazon Prime. It's funny and surprising and awfully awkward. Stephen Merchant, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

MERCHANT: Thank you so much for having me, you guys. Absolute pleasure. Thank you, guys.

SAGAL: A joy to talk to you. Thank you, Stephen. Take care.


MAREN MORRIS: (Singing) Keep me looking up when I'm feeling down.

SAGAL: In just a minute, Bill takes relaxing to a whole new level 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.

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 Faith Salie, Ashley Ray and Maz Jobrani. And here again is your host, easily among the Top 10 hosts of this show, Peter Sagal.


SAGAL: Thank you, Bill. In just a minute, Bill gets rambunctious in our Listener Limerick Challenge. If you'd like to play, give us a call at 1-888-WAIT-WAIT. That's 1-888-924-8924. Right now, panel, some more questions for you from the week's news. Maz, the pandemic has made us forget a lot of things. And according to some experts, this includes many of us forgetting how to correctly use what?

JOBRANI: Oh, gosh. Correctly use - is it a car?


JOBRANI: Oh. How to correctly use - can you give me a hint?

SAGAL: Yeah. Well, we've never been sure what some of those little toes do anyway.

JOBRANI: We've forgotten how to use our feet.

SAGAL: Exactly right.




SAGAL: Doctors are treating far more foot-related injuries now that people are getting out and about, you know, using those two flat things at the end of our legs. What are they called again? Oh, damn. Can we just call them, like, Southern hands?


SAGAL: Podiatrists blame this wave of foot pain and injuries on things like not wearing shoes for two years straight then trying to put them back on or, you know, supporting extra pandemic pounds. And why the heck were you people kneading your sourdough with your feet?

JOBRANI: I mean, I thought people were walking for the past - were there people that just completely tapped out...

SAGAL: Not everybody, apparently.

JOBRANI: ...And just laid down on the bed for two years?

SAGAL: Apparently some people didn't do a lot.

RAY: Yes. There were, personally.

SAGAL: Says Ashley. OK. Ashley's volunteering.

SALIE: I actually had more foot issues when I wasn't leaving the apartment as much because you weren't wearing proper support on your feet. And, like, my feet were - I couldn't get a pedicure for months.

SAGAL: Oh, my God. Speak.

SALIE: It was horrible. I had cracking feet.

SAGAL: Well, think about that. Like, nobody's taking care of their feet. And now we're all injuring ourselves and going to these poor podiatrists who have to deal with these horrible, you know, extremities that we're putting in front of their face. They must be like, what is this, a monkeys claw? Do I make a wish?

SALIE: Although I will say I think it has been very liberating for lots and lots of women who are like, I'm not putting on heels again.

RAY: Yeah. No, I gave up. I bought a pair of Crocs. Come on. I'm done trying. Like, yeah. I'm done with polite society.

SAGAL: That is the international symbol for giving up, buying a pair of Crocs.

KURTIS: (Laughter).

SAGAL: All right. Ashley, there's a hot new trend on Instagram. Gen Zers are now dressing like what?

RAY: Prairie people?

SAGAL: No, but it's sort of a good guess.

RAY: Cottagecore - is it the cottage...

SAGAL: We've been - no. Been there, done that. We've moved on from cottagecore.

RAY: Oh, man. Can I get a hint?

SAGAL: Sure. They're all hanging out and posing in their stylish orthopedic shoes.

RAY: Like, "The Golden Girls"? Like old people?

SAGAL: Yeah, like grandmothers.


SAGAL: Young people are embracing what has been called the coastal grandmother aesthetic, popularized by actors like Diane Keaton in movies like the ones your mom likes. You know, she's standing in the deck of the magnificent seaside home in, like, a long, flowing dress, a floppy sun hat, an expression on their face that reads wealthy yet sad.

RAY: There has to be a cardigan, of course, like, nice, heavy-knit.

SAGAL: Exactly - a cardigan perhaps. Maybe, like, a very classy string of pearls, but nothing too ostentatious, right?

SALIE: I'm trying to get a handle on this. So this - is it more Eileen Fisher Chicos flowy, or is it more Talbots?

SAGAL: Yeah, very Talbots, I'm told. This isn't, like, to put it mildly, my Jewish bubbe. No, this is like a matriarch of a WASPy clan named Martha or something.

RAY: Yeah. Like, they probably go to Ann Taylor Loft or - you know?

SAGAL: Right. Exactly. Yeah. And she - you know, and she moved out to their beach house full time after the divorce, but she's really enjoying her independence. That's...

RAY: I don't know how Netflix can be losing money when "Grace And Frankie" has had such an impact on this younger population, clearly.

SAGAL: I know. Exactly. Exactly. They're influencers - influencers, I tell you. All right. Maz, a new unauthorized biopic of the great singer Celine Dion opens this week. The adult Celine Dion is being played by the 58-year-old French actress Valerie Lemercier, while the 5-year-old young Celine will be played by whom?

JOBRANI: Five-year-old Celine will be played by Gerard Depardieu.


JOBRANI: No? I think he can pull it off

SALIE: I do, too.

SAGAL: I'll give you a hint. Among the other advantages of this genius idea is they saved a lot of money on extra actors. Remember I said the 58-year-old woman is playing her as a, you know...

JOBRANI: Oh, so she's playing the 5-year-old as well.

SAGAL: Exactly. Right.


SAGAL: The French actress, Valerie Lemercier, who is also the director of the film, is playing Celine Dion at every age, from childhood through maturity. So the idea is that she is made to look smaller in sort of a hobbit-like way, with creative camera angles. But she will still have her 58-year-old face. So we finally might get to see Benjamin Button sing "That's The Way It Is."

JOBRANI: Is she going to be like - is she going to be like, listen, now I will play the younger version. Take the camera, and just go very far away. Go very far.

SAGAL: Exactly. Now, there's a trailer online. The movie is going to released after being at Cannes last year. But this is true. Lemercier also wanted to play Celine Dion as a 6-month-old baby. She even filmed it, but she told the LA Times, my producer got down on their knees and said to me, please cut that.


JOBRANI: I will sit there sometimes and be like - I'll be like, oh, man. Like, the breakdown will come in, and they'll be like, you know, male, late 30s. And I'll be like, I can't play late 30s. I'm in my - I just turned 50. Meanwhile, this French lady is like, I can do it all.


JOBRANI: I will play 55 and 95. I will play the dijon. I will play the mustard that she eats in the middle of the movie. I will be the - someone will put up (inaudible). Do you have any Grey Poupon? I will be the Grey Poupon.


SAGAL: I love how when you're trying to figure out, like, tropes of French cinema...

SALIE: You landed on Grey Poupon.

SAGAL: ...You go to the Grey Poupon commercial.


CELINE DION: (Singing) You're here. There's nothing I fear. And I know that my heart will go on.

SAGAL: Coming up, it's Lightning Fill in the Blank. But first, it's the game where you have to listen for the rhyme. If you'd like to play on air, call or leave a message at 1-888-WAIT-WAIT. That's 1-888-924-8924. Or click the contact us link on our website,

Also comes see us live. We miss you. You can come to the Mann Center in Philadelphia on June 30 or at Wolf Trap outside of Washington, D.C., August 25 and 26. And the WAIT WAIT stand-up tour - that's back. It kicks off in Salt Lake City on June 24. Tickets and info about all of those shows are

Hi. You're on. WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

SADIQ ALI: Hey. This is Sadiq Ali from Baltimore, Md.

SAGAL: Hey, Sadiq. How are you?

ALI: Doing good. Doing good. I got no complaints, you know? World almost back to normal, so life is good.

SAGAL: Yeah. I like that attitude. What do you do there in the Charm City?

ALI: I lead a nonprofit organization, as a matter of fact.

SAGAL: Oh, you do? Is it is it good times for nonprofits or tough? I mean, people - I mean, there was a big contraction on donations and stuff when the pandemic started. Is it coming back to normal? Are people, like, going out and giving money again?

ALI: Yeah. It's been pretty good, you know? Just like the for-profit world, there's been some ups and downs. But, you know, for the most part, people have been pretty generous with their time and their resources, man. So, again, no complaints.

SAGAL: That's great to hear. Man, I just - I'm not sure I even want to play a game with you. I just want you to tell me that everything's kind of OK. That's...


SAGAL: And see if I can catch your attitude.

ALI: I get that.

SAGAL: Well, Sadiq, welcome to the show. Bill Kurtis is going to now read you three news-related limericks with the last word or phrase missing from each. If you can fill in that last word correctly on two of the limericks, you'll be a winner. You ready to play?

ALI: I'm ready. Let's do it.

SAGAL: Here's your first limerick.

KURTIS: Making out is the peak of depravity, and my teeth feel the force of its gravity. Tooth rot's contagious. That fact is outrageous. I kissed, and I just caught a...

ALI: Cavity.

KURTIS: Yo - good.

SAGAL: Cavity, yeah.


SAGAL: A dentist in Houston is warning that cavities are actually contagious. Great - another thing I can catch on a plane now. Studies have shown that cavities can be spread through kissing when the bacteria that causes tooth decay is passed from person to person. That is why I use N95 toothpaste.


RAY: Honestly, this sounds like a win for us single people, so hey.


SAGAL: Oh, yeah. All right. Here is your next limerick.

KURTIS: The batter seals flavors inside. And the oil is ready - roll tide. My arteries thicken, but, mmm, such great chicken. I'm eating more foods that are...

ALI: Fried.

KURTIS: Fried - good.

SAGAL: Fried - that's right.


SAGAL: During the pandemic, our consumption of french fries, fried chicken and fried ivermectin went up drastically, with restaurant menus showing a major increase in the - this is a technical term - fry attachment rate. That's the rate at which diners add fries to their orders, not the rate at which you start to consider french fries your closest friend.

SALIE: (Laughter).

SAGAL: This has all added up to about a 93% increase in repair calls for industrial restaurant deep fryers, with supply chain issues, of course, causing some fryers to be out of service for weeks. It's horrible news. Without fried foods, experts worry that many of us might live.

RAY: I mean, I get it. The best friend I made during quarantine was my air fryer. I love that little thing.

SALIE: I need to get one of those.

SAGAL: Yeah. We all need to get one. Thank you, Ashley.

SALIE: (Laughter).

SAGAL: Here is your last limerick.

KURTIS: If you ever get up, then you're quitting. And you cannot bring phones, books or knitting. You just need a chair and some fresh, desert air. And you're ready to start extreme...

ALI: Sitting.

KURTIS: Yes, indeed.

SAGAL: Sitting.


SAGAL: There you go, Sadiq.


SAGAL: Competitive sitting is...

KURTIS: Good one.

SAGAL: ...The hot new sport this summer. Or it will be if they ever have a competition. You have to sit somewhere all day long without any phone or distractions. The record for doing this is apparently 14 hours. The training for the sport is hard. You have to diligently not do any sports. The sport was created by Olympic chiller Robert Silk, who is just waiting for his endorsement deals to roll in. Imagine the competitors at the first national championship with the words Barcalounger across their chest. So far, the longest competitive sit record is over 14 hours in Joshua Tree National Park. Really, that's just competitive vibing.


SALIE: But why can't you stand and stare? We're always told that, like, our sitting culture is worse than smoking.

SAGAL: No, apparently you got to sit, man.

SALIE: Can you sit and smoke?

SAGAL: Part of the challenge.

RAY: Yeah, 'cause that changes everything, if you can sit and smoke.


SAGAL: Bill, how did Sadiq do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Sadiq scored big. He got them all right - 3 and 0.


SAGAL: Well done, Sadiq. Congratulations.

ALI: That we like, baby. Positive attitude, right?

SAGAL: Yeah. It worked for you here. I'm going to try to...

KURTIS: Yeah - got you through.

SAGAL: ...Adopt it going through life, man. Take care, sir. And thanks for the good work you do.

ALI: I appreciate that. Thank you, guys.

SAGAL: Bye-bye.


SAGAL: Now it's time for our final game, Lightning Fill in the Blank. Each of our players will have 60 seconds in which to answer as many fill-in-the-blank questions as they can. Each correct answer now worth two points. Bill, can you give us the scores?

KURTIS: Sure can. Ashley has two. Maz has three. And Faith has three.

SAGAL: Well, Ashley, that means that you're in second place, so you're going to go first. The clock will start when I begin your first question. Fill in the blank. On Thursday, the Biden administration committed to increasing military and economic aid to blank.

RAY: Ukraine.

SAGAL: Right.


SAGAL: On Wednesday, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen faced off in blank's first and only presidential debate.

RAY: France.

SAGAL: Right.


SAGAL: For the first time in weeks, 4 million citizens in Shanghai were given permission to go outside as China loosened its blank restrictions.

RAY: COVID restrictions.

SAGAL: Right.


SAGAL: After Alex Jones lost a defamation lawsuit, his company blank filed for bankruptcy.

RAY: Infowars.



SAGAL: This week, a bride in Florida and her caterer were arrested for allegedly lacing their wedding food with blank.

RAY: Marijuana.



SAGAL: The Capitol...


SAGAL: ...Had to be evacuated this week because of a threat that turned out to be blank.

RAY: Fake.

SAGAL: No, it turned out to be a parachute team entertaining the fans at Nats Park. Pro tip - if you ever decide to fly a small plane low and fast over Washington, D.C., tell the Capitol Police first. They're pretty jumpy - don't know why. Making things even worse, one of the parachute guys was wearing nothing but Viking horns and a painted chest.

Bill, how did Ashley do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Very well. Ashley had five right for 10 more points. She now has 12 and the lead.


SAGAL: I'm going to arbitrarily choose Maz to go next. Fill in the blank. After it was struck down earlier this week, the Department of Justice said they would appeal the ruling on blank mandates for travel.


SAGAL: Right.


SAGAL: $48 million was the starting price at the auction for the NFT of the first ever blank.

JOBRANI: Underwear.

SAGAL: No, the first ever tweet. And the highest bid for the NFT of the first ever tweet in this auction was blank.

JOBRANI: A dollar.

SAGAL: Close, $280. On Tuesday, Moderna announced that their new blank helps against rising coronavirus variants.

JOBRANI: Vaccine.

SAGAL: Their booster, yeah.


SAGAL: On Wednesday, sports officials in the U.K. announced that tennis players from Russia and Belarus would be banned from participating in blank.

JOBRANI: Wimbledon.



SAGAL: This week, police in San Francisco who pulled...


SAGAL: ...A car over for a routine traffic stop were surprised when it tried to flee the scene because it was blank.

JOBRANI: It was a self-driving car.

SAGAL: Right. It was driverless.


SAGAL: When the driverless car initially moved to the side of the road, the police approached it, and it drove away, like, ran from the cops. Probably for the best. Can you imagine trying to give a ticket to an autonomous car run by Google? No, I don't know how fast I was going, but I do know your entire search history. Maybe you should let me off with a warning.

Bill, how did Maz do on our quiz?

KURTIS: He had four right, eight more points. He now has 11, but Ashley still has the lead with 12.


SAGAL: All right. How many, then, does Faith need to win?

KURTIS: Five to win.

SAGAL: All right, here we go, Faith. This is for the game. On Tuesday, the White House announced it was forgiving over 40,000 borrowers blanks.

SALIE: Student loans.

SAGAL: Right.


SAGAL: On Monday, President Biden released guidelines calling for all new blank projects to use U.S.-produced steel.

SALIE: Infrastructure.



SAGAL: This week, Russia test launched what it said was an unstoppable blank.

SALIE: Nuclear missile.



SAGAL: On Tuesday, a judge in Georgia allowed an effort to disqualify blank from running for reelection.

SALIE: Marjorie Taylor Greene.

SAGAL: Right.


SAGAL: According to residents, one of the most popular new tourist spots in Minnesota is Lake Chipotle, which is blank.

SALIE: Spicy.

SAGAL: No, a giant puddle in a Chipotle parking lot. On Thursday, the Obamas announced they would not be renewing their podcast deal with blank.

SALIE: Spotify.

SAGAL: Right.


SAGAL: On Monday, Peres Jepchirchir and Evans Chebet won the women and men's division of the blank marathon.

SALIE: Boston.



SAGAL: While at the dentist to get his tooth filled, a man in Illinois had to be rushed to the hospital because he blanked.


SALIE: Swallowed the tooth - drill.

SAGAL: So close. All right, I'll give it to you, Faith. Yes, he accidentally inhaled the drill bit. The dentist was in the process of drilling out the cavity when the man took a deep breath. It was the second most uncomfortable thing to happen at the appointment that day, right after the dentist asking him about his summer plans while his jaw was being held open. Bill, did Faith do well enough to win?

KURTIS: Very well. Seven right, 14 more points. That means, with 17, she is this week's champion.


SAGAL: Well, congratulations. There you go.

SALIE: Thanks.

SAGAL: Now, panel, what will save Netflix? Faith Salie.

SALIE: Well, to keep people on the couch, they're going to tie in every new subscription with a delivery from your local dispensary and some Ben and Jerry's.

SAGAL: Maz Jobrani.

JOBRANI: Netflix will be saved when they merge with Flomax to form Flowflix (ph), with the tagline, helping you stream while you stream.

SAGAL: And Ashley Ray.

RAY: After booking every comedian known to exist for its upcoming standup festival, Netflix is saved after being deemed too big to fail.

KURTIS: If any of that happens, we'll ask you about it here on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

SAGAL: Thank you, Bill Kurtis. Thanks also to Maz Jobrani, Faith Salie and Ashley Ray. Thanks to all of you for listening at home, or wherever you are. I'm Peter Sagal. We'll see you next week.


SAGAL: This is NPR.

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