OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:
You're listening to ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR and WNYC. I'm Ophira Eisenberg, and with me is our very important puzzler, Ellie Kemper.
EISENBERG: So excited to have you, and I know that you are joining us on your wedding anniversary.
ELLIE KEMPER: I am. What a wonderful wife.
EISENBERG: What wedding anniversary is this?
KEMPER: It's our third.
KEMPER: What gift is that? I don't know. The first is…
EISENBERG: Game shows.
KEMPER: Game shows.
EISENBERG: Someone knew it, though. Someone yelled it out. What is it?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Leather.
KEMPER: Is it actually leather? That is - who is the sicko?
EISENBERG: I know.
KEMPER: (Laughter) OK.
EISENBERG: Ellie, the characters you play are usually so optimistic - Erin on “The Office,” Becca in “Bridesmaids,” Kimmy in “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” I mean, these are – they’re very funny, but they’re naive and optimistic.
EISENBERG: And there's an innocence. Is that who you are?
KEMPER: I don't know if the people who have written those characters and who have directed those characters see that in me. I guess so. I would like to think that I am cheerful and have an optimistic outlook. But I don't think it's as relentless as some of these women. Yeah, but I hope that there's some grain of similarity there.
EISENBERG: Would you kill to play a dark, evil villain?
KEMPER: I think that would be a lot of fun.
KEMPER: And not ironically - like, actually go there. There was this video that Mindy Kaling and I made on “The Office” with our band, Subtle Sexuality, and…
KEMPER: Maybe you've heard of it (laughter). And it was called “The Girl Next Door.” And I played this very popular girl who had it all, and Mindy was, like, was the girl next door, who, you know, never got anything. And even that little glimpse of playing just a B-I… Can I say B-I-T-C-H?
EISENBERG: Sure, yeah.
KEMPER: OK, was fun.
KEMPER: It felt good and cathartic. So maybe we’ll make it into a movie. I don't know (laughter).
EISENBERG: But you also are a writer.
EISENBERG: You used to – I mean, you've published McSweeney's but also The Onion.
KEMPER: Yes, yes.
EISENBERG: So how did you get the job on The Onion?
KEMPER: OK, so this is how I got the job on The Onion. I was a contributing writer to The Onion. And what I did was I looked up Joe Garden. He was an editor at The Onion. He was listed first alphabetically. And I just kept sending him headlines, and he kept not responding. I think after a month, he responded and said, you know, you can keep sending me them, they're not there yet, but you can keep trying. So it - that there, that was sort of a relentlessness.
KEMPER: Yeah. I was not relenting. And I just kept badgering him until he said, OK, I will bring these headlines to the Monday meeting. And that's how it happened.
EISENBERG: Do you remember the first one that you got in the paper?
KEMPER: I do. It came to me - I was at a Las Vegas bachelorette party for my friend, and I was eating fruit salad for breakfast. And, guys, when inspiration strikes, it strikes. And it was, "Grapes Big Hit At Area Picnic."
KEMPER: They were. They were a hit. Thanks, guys. I was eating a grape at the time (laughter).
EISENBERG: So I love this idea that Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, her writing partner, pitched "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" as "Elf" meets "Silence Of The Lambs."
KEMPER: Yes. Yeah, well I saw in the notes it was - you know, the innocence and joy of "Elf" mixed with sort of a wily, young John McCain, where it was this resilience and resolve, and you've been through something admittedly horrendous, and yet, you've come out, and you still have this wide-eyed wonderment about the world and everything, you know, that surrounds you. So yes, I do think it was pitched something like that. And do you think, well, how do you make a comedy out of that? But they did.
EISENBERG: They did.
EISENBERG: How did they pitch it to you?
KEMPER: Not with that - those exact descriptors, but it was - OK, because I think I'm a little bit paranoid, when they pitched the idea as a woman who has emerged from an underground cult after 15 years goes to start life over in New York City, and I left that dinner and I did think they were pranking me. Like, that was a test of my intelligence, and if I thought that they were serious, surely I was not smart enough to work with them. But I was wrong because that was the premise.
EISENBERG: And you hosted the "Today" show. So what have you learned from this live television experience?
KEMPER: What have I learned? I do think when in doubt, don't say anything. Maybe that's wrong if you're hosting a talk show.
KEMPER: But there are three other people there, so I - and they've been there longer, so I feel like they - they're all very - they're such pros, obviously. They're very calm. I think - what have I learned? Oh, bright colors - wear bright colors.
EISENBERG: OK, yeah.
KEMPER: They pop.
EISENBERG: That's perfect. Do you see yourself hosting more talk shows in the future? Like, maybe being this woman that we're looking for to be our late-night talk show host?
KEMPER: Oh, I don't know about late-night talk show.
KEMPER: But I would like to host a talk show, but I - this sounds strange to specify the time of day.
EISENBERG: Yeah - a 1:00 p.m.
KEMPER: No, but I do - something, maybe, during daylight hours. Yeah, I would be interested in that.
EISENBERG: OK. With celebrities and everything coming on?
KEMPER: Yeah, I would love that. Yup.
EISENBERG: I think I would like for you to do that.
KEMPER: Well, if you have - hear of any jobs.
EISENBERG: Well, so we thought, you know, given your stance on the "Today" show, we'd play clips from other well-known talk show hosts for your quiz.
EISENBERG: And all you have to do is identify from the clip who the talk show host is.
EISENBERG: All right, so here's the stakes. If you get enough correct, Sharon Caneper of Birch Run, Mich., is going to win an ASK ME ANOTHER prize.
KEMPER: Oh, great.
EISENBERG: She's excited.
KEMPER: Sharon, this one's for you.
KEMPER: I apologize in advance.
EISENBERG: (Laughter) So when you're hosting a talk show, as you know, you have to make sure the you sound like the everyday person. You can't be using big, two-dollar words.
EISENBERG: You get - have you been told that?
KEMPER: I haven't been told that, but there's no danger of that happening, so it's OK.
EISENBERG: OK, well, let's see if you can identify the host from a montage of his favorite sayings.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DR. PHIL")
PHIL MCGRAW: I don't care how flat you make a pancake. It's got two sides.
She's on me like a duck on a june bug.
I think I'd be madder than a wet hen myself.
MCGRAW: Did somebody slip up and write stupid on my forehead?
KEMPER: Oh, gosh. This is very obvious, isn't it? Everyone knows.
EISENBERG: Well, who do you have on your mind?
KEMPER: On my mind - the first person who came to my mind is Bill O'Reilly...
EISENBERG: Oh, yeah. This person...
KEMPER: …But he doesn't talk like that.
EISENBERG: This person is a doctor.
KEMPER: Oh, it's Dr. Phil.
KEMPER: Thank You. Thank You. I'm sorry.
EISENBERG: That's OK. No problem.
KEMPER: All right.
EISENBERG: It's hard to know he's a doctor when his everyday folk talk's like a farmer from the '30s.
KEMPER: Thank you, Ophira, thank you.
EISENBERG: I'd be madder than a wet hen myself.
EISENBERG: One quote I actually pulled of his - I don't understand it - is no dog's ever peed on a moving car.
EISENBERG: What does that mean?
KEMPER: I think you got to just keep going, right?
EISENBERG: Yeah, move forward, right?
KEMPER: Is that what it is? Move forward and you won't catch any urine.
KEMPER: All right, filing it away.
EISENBERG: Life lesson.
KEMPER: A life lesson. OK.
EISENBERG: Now, there's a lot of time to fill in talk shows. Sometimes you just have to talk about silly things.
KEMPER: Yeah, yes.
EISENBERG: Like this host going on and on about emojis on her phone.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW")
ELLEN DEGENERES: But it's not just faces anymore. There's another page of just animals right here. There's a snake, and there's chickens and ladybugs and tropical fish down here. And what does that mean? Why would you need a - see you in twenty minutes - tropical fish.
KEMPER: This is the lovely Ellen DeGeneres.
EISENBERG: You guest hosted for Ellen.
KEMPER: I did, and that was wonderful because I got called, like, four hours before the show was going to happen, so there was no time to think about it.
KEMPER: Yeah, it was great. What is it - what's the old saying? A moving car a dog can't…
KEMPER: Just got to keep going.
KEMPER: So that was wonderful because the dog could not pee on me. I just had to get out there and go. And that was, like, one of the best days. And also the audience was very forgiving 'cause they knew this was not planned. It was just sort of happening before their very eyes.
EISENBERG: Right, so they were like, oh, we're in for a real, like, spontaneous ride.
KEMPER: Yes, and they got 10 days of giveaways - or 12 days of - they got a lot of free gifts.
EISENBERG: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
KEMPER: So they were very happy, yeah.
EISENBERG: Let's face it. HDTV is nobody's best friend. It reveals everyone's warts and blemishes.
EISENBERG: A good talk show host has ways to fix that.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DR. OZ SHOW")
MEHMET OZ: I know every one of you has a special anti-aging routine, you're go-to products and rituals to fight wrinkles. And every routine involves a cream. But how do you know which ones are good, better and the best? Well, today, I'll let you know. I've got the most effective potions to make you look younger.
KEMPER: I know this one.
KEMPER: It came to (laughter) it came to me, just like the grapes.
KEMPER: Is that Dr. Oz?
EISENBERG: Yes, it is.
KEMPER: Yes, yes.
KEMPER: I don't know. I was about to go with Bill O'Reilly. For the first minute, I was like, Bill O'Reilly. I was like, why would he be talking about that? OK.
EISENBERG: Well, it's – again, you're like, does a doctor use the word potion?
KEMPER: Yeah, exactly.
EISENBERG: So it's like a little odd. Would I go to a cardiologist for face cream? Well, I suppose I would.
KEMPER: These are good doctors. They're good doctors.
EISENBERG: They're awesome.
KEMPER: I'm glad we're listening, yeah (laughter).
EISENBERG: Most importantly, you have to open yourself up. There is no such thing as over sharing as you will hear from this popular co-host.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LIVE WITH KELLY AND MICHAEL")
KELLY RIPA: Oh, my gosh, I am so uncomfortable right now. I wish you could see my armpits.
KEMPER: Well, was it Kelly Ripa?
KEMPER: Oh, I - OK.
EISENBERG: Have you had any armpit problems while - as a host?
KEMPER: I was just trying on a dress this morning and you know that part - you don't have them. That part of a woman that always comes out when the strap just goes here - it's like a big joke on us. Where it's like your bra shoves your bosom up, and then it meets your arm, and there's a flap, and it's just always there.
EISENBERG: You're right, for your wings. Yeah, sure.
KEMPER: Your wings - fly away.
EISENBERG: Angels, we're all angels.
KEMPER: (Laughter) Yes. The morning talk show angels. Yeah, so that's the armpit problem I have.
EISENBERG: So you put on the dress and you're like, nope.
KEMPER: Yeah. Then you just think, oh, that's all anyone's going to see. And no one – well, in HD maybe they will. That is all they'll see.
KEMPER: Yeah. She - Kelly Ripa doesn't have to worry about her armpits. Let's just pit it out there.
EISENBERG: I know. I know.
KEMPER: Does she have armpits?
EISENBERG: I think she got them removed.
EISENBERG: Yeah, I'm pretty sure she got those taken out.
EISENBERG: Pretty sure you got 100 percent.
KEMPER: I guess I did.
KEMPER: I mean, I - I really wanted to draw that out.
EISENBERG: You and Sharon Caneper (ph) are going to get ASK ME ANOTHER anagram T-shirts.
EISENBERG: So thank you very much.
KEMPER: Thank you.
EISENBERG: Big hand for Ellie Kemper everybody.
KEMPER: Oh, thank you.
KEMPER: Thank You.
EISENBERG: And now, how about a little Jonathan Coulton?
JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: How about it?
COULTON: (Playing guitar, singing) Still so dark because it's still so early and the chipper little girly at the front desk doesn't mind at all. These phony living rooms and fake plants are killing me. This bad coffee is filling me with equal parts joy and rage. Put my makeup on and crack in half. I choke back a laugh, find the camera with the red light. Good morning, Tucson. The lights come on, so I smile wide and say, good morning, Tucson. Throw to you before I throw the rest away.
When I was coming up, I got the doughnuts, which means I got the doughnuts that I wanted. There was no young punk to steal my jelly glazed, and I am still sort of amazed that you can be born in the '90s. When I don't like what they talk about, take the earpiece out. They just cue me through the window. Good morning, Tucson. The lights go on, so I smile wide and say, good morning, Tucson. Throw to you before I throw the rest away.
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