Ray Romano plays Not My Job on NPR's "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!" Ray Romano is television royalty, becoming the world's sitcom dad with Everybody Loves Raymond. His new movie is Somewhere in Queens, and we ask him three questions about universally hated things.

'Wait Wait' for May 6, 2023: With Not My Job guest Ray Romano

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1174277460/1174466115" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The following program was taped in front of an audience of real, live people.

BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. No coronation necessary - you know who the real king is. Bill Kurtis.


KURTIS: And here is your host at the Studebaker Theater at the Fine Arts Building in Chicago, Ill., Peter Sagal.



Thank you. Oh, thank you, everybody. Oh, it's good to be back. Thank you. Thank you, Chicago. Later on, we're going to be talking to Ray Romano about his new movie, "Somewhere In Queens." Now, in his famous sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond," he played a guy who lives with his wife and kids close to his parents, and everybody is really great. And in the new movie, he plays a guy who lives with his wife and kid close to his parents, and everybody is pretty terrible, including him.


SAGAL: That's right. Ray Romano has broken bad.


SAGAL: If you haven't yet turned to the dark side, get started by giving 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.


SAGAL: Hi. Who's this?

MANDELBAUM: This is David Mandelbaum (ph).

SAGAL: Yeah?

MANDELBAUM: And I'm in Rehoboth Beach, Del.

SAGAL: Rehoboth Beach, Del. Isn't that near or about where President Biden has his beach house?

MANDELBAUM: It's exactly where President Biden has his beach house.


SAGAL: Oh, wow. OK. Right. So do you see him at the ice cream parlor? Is that a thing that happens?

MANDELBAUM: No, but at the bookstore.

SAGAL: Oh, well, that's very literate of you. Well, welcome to the show, David. Let me introduce you to our panel. First up, it's the host of the "Las Culturistas" podcast. It's Matt Rogers.



ROGERS: How are you?

SAGAL: Next, her podcast is "Go Fact Yourself," and you can see her Saturday, May 6, at LAist's Crawford Family Forum in Pasadena. It's Helen Hong.

HELEN HONG: Hi, David. Hi, everybody.


SAGAL: And lastly, his new book, "We're All In This Together, So Make Some Room" is now available for pre-sale. It's Tom Papa.

TOM PAPA: Hey, David.


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

MANDELBAUM: I'm ready. I studied.

SAGAL: You did?

HONG: Ooh.

SAGAL: OK. Your first quote is from a young girl named Winifred who was asked by a reporter, what is the first thing that someone should do when he becomes king this weekend?

KURTIS: Do a backflip.

SAGAL: That child with the strangely deep voice was...


SAGAL: ...Referring to the coronation of whom?

MANDELBAUM: King Charles.

SAGAL: King Charles III, yes.


SAGAL: His coronation is this weekend. It is the biggest international TV audience ever to watch someone put on a new hat. Legally, Charles III became king the moment Queen Elizabeth died. But this is just his official onboarding. After the ceremony, he gets his company laptop and the code to the castle bathroom.


HONG: I had no idea this was happening 'cause...

SAGAL: Really?

HONG: Yeah. I felt like it was kind of a non-news issue.

SAGAL: Well, there are generally two kinds of people. There are the people who - Americans who absolutely just follow everything about the royal family...


SAGAL: ...And people I like.

HONG: Yeah, exactly.


PAPA: I was over in London just a couple of weeks ago doing shows, and they were setting it up with like - I mean, huge, huge - I mean, for miles, just bleachers. They're so excited. I'm like, wow, this is a thing. Like, this is - they're so into it.

SAGAL: Yeah.

PAPA: Good for them.

SAGAL: Yeah.

PAPA: And then I went up to, like, the little souvenir booth. And they're, like, getting ready with the merch. And the biggest problem is his face on a magnet.


PAPA: I don't want to - you know, I don't want to be trite or mean, but...

SAGAL: Go ahead.

PAPA: ...It's not a great face.



HONG: It's not a magnet face.

PAPA: It's not a magnet face. It's not a pen face.

HONG: It's not a mug face.

PAPA: It's not a flag face.

HONG: It's not a T-shirt face.

ROGERS: And yet the face does look, like, refrigerated.


SAGAL: And it's kind of awkward. I mean, what do you say to someone when they become, like, king? Congratulations, like, seems weird when his only achievement is outliving his mother.

HONG: Yeah.

SAGAL: And he almost didn't pull it off.


HONG: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

SAGAL: Let's give it up for Queen Elizabeth, who took him to game seven, if you know what I mean.


SAGAL: All right. David, your next quote is from a picket sign - one of many - held up in Los Angeles this week.

KURTIS: Pay us, or we'll spoil "Succession."

SAGAL: That was somebody striking and refusing to do what job?

MANDELBAUM: The screenwriters.

SAGAL: Yeah, the screen and television writers. The Writers Guild of America is on strike.


HONG: Woo-hoo.

KURTIS: Good, David.

ROGERS: That sound that he made, the ugh, is also what the studios are doing right now.

SAGAL: Yeah, I know.

HONG: Yeah.

SAGAL: Pretty much. So television and movie writers went on strike this week, throwing down their laptops and then yelling, oh, no, did I break the screen? My pilot pitch was on that. The members of the union, the WGA, will not write a word until their demands are met. But the question is, does this extend to all forms of writing, right? Can you sign for this, Miss? Uh, no.

PAPA: We could have used a writer on that joke.


SAGAL: That's what happened. That's what happened.


ROGERS: Pay us.

HONG: Pay us what we're worth. See?

SAGAL: Seriously, if any major Hollywood producers just heard that, they'd be like, God, get him back, quick. Look what can happen.


ROGERS: I do just want to say, if there's ever a question that I don't know and I don't answer, it's not that I'm stupid. I'm on strike.

SAGAL: Exactly.

HONG: Yeah.

SAGAL: Yes. And I know - you guys can confirm this or not, because apparently the writers - many of them think that the picket lines is a great place, you know, to meet dates. And - this is true - one writer has even suggested putting different tape - pink or blue or both - on your sign to signal who you might be interested in dating.

HONG: Ah. Oh, my God, I'm there.

SAGAL: And it's - Oh, excuse me. Helen's got to go. But - and that's - I'm really glad he said that because otherwise we would have thought the whole thing was just really the world's worst gender-reveal party.


ROGERS: I guess I just hope you're not looking for someone with a job...

SAGAL: That's the problem.

ROGERS: ...Because I have news for you about the jobs.

SAGAL: Yeah. Both people are going - hoping, oh, if this works out, I'll have some place to sleep.



SAGAL: All right. Your last quote is from a New York Times investigation this week into why all people tend to do something as they get older.

KURTIS: Ugh, ugh, ugh.


SAGAL: So, David, what do we do more as we age?


SAGAL: Shrink. Was that the noise of Bill shrinking?


HONG: Ugh.


SAGAL: Groan. Yes. That's the answer.


SAGAL: Groan.



SAGAL: The New York Times - paper of record - tried to answer this question. Why is it that once you reach a certain age, any movement that changes your elevation is accompanied by some sort of zoo noise?


HONG: Is it across all cultures? I think it is.

SAGAL: Apparently, yeah.

HONG: Right?

SAGAL: It's, like, a human thing. Do you...

PAPA: Yes.

SAGAL: You guys must do this, right?

PAPA: Yes.

SAGAL: Tom, I know you do it.

PAPA: Hey, easy. Yeah, it does happen. And my daughter actually pointed it out to my wife and I. And she said, you know, every time you guys move, you're groaning more and more. And it was like, yeah, because you're killing us.


SAGAL: Those are death rattles.

PAPA: Yeah. I think it really - I think what our listener said - shrinking was the first thing that he thought.

SAGAL: Yeah.

PAPA: And he's not far off.

SAGAL: Yeah.

PAPA: I think gravity is just on us all the time.

SAGAL: Yeah.

PAPA: And once you get over 40, you're like, just take me.

SAGAL: Yeah.


SAGAL: This, by the way - it's a great way to check people's age if they don't have ID. It's like, here, have a seat. Now get up.



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

KURTIS: Next time you're in the bookstore, David, tell the president you got him all right.


PAPA: Yeah.


SAGAL: David, thank you so much for playing.

MANDELBAUM: It was my pleasure. Thanks.

SAGAL: All right, panel, it is time for you to answer some questions about this week's news.

PAPA: Ugh.


SAGAL: Matt, the drug lord Pablo Escobar was killed years ago, but his legacy lives on, as the nation of Colombia still has to grapple with what?

ROGERS: The drug problem there.

SAGAL: That's right. That's the funny answer we were looking for.


SAGAL: No, it's not. It's not.

ROGERS: But I said it kind of funny.

SAGAL: You did say it with kind of (inaudible) lilt.

ROGERS: I gave it some gravitas.

SAGAL: Yeah, that's funny. No, not that. I'll try again. I'll give you a hint.


SAGAL: They're hungry, hungry...

ROGERS: Hippos.

SAGAL: Hippos, yes.


ROGERS: How would I have gotten that?

SAGAL: So...

HONG: Wait, what?

SAGAL: Hippos, yes. There's an infestation of hippos in Colombia, thanks to Pablo Escobar.

PAPA: Yeah.

HONG: Wait, he just - he had, like, a hippo thing?

SAGAL: He had a hippo thing. Well, he had a - he had this private zoo, right?

PAPA: Yeah.

HONG: And he was like, hippos is my thing.

SAGAL: Well, he had all these animals, but when he was killed, the hippos escaped. And they've been breeding so much and ruining so much of the landscape in Colombia - they're very large - that Colombia has declared them an invasive species.


PAPA: Yeah.

SAGAL: Hippos are pests.

PAPA: Yeah.

SAGAL: The exterminator comes over and says, yeah, I opened up the crawl space. There's a nest back there.


PAPA: And they love cocaine.



SAGAL: People are trying different solutions. They're trying both airlifting them out to wildlife sanctuary...

HONG: I love that.

SAGAL: ...Or...

HONG: I love the image of a hippo in - like, hanging off the - hanging off of a helicopter.

SAGAL: Yeah, with their little legs. Yeah.

HONG: Yeah.

SAGAL: That's one thing they're trying. And the other thing they're trying is castrating the hippos...


SAGAL: ...Yes - so they can't reproduce. Now, fortunately, though, for the people of Colombia, the hippos are mostly peaceful and only become aggressive when you try to either pick them up or castrate them.


HONG: I should say so.

ROGERS: They're killing machines.

SAGAL: Yeah, they are. So far - this is true - only two people - two people - have been injured by hippos. And you know what they were thinking, which is, oh, my God, I'm being attacked by a hippo.

PAPA: Yeah, that's embarrassing. That's like being attacked by a manatee.

SAGAL: Yeah.


PAPA: How embarrassing and humiliating of a death would that be? Oh, this giant sea cow is just gumming me to death.


ROGERS: But you know what, though? It sounds awful to be gummed to death. That sounds slow and terrible.

PAPA: I know. That's the point. You could be like, get away from - like, what are you doing? And he's like, I'm bringing the pain. No.


SAGAL: Coming up - when location, location, location isn't all that matters, it's our Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play. We'll be back in a minute with more WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME! from NPR.

KURTIS: 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 Helen Hong, Tom Papa and Matt Rogers. And here again is your host at the Studebaker Theater in Chicago, Ill., Peter Sagal.

SAGAL: Thank you, Bill.


SAGAL: Thank you. Right now, it is 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.

JEREMI DILWORTH: Hi. This is Jeremi Dilworth from Gettysburg, Pa.

SAGAL: Hey, Jeremi. What do you do there in Gettysburg?

DILWORTH: My paid work is that I teach a course - a dance course at our local institution of higher learning.

SAGAL: Excellent.

DILWORTH: Yeah, but my unpaid work is I homeschool the last kiddo that's in our house.

SAGAL: Really? The others have fled?


DILWORTH: They've been schooled, and they're out and about in the world and colleges and all of that stuff.

SAGAL: That's great. Well, good for you. It was all you, then. You did it.

DILWORTH: Pretty much. Well, you know, it takes a village.

SAGAL: And speaking as one parent to another, you know what they love? If you remind them of that every day of their lives.


DILWORTH: Yes, yes. They love that.

SAGAL: Well, Jeremi, welcome to the show. You're going to play our game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what is Jeremi's topic?

KURTIS: It's the perfect place, almost.

SAGAL: We all know what it's like - right? - when you find the perfect place with plenty of room right in your price range. No, you don't know that. It's impossible. It never happens. Capitalism is a death spiral.


SAGAL: Our panelists are going to tell you about someone who almost found the perfect spot to be, only to discover there was, of course, a big catch. Pick who's telling the truth and you'll win our prize, the Wait Waiter of your choice on your voicemail. Are you ready to play?

DILWORTH: I am strapped in. I'm ready.

SAGAL: First, let's hear from Tom Papa.

PAPA: A small claims court in Colorado has pierced the mystery of a haunted house. Kelly and Doug Clark loved to rent haunted properties on Airbnb. It's fun, says Ms. Clark, especially when the spirits know that we have good intentions, which we obviously do because we're both Leos.

PAPA: The couple were excited to spend the weekend in an old Denver home advertised as haunted by a spirit searching for his long-lost cat. On their first night, they heard a cat meow and eerie footsteps. Quote, "We were very excited and very scared. When we got to the top of the stairs, we saw an actual ghost dash behind the attic door." But when they opened the door, what they saw was scary in a very different way. It was the property owner's 23-year-old son. The father told the judge, quote, "The kid won't get a job and he won't move out of the attic, so I figured at least he could bring in a little money as a ghost."


PAPA: "I guess he can't even do that right."


SAGAL: A haunted Airbnb turned out just to have a deadbeat son in the attic. Your next story of real estate in a bad state comes from Helen Hong.

HONG: We thought we hit the jackpot with our new East Village place, said Grace Kim of New York. It's 1000 square feet for just $6,000 in a prime New York neighborhood.


HONG: No rats, no roaches - amazing. But the first night we moved in, we literally heard the loudest gong you've ever heard right above our bed. Turns out the gonger in question is 77-year-old Lenny Markowitz, the only professional gong tuner in all of the eastern United States. It's a dying art. You can't just hit a gong and expect it to sound just right. You got to have the full spectrum of brassy notes as well as other brassy notes. It's mostly brassy notes. It's a gorgeous sound, especially in the middle of the night when everything else is quiet. Please stop. It's 2 a.m., Mrs. Kim can be heard yelling from downstairs. Did somebody say something? Oh, well, back to the gong, says Mr. Markowitz, who also tap dances in his spare time.


SAGAL: The couple moves in below...


SAGAL: ...The East Coast's only professional gong tuner. Your last story of a place showing another face comes from Matt Rogers.

ROGERS: Earlier this year, a German human resources company rented space in an office building located in the upmarket district of Frankfurt. The space was perfect, and the landlord said he'd always be easy to find. That turned out to be true. You could see him out the window sunbathing naked almost every day.


ROGERS: The company withheld their rent, saying the constant public exposure of the man's private bits in a visible lounging area devalued the property. The landlord sued them, arguing that his desire to get a little even color on his between me down theres did not affect the building's utility. A German court agreed, pointing out that the landlord could only be seen if you leaned out the window anyway, so what's up with that, guys? Huh? The company will both pay back rent and learn to appreciate the glory of the male form in all its fullness.


SAGAL: All right. We found...


SAGAL: ...One of these stories in the week's news. Was it from Tom, how a couple who rented an Airbnb that they hoped was haunted really just had a deadbeat son, from Helen Hong, a couple who moved into their dream place in New York City to find that it was a nightmare under a gong tuner, or for Matt, a German company that moved into their new offices and then refused to pay rent because the landlord kept sunbathing naked outside their window? Which of these is the real story of real estate with a problem?

DILWORTH: Well, one summer we spent some time in a flat in Frankfurt, Germany, and I can attest to the openness of many Germans that they feel in their flat. So I'm going to have to go with the Frankfurt story.

SAGAL: All right. You're choosing Matt's story of the Frankfurt nudist landlord. That's a good name for an album, by the way. Well, to bring you the real story, we spoke to an expert on this subject.

MELVIN L SIMS III: If the landlord is, you know, sunbathing nude in that property...


SIMS: You have a very good argument that the fair market value of that property is diminished.

SAGAL: That was landlord tenant and real estate attorney Melvin L. Sims III, managing partner of the Tenants Rights Group LLC. Congratulations, Jeremi. You got it right. You earned a point for Matt Rogers. You've won our prize, the voice of your choice on your voicemail. Well done.


ROGERS: Jeremi.

DILWORTH: Thank you. Thanks, everyone. Bye-bye.

SAGAL: Thanks for writing us today. Take care.


BILLY JOEL: (Singing) You ought to know by now. Who needs a house out in Hackensack? Is that all you get for your money?

SAGAL: And now the game where we ask people who've done a lot about something that matters very little. It's called Not My Job. Ray...



SAGAL: Ray Romano created and starred in one of the most popular sitcoms ever, "Everybody Loves Raymond," playing a dad coping with his wife, kids and parents in Long Island. In his new movie, "Somewhere In Queens," he's a dad coping with everything in Queens. We assume his next movie, he'll be a dad in Manhattan. And when he turns to tragedy, he'll be all the way west to New Jersey.


SAGAL: Ray Romano, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME!


ROMANO: Thank you, happy to be here. Thank you. Thank you.

SAGAL: So one of the most amazing or interesting things I find about you, Ray, is that when you started your sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond," you were playing a married dad of three small children - a girl and young boy twins. And you were, at that time, a real-life father of a young girl and two baby twins, right?

ROMANO: That is true. That is correct.

SAGAL: So you spent all these years as a TV dad while being a real dad. Did being a TV dad affect your real dadding (ph), if you will?

ROMANO: Well, I was never home to be a real dad.


ROMANO: I mean, in that way, it did affect me.

SAGAL: Yeah.

ROMANO: And - yeah, no.

SAGAL: But I was wondering if, like, you were home with your real kids and they said something that wasn't amazingly charming and funny, if you would, like, call for rewrite without realizing where you were.

ROMANO: Well, you know what's funny, is my wife and I, one night, we're in bed watching the show. And she said to me - she goes, you said more to Patty Heaton in that scene than you've said to me all week.


ROMANO: And, yeah. And I told her, we have writers. It's easy. It's easy when you have writers, you know (ph)?


SAGAL: Did you go into the office the next day and turn to one of the writers and say, guys, could you give me something to say at home tonight?


SAGAL: I'm not...

ROMANO: Every - it's funny 'cause any time we would have a fight, sometimes my wife would look to me and say, I don't want to see this on the show. I do not want to see this on the show.


SAGAL: And did you - and what did you think when she said that? Were you like, OK? Or were you like, well, maybe I can talk her into it? Or maybe she is...

ROMANO: I would tell her...

SAGAL: Yeah?

ROMANO: ...To go cry on a bag of money.


ROMANO: That's what we did.

SAGAL: I should point out, by the way - I think everybody needs to know this. You're still happily married to the same person today...

ROMANO: I know.

SAGAL: ...Many years later.

ROMANO: Thirty-five. Thirty-five years.

HONG: Wow.

SAGAL: You know, that is - whoo (ph).

HONG: That's an achievement.

SAGAL: Is there - I mean...


SAGAL: But seriously, you've played a dad and a husband for so long in so many different iterations. Have you earned some - have you learned some wisdom? Obviously, you're good at it.

ROMANO: Well, I mean, you know, people ask me, how do you do it? How do you stay married so long? And I always quote one of my ex-therapists. I've been through many therapists.


ROMANO: And one of my ex ones says, you need to pretend you're not a narcissist, you know?


HONG: Wow. Fake it till you make it.

SAGAL: And, of course, did you say, I can pretend I'm not a narcissist, I can do that, I'm great?


ROMANO: That's right. That's right.


ROMANO: I'm good at pretending. Yeah, but, you know, it's exactly what he meant. And I think we know what he meant 'cause...

SAGAL: Yeah. Yeah.

ROMANO: Sometimes it's not all about you, you know? You got to...


HONG: Is that when you fired him?


ROMANO: Yeah. No, no, no. No.

SAGAL: Your show is on TV all the time now, in syndication. Do you ever find yourself, like the rest of us, in a hotel room late at night and "Everybody Loves Raymond" is on and you'll watch it?

ROMANO: It's sadder than that, to be honest with you. I don't know if it's a late-midlife or early-end-of-life crisis.

SAGAL: Yeah.

ROMANO: But I'm watching them now, and I'm rating them...

HONG: (Laughter).

ROMANO: ...From 1-100. I'm not kidding. I'm not kidding. I have a chart. I have a chart. And I...

HONG: What?


HONG: You have a spreadsheet?

ROMANO: I do. I've watched about 45 of them. There's 210 total.

PAPA: Wow.

ROMANO: And I started rating them. And the highest so far I got was a 91. Ninety-one is the highest one.

PAPA: Wow. How do you watch all your old shows and still say you're not a narcissist?


ROMANO: I'll tell you why - because the highest I gave was a 91. I'm very hard on myself.

SAGAL: There you go.


ROGERS: What's the lowest so far?

SAGAL: Oh, yeah.

ROMANO: Well, there's (ph) - they're in the 70s. Some of them are in the 70s, you know? Yeah.

SAGAL: Wow. I learned something. And I should have known this about you, and I'm sorry I didn't. But apparently, you are an excellent poker player.

ROMANO: Yes. People think I'm a good poker player. They think I'm a good golfer when in reality, I play poker, and I play golf. But I'm not good at either one of them, really.

SAGAL: Right. But is that...

PAPA: Yeah.

ROMANO: I'm average. I'm average. I'm average at all of them (ph). Yeah.

PAPA: He's good. He's good.

SAGAL: He's good?

PAPA: Yeah. The last time I was with Ray, he came on my radio show, and he had this bag next to him. And I was like, what's in the bag? And he said, I just came from poker, and there's a lot of cash in there.

HONG: What?


HONG: You literally have bags of money?

SAGAL: You literally, like, had the classic black valise filled with cash.

PAPA: Yeah. He walks around with bags of cash.


HONG: For your wife.

ROGERS: (Laughter).

ROMANO: I don't have access to my cash. I have - my wife gives me an allowance.


HONG: Do you have a good poker face? Because you don't seem like you would.


ROMANO: Why do you say that? Why do you say I wouldn't have one?

HONG: Because you're just so, like...

ROMANO: Because I'm a bad actor.


HONG: No. That's - no. That's not what I meant.

ROGERS: Expressive.

HONG: Yeah, expressive, exactly.

ROGERS: Expressive actor.

HONG: Thank you.

PAPA: He gets a bad hand, and he just - (impersonating Ray Romano) oh...


PAPA: (Impersonating Ray Romano) Oh, boy.

HONG: That was Tom Papa, not me.

PAPA: (Impersonating Ray Romano) Oh, boy.

SAGAL: Well, Ray Romano, we have invited you here to play a game that this time we're calling...

KURTIS: Everybody Loves Raymond, But Everybody Hates These Things.

SAGAL: So...


SAGAL: ...As we've discussed, you starred in "Everybody Loves Raymond," which is nice if you're Raymond. So we thought we'd ask you about things that everybody hates. Answer two out of three questions about things everybody just loathes, and you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, the voice of anyone they might choose. Bill, who is Ray Romano playing for?

KURTIS: Gary Wilson (ph) of Seattle, Washington.

SAGAL: All right. You ready to do this?

ROMANO: I'm going to try my hardest.

SAGAL: All right. Here's your first question. Everybody hates taxes - right? - especially when you're forced to pay taxes when you buy something you want. Which of these is a real tax? A, the Texas enormous belt buckle tax. B, the Canadian mayonnaise with French fries tax. Or C, the Illinois bribe tax.


SAGAL: Hometown crowd. Thank you.

ROMANO: The least ridiculous, I guess, is C.


SAGAL: I'm sorry...


SAGAL: ...Of those three, the least ridiculous is that when you bribe a politician...


SAGAL: ...Here in Illinois, you have to pay a certain percentage of the bribe...


SAGAL: ...To the state.

ROMANO: I get it. Well, I got it right, right?


SAGAL: No, but I love you for trying. It was actually the enormous belt buckle tax in Texas. It's true. In Texas, the belt buckles are taxed at a higher rate than the belt itself.

HONG: Really?

SAGAL: Yeah. So the bigger and more elaborate and more expensive your belt buckle - which they love down there - the more money you have to spend. All right, Ray, you still have two more chances. Here is your next question. Everybody hates traffic jams, particularly over in China. That's why a new service has arisen there to make them a little less horrible.

What is that service? A, you can order aerial photographs of the traffic jam sent to you so you can prove to your boss or whomever that's why you're late. B, alcohol delivered to your stuck car by drone. Or C, a service in which two people show up on a motorbike, one stays with your car and the other weaves through traffic with you and the bike to get you to your destination.

ROMANO: That one, the last one.

SAGAL: You're right, Ray.


SAGAL: Exactly.


SAGAL: Because as you probably figured out, that is a great idea. And this is why China is beating us in global competition. You have one more question. If you get this right, you win.

Everybody hates going through airport security. Which of these were once seized at a TSA checkpoint? A, a 20-pound live lobster. B, one of those enormous pairs of ceremonial scissors for ribbon cuttings. Or C, a gun hidden inside a raw chicken.


ROMANO: Well, I have cut a ribbon at a Bed, Bath and Beyond.


SAGAL: Oh...

ROGERS: Never again.

SAGAL: Yeah, a lot of good it did them, man.

ROGERS: Never again.


ROMANO: All right, I'm going to say the gun hidden in the thing.

SAGAL: You're right. Not only that...


HONG: In the thing.

SAGAL: ...They were all found on passengers.

HONG: What?

SAGAL: All of the above.


SAGAL: Bill, how did Ray Romano do on our quiz?

KURTIS: You got a 75 by our rating, but two out of three is a winner, Ray.

PAPA: Woohoo.

KURTIS: Congratulations.

ROGERS: Sixty-six percent.


SAGAL: Ray Romano's new, wonderful movie is "Somewhere In Queens." Ray Romano, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT...

ROMANO: My treat.

SAGAL: ...DON'T TELL ME. What a pleasure to talk to you.

KURTIS: Thanks, Ray.

ROMANO: Thank you.


BEASTIE BOYS: (Rapping) Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten, from the Battery to the top of Manhattan. Asian, Middle Eastern and Latin, Black, white - New York, you make it happen.

SAGAL: In just a minute, you better have a green thumb in our Listener Limerick Challenge game. Call 1-888-WAITWAIT to join us on the air. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR.

KURTIS: 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 Helen Hong, Tom Papa and Matt Rogers. And here again is your host at the Studebaker Theater in Chicago, Ill., Peter Sagal.

SAGAL: Thank you, Bill. In just a minute...


SAGAL: In just a minute, join Professor Rhymeritus Bill 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. All right, Tom. It's time for a new game that we're calling...

KURTIS: What's that phenomenon?

SAGAL: This week, we learned about the Mariko Aoki phenomenon, which is an actual documented biological reaction where many people, when they enter a bookstore, have a sudden urge to do what?

PAPA: They have an urge to - can you give me a hint?

SAGAL: Yeah. Well, if reading is the number one thing you do in a bookstore...

PAPA: Oh, number two.

SAGAL: Yes. Number two. Yes.

HONG: What?


SAGAL: It is a widely reported phenomenon. Many people say they walk into a bookstore and, for some reason, immediately have the urge to poop.

HONG: Oh, that makes sense.

SAGAL: Does it make sense?

HONG: Yeah, because when you poop, you want to be reading something.

SAGAL: Exactly. I mean, maybe that's it. It's like, you walk in and you see all the books. You go, hey, where do I do most of my reading?

HONG: Yeah.

PAPA: Right. And they say, not here.



SAGAL: And this phenomenon, which has been documented over the years - a lot of people say, yeah, it happens to me, too - is called the Mariko Aoki phenomenon after one Mariko Aoki, who wrote a letter to the editor of a magazine some years ago saying this happened to her, and she wondered if other people felt the same. And they were like, yeah, that happens to me too, just like Mariko Aoki, for whom it is now named.

HONG: Does she like that this is named after her?

SAGAL: I would guess not.


HONG: Yeah. I don't know if that's - if, like, if I Googled my name and that was the first thing that came up, I'd be like, aw, man.

SAGAL: Yeah, that's not good.

PAPA: This is good to know, though, because I stop up, like, when I'm traveling on the road a lot.


PAPA: Sometimes I'll go, like, a whole week...

HONG: What?

PAPA: And not till I get back home is my body like, OK, now we're safe.


ROGERS: We've got to get you to a Borders. That's not healthy.

SAGAL: You know...

PAPA: That's all right. But now I know I can just go to a bookstore and my problem will be solved.

ROGERS: Preferably local. Everyone be pooping at your local bookstore.

SAGAL: Local independent. Local independent bookstore.


PAPA: Local independent bookstores. Anyways...

SAGAL: Matt?


SAGAL: Matt, there's another reason to be wary of ordering French fries at dinner, according to a new study. Fries can make you what?



SAGAL: Fries in a bookstore. Don't...

PAPA: Oh, man. That's why they never put bookstores in... Burger King.


SAGAL: I mean, instead of ketchup, they should come with a little Zoloft.

ROGERS: Oh, they make you tired.


ROGERS: What? They can make - what does the - my mental health is incredible.

SAGAL: Wait a minute.


SAGAL: I was about to say, you're a comedian and you don't know what Zoloft is? I did not know this was possible.

ROGERS: My comedy is connected to my joy. I didn't know that french fries can make you sad.

SAGAL: Yes, depressed. French fries can make you depressed.


ROGERS: OK. Sorry, guys.

PAPA: Wow.

SAGAL: Fried food - in particular, French fries - are linked to depression. Or in the case of curly fries, they're linked to each other.


SAGAL: A new study says that people who eat fried foods, and again, especially French fries, have a higher risk of anxiety and depression than people who don't. But they're still way less depressed than the people who asked for the side salad instead of the fries.

HONG: Seriously.


PAPA: That is not true.

HONG: Yeah. They're wrong.

ROGERS: Yeah. That's not true. I guess that's what's making me...

HONG: It's flat out wrong.

PAPA: Yeah, it's wrong.

ROGERS: It's just not - it's not correct.


SAGAL: Well, wait a minute. You may not believe me, or you may be thinking, yeah, right. French fries cause depression. In my case, depression causes French fries.


SAGAL: But it is actually chemistry. There are compounds in french fries linked to depression and anxiety. Fortunately, you can render those compounds inert by smothering them with melted cheese.

HONG: Amen. Now we're talking.

PAPA: Yeah, baby.

SAGAL: There you go.

PAPA: French fries make me happy. I eat them on the road all the time and still never poop.


ZAC BROWN BAND: (Singing) You know I like my chicken fried, a cold beer on a Friday night, a pair of jeans that fit just right and the radio up.

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, waitwait.npr.org. You can see us most weeks right here at the beautiful Studebaker Theater in Chicago. We'll be in New Orleans on May 25 and at Tanglewood in western Massachusetts on June 22. Tickets and info are at nprpresents.org. Hi, you're on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

OREN: Hi. This is Oren (ph) from Tampa.

SAGAL: Hey, Oren. How are things in Tampa?

OREN: Hot.

SAGAL: Yes. The nice part of the year is done. Now you will suffer till October. That's how it is in Florida.


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

OREN: No, but let's do it anyway.


SAGAL: That's the attitude. Here's your first limerick.

KURTIS: In my haute couture gardening pants, I apply for botanical grants. Philodendrons in pots make up Christy's top lots, and I'm bidding on fine indoor...

OREN: Plants.

SAGAL: Plants. Yes.


SAGAL: Very good. This week...


SAGAL: This week, the most expensive houseplant ever sold was auctioned off for $19,000. It was a fern. No, I'm kidding. It was a white variegated mini monstera plant. That exotic plant, if you don't know it, has nine leaves, white and green marbled pigments, five bedrooms, three baths and a working fireplace.


HONG: What?

SAGAL: This apparently is not the first time a houseplant has sold for thousands of dollars. According to one of the auctioneer's spokespeople, plants have become an increasingly popular, like, luxury status symbol over the past few years. It's perfect for anyone who, like, wants a Birkin bag but one they can kill with neglect.


HONG: Nineteen thousand dollars?

SAGAL: Thousand dollars for a houseplant.

PAPA: But if you dry it up, it gets you really high.


HONG: Like, does it do your laundry?

SAGAL: I don't think so. I think it's just a plant. I think - I mean, I think it sits there - and I don't know how to put this - like a potted plant.

HONG: What?


SAGAL: All right. Here is your next limerick.

KURTIS: My runoff I'll clean and devour, though this ale that I made seems quite sour. Recycled waste gets a hoppy, bright taste. I brew beer from the drain of my...

OREN: There a hint I can get?


HONG: It's gross. I'll give you a hint. It's gross.

SAGAL: It has a drain.

ROGERS: It's where you'd go if you wanted to wash your body, babe.

PAPA: Oh, my God.

OREN: Shower?

KURTIS: Yes, it is. Shower.

SAGAL: Shower.


ROGERS: Yeah, it's shower.

PAPA: Wow.


HONG: This is wrong.

SAGAL: A California water recycling company has partnered with a brewery to make beer with the water collected from the showers, laundry and sinks of a 40-story apartment building.

PAPA: Why? And French fries make us depressed.


SAGAL: It's a kolsch-style beer, which I think is a better choice than an IPA because IPA lot in the shower.


SAGAL: All right, here is your last limerick.

KURTIS: The U-bend traps air - you can't spoil it. Here's an air hose. You'll need to uncoil it. Your porcelain bowl plays a life-saving role. Use this snorkel to breathe from the...

OREN: Toilet.

SAGAL: Toilet. Yes.


SAGAL: This week, we learned about the toilet snorkel, a potentially life-saving device in case of fire. So say you're trapped in a burning building filling with smoke. You need a source of clean air. Guess what? There is clean air inside your toilet. All you do is you strap this face-hugging mask onto your face. It's got a long hose coming off the middle of it. Then you kneel in front of the toilet, insert the long hose down through the toilet, through the water bend and into the fresh air in the standpipe. Then - not done yet - you sit with your face in the toilet, breathing that good air until you're rescued. Or alternatively, you could just say, you know, I'm good. I'll burn to death.


SAGAL: But if you try this, you have to hope it works and that you get out of there because if you don't and they find your remains...


SAGAL: ...Kneeling with your head in the toilet, somebody is going to say, well, at least he died doing what he loved.


KURTIS: See what happens when the writers strike?

SAGAL: Yeah.


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

KURTIS: He got them all right. He is perfect.

SAGAL: Thank you, Oren. Thanks so much for playing.


SAGAL: Stay cool.


THE POLICE: (Singing) Every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, I'll be watching you. Every single day...

SAGAL: Now on to 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: Tom and Helen each have two. Matt has four.


HONG: What?

ROGERS: Oh, please. This game is crazy.


SAGAL: All right, well, Matt, you're leading the pack, so we'll choose Tom to go first. Here we go. The clock will start when I begin your first question. Fill in the blank. On Thursday, the U.S. denied Russia's accusation that they were behind the drone strike on the blank.

PAPA: The Kremlin.

SAGAL: Right.


SAGAL: This week, Ron DeSantis and his handpicked oversight board filed a countersuit against Blank.

PAPA: Disney.

SAGAL: Right. On Thursday...


SAGAL: The ex-leader of the Proud Boys was found guilty for his involvement in blank.

PAPA: January 6.

SAGAL: Yes. This week...


SAGAL: A Pennsylvania woman who was too embarrassed to tell her family she wasn't graduating from college blanked.

PAPA: Passed out.

SAGAL: No, faked her own disappearance. On Monday, environmental groups sued the FAA over private space company blank's failed rocket launch and its debris.

PAPA: SpaceX.



SAGAL: Best known for "If You Could Read My Mind" and "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald," singer-songwriter blank passed away at the age of 84.

PAPA: Gordon Lightfoot.



SAGAL: This week, a shoplifter in England was easily caught...


SAGAL: ...After he tried to evade police by hiding in a barbershop, even though he is blank.

PAPA: Bald.



SAGAL: Police immediately knew the man was up to something fishy when he dart - he saw them and darted into a barber shop even though he was completely bald. It seems like an obvious mistake, but these are exactly the kind of foolish things you'd expect from someone who spent years thinking their combover was fooling anybody.


SAGAL: Bill, how did Tom Papa do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Six right, 12 more points, in the lead with 14.

SAGAL: All right.

ROGERS: Very good.

SAGAL: Very good.


SAGAL: Helen, you're up next. Fill in the blank. On Monday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that the U.S. could default by June 1 if the blank was not raised.

HONG: Debt ceiling.

SAGAL: Right.


SAGAL: This week, the Federal Reserve again raised blank rates.

HONG: Interest rates.

SAGAL: Yes. On Monday...


SAGAL: Protesters in France clashed with police over blank reforms.

HONG: The retirement age?

SAGAL: Yeah, pension.


SAGAL: This week, tourists in Hawaii were recovered safely after they followed their GPS route into blank.

HONG: The ocean.



SAGAL: On Wednesday, NASA reported that a blank had passed near the Earth.

HONG: A comet.

SAGAL: No, an asteroid. This week, a cat burglar accused of stealing hundreds of dollars' worth of items in the U.K. was revealed to be blank.

HONG: A literal cat?



HONG: I totally guessed that.

SAGAL: The criminal cat was ratted out by its own owner who posted all the stolen items the cat had brought home online, hoping to identify their owners. During its life of crime, the cat had stolen shoes, purses and various items of clothing. Many of the items have been returned, but for some reason, no one wants to claim the dead mice.


SAGAL: Bill, how did Helen do? I thought quite well.

KURTIS: She did - five right, 10 more points. But she's too short with 12, short of Tom.

SAGAL: All right. So the next question is, how many, then, does Matt need to win?

KURTIS: Five to tie, six to win.

SAGAL: Here we go, Matt. Tall order. Here we go. This is for the game.


SAGAL: On Tuesday, the White House announced it was sending 1500 troops to the blank to aid immigration authorities.

ROGERS: Ukraine?

SAGAL: No, to the border.

ROGERS: I'm so sorry.

SAGAL: On Monday - don't apologize.

ROGERS: I just am.

SAGAL: On Monday, the FDIC took control of the First Republic Bank and sold it to blank.

ROGERS: The children.


SAGAL: JPMorgan Chase. This week, the FDA approved a vaccine for the respiratory virus commonly known as blank.

ROGERS: Emphysema.



SAGAL: On Thursday, raids in Italy arrested over 100 people suspected of having ties to the blank.

ROGERS: Pizza gang.


ROGERS: The mafia.

SAGAL: Mafia. All right.


SAGAL: This week, a man in the Netherlands tried to get out of a traffic violation by handing police an ID that said he was blank.

ROGERS: Claudia Schiffer, actually.

SAGAL: Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. According....


SAGAL: According to a new report, U.S. blank openings dropped for the third straight month.

ROGERS: Dating opportunities.


SAGAL: No. Job openings. On Wednesday, Kate Bush, Rage Against the Machine and Missy Elliott were all named as inductees to the blank.

ROGERS: The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.



SAGAL: This week, the CDC...


SAGAL: The CDC said it was investigating...


SAGAL: ...A 35-person COVID outbreak that took place at an event for blank employees.

ROGERS: Lisa Vanderpump's Pump Restaurant.

SAGAL: No. It took place - the CDC was investigating a 35-person COVID outbreak that took place at an event for CDC employees.


ROGERS: Oh. Well, that's funny.

SAGAL: For the first time since 2019, the CDC hosted the Epidemic Intelligence Service conference for infectious disease experts...


SAGAL: And over 35 people have confirmed they contracted COVID there. While it's unclear exactly when the spread started, an internal investigation had narrowed it down to sometime between the apple bobbing tub and the kissing booth.


SAGAL: Bill, did Matt do well enough to win?

KURTIS: You know, the last time you were here, you did win.

ROGERS: I did win.

SAGAL: That's - what you're saying, Bill, is let's focus on that?

KURTIS: Yeah. Because this time, you got two right.

ROGERS: I know.

SAGAL: Which means...

KURTIS: Four more - eight means Tom Papa is the winner tonight.


SAGAL: Now, panel, what will be the first hit TV show made without writers? Matt Rogers.

ROGERS: "The Real Teachers Of Tampa."


SAGAL: Helen Hong.

HONG: An AI-written comedy titled "This Is Humorous And Enjoyable And Will Increase Market Share."

SAGAL: And Tom Papa.

PAPA: The all-new "Ron DeSantis Mickey Mouse Club."


ROGERS: They can't sing, dance or act.

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

SAGAL: Thank you, Bill Kurtis. Thanks also to Matt Rogers, Helen Hong, Tom Papa. Thanks to all of you for listening at home and our fabulous audience...


SAGAL: ...At the Studebaker Theater. We will see you next week.

This is NPR.

Copyright © 2023 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.