Craig Robinson: One For The Ladies Comedian Craig Robinson talks about his new movie Morris From America. Then he joins Jonathan Coulton in a rewrite of Styx's "Lady" about famous people or things that start with the word 'lady.'
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Craig Robinson: One For The Ladies

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Craig Robinson: One For The Ladies

Craig Robinson: One For The Ladies

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JONATHAN COULTON: This is ASK ME ANOTHER, NPR's hour of puzzles, word games and trivia. I'm Jonathan Coulton, here with Puzzle guru Greg Pliska. And now, here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Thank you, Jonathan. Before the break, our contestant, Evan, won his way to the final round at the end of the show. And we're going to find out a little later who he will face off against. But now, it's time to welcome our first special guest. You know him from "The Office" and the movie "Hot Tub Time Machine." His new movie is "Morris From America." Please welcome Craig Robinson.

CRAIG ROBINSON: Hello, everyone.

EISENBERG: You are a standup comic, musician, actor. Your first comedic song that you wrote is called "Can I Have Some Booty?".

ROBINSON: Oh, OK. Well done.

EISENBERG: Now, here's my question - why not all the booty?

ROBINSON: Don't want to be greedy.

EISENBERG: Really?

ROBINSON: Yeah.

EISENBERG: Manners - it's all about manners?

ROBINSON: Well, just, you know, a little booty here and there, that's fine.

EISENBERG: As a musician, your band - with your brother, right - Nasty...

ROBINSON: Yes, Chris Rob.

EISENBERG: Nasty Delicious.

ROBINSON: Nasty Delicious, yes.

EISENBERG: Nasty delicious appeared on "The Office." When did you decide to bring music into your comedy act?

ROBINSON: It was very early on. I had gone up about three times without any music. And I went up at this place called Heckler's Heaven. It was in Chicago.

EISENBERG: That's a real name of a club?

ROBINSON: It wasn't the name of the club. It was called the Q Club at the time.

EISENBERG: OK.

ROBINSON: It was a pool hall, and then in the back they had a room with a stage.

EISENBERG: Heckler's Heaven?

ROBINSON: Heckler's Heaven was - you got eight minutes, right?

EISENBERG: Yeah.

ROBINSON: But after the first three minutes, they rang a bell (laughter). And then three people in the audience had a rubber chicken, and three other people had, like, a score card. And you - if you got all three chickens, you had to get off stage.

EISENBERG: Are you kidding me? OK, so this is...

ROBINSON: The first time I went up, I got two chickens, and I quit before I got my third.

ROBINSON: And then, the following week, I came up with the keyboard, and no chickens.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

EISENBERG: It's like...

ROBINSON: I did get some booty, though.

EISENBERG: (Laughter). Just some - just some.

ROBINSON: I tease. I tease. I didn't. And you could win 200 bucks.

EISENBERG: Did you ever win 200 bucks?

ROBINSON: Yeah, yeah, I won it a couple times.

EISENBERG: Nice.

ROBINSON: Yeah, I think I even won it when it went down to 100 bucks.

EISENBERG: Nothing like a place where the prize decreases over time.

EISENBERG: Now, I know also, before you became a standup, you taught K-8 in the...

ROBINSON: K-8 music.

EISENBERG: Music?

ROBINSON: Yes.

EISENBERG: In Chicago.

ROBINSON: Yeah, in Chicago and Indiana.

EISENBERG: So how does your roughest, meanest standup crowd at Heckler's Heaven compare to some - one day as a teacher?

ROBINSON: It was rough, but it was - once you, you know, break through - sometimes you get those breakthroughs, and it's - it's nothing like that. And the kids still write me on the social media, whatever, saying, you know, Mr. Robinson, we're so inspired by you. We're still, you know, praying for you and stuff. And I'll just write them back, hey, I'm not your teacher anymore. Please stop contacting me.

EISENBERG: You're still teaching them lessons. You're still teaching them lessons.

ROBINSON: Right, right, right.

EISENBERG: (Laughter). I mean, I'm sure you were a funny teacher.

ROBINSON: Yeah, but I - my - when I was upset, I was at my most effective.

ROBINSON: When I would get upset, they - and then they knew not to mess around. But - but, yeah, for the most part, I was just, like - I remember one kid said, hey, we need discipline.

EISENBERG: Are you kidding?

ROBINSON: She called herself the cop. She was the cop.

EISENBERG: Now, people know you from all of your comedic roles, but your new movie, "Morris From America," although you play a funny dad, you're also - it's much more of a dramatic role.

ROBINSON: Yeah.

EISENBERG: The plot of the movie is you play Morris' dad, and you move to Germany to set up...

ROBINSON: Yeah, we were - it catches up with us in Germany. His - his mother, my wife, is deceased. And it's just this cool relationship that they have. It's unlike any parental relationship I've seen on screen or in real life. And the part that I want to say I haven't seen a relationship like this - like, the - Morris would curse at his father.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

ROBINSON: And his father's like, OK, let's take a minute. Let's chill. You know, I would have been, you know, thrown down the stairs. You know, but it was like - with this kid, you know, it's like he knows he has him in this foreign country, and he knows he's got to - he needs him to grow up because I've got to go make paper for us and all this other stuff.

EISENBERG: Were you friends with your folks?

ROBINSON: No.

EISENBERG: No? No, no, neither was I. It was just not the way it works.

ROBINSON: My mother maybe more, but my father made it clear. He's like, I'm not his friend; I'm his father.

EISENBERG: Yeah. Now, you are also about to host a game show called "Caraoke Showdown."

ROBINSON: Yes.

EISENBERG: All right, so can you tell us what this is about?

ROBINSON: Yeah, it's karaoke in a car.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

ROBINSON: James Corden-esque...

EISENBERG: Yes.

ROBINSON: ...You could say, except for it's not celebrities. It's, you know, regular people, and they are winning prizes.

EISENBERG: Do they know they are going to be singing karaoke when they get in the...

ROBINSON: No.

EISENBERG: ...Car?

ROBINSON: They don't. It's straight up like boom, your car service is here.

ROBINSON: Can't say any other name of a car service, so...

EISENBERG: Right, right, exactly.

ROBINSON: And then it's me, and they're like, oh, man - and it's like, oh, "Office." And we get through that...

ROBINSON: Yeah.

ROBINSON: ...And then we go...

ROBINSON: And then I say, well, you know, here's some games. You've got to, you know, finish the words or sing with marshmallows in your mouth or something, so...

EISENBERG: OK, like...

ROBINSON: ...Two-hundred here, 500 here. It's silly. It's a lot of fun.

EISENBERG: Just the logistics of doing a game show where you are driving, I've always wondered are you actually driving?

ROBINSON: Yes.

ROBINSON: Is that not dangerous?

ROBINSON: Yeah, very.

ROBINSON: It is, but we have - you know, there's a car in front of us, car in back of us and sometimes on the side, camera car. And they make sure we're very safe.

EISENBERG: So if you hit someone, you hit a car that is part of the crew.

ROBINSON: Yeah - well, not necessarily.

ROBINSON: Depends on, you know, if I've been drinking.

EISENBERG: All right, would you be into helping us with an ASK ME ANOTHER challenge?

ROBINSON: Absolutely.

EISENBERG: All right, Craig Robinson, everybody.

EISENBERG: Let's meet our next two contestants. First up, Elle Miller, you illustrate and paint greeting cards.

ELLE MILLER: That is correct.

EISENBERG: That's a job, huh? Can you give me, like, a recent illustration that you have done just so I get a sense of your style?

MILLER: My wonderful boss came up with probably one of my favorite cards. It's cherries and it says to the perfect pair, which I guess could go to a happy couple or somebody that recently got work done. So...

EISENBERG: Oh, very nice. Your opponent is a Morgan Richardson. You work at the Apple Store.

MORGAN RICHARDSON: I do.

EISENBERG: And not just any Apple Store. The 24-hour Apple Store on Fifth Avenue. That's kind of like the famous one.

RICHARDSON: It is.

EISENBERG: So who's in there at 4 a.m., by the way?

RICHARDSON: Not me...

EISENBERG: Oh, good.

RICHARDSON: ...Ever. No, but a lot of people take advantage of the 24-hour genius bar. So if you're having a fun night out and things go south and your phone ends up with a cracked screen...

EISENBERG: In the toilet, right? Yeah.

RICHARDSON: Come see us.

EISENBERG: That's hilarious. I never even thought of that. You can head right from the bar...

RICHARDSON: Straight to the Apple Store.

EISENBERG: ...To the genius bar.

COULTON: Very convenient. Don't drunk shop at the Apple Store, though.

EISENBERG: Yeah, exactly. So remember, Elle and Morgan, the first of you who wins two of our games will move on to our final round at the end of the show. So let's go to your first game. It's a music parody game called One For The Ladies. Jonathan Coulton...

COULTON: Yes.

EISENBERG: Some people say I'm a lady.

COULTON: Some do.

COULTON: Tell us about this song.

COULTON: Well, we've rewritten the song "Lady" by Styx to be about famous people or things that start with the word lady. And to make things extra sensual, our special guest Craig Robinson is going to sing some of the clues with me. And the winner will be one step closer to moving on to the final round at the end of the show. You ready?

MILLER: Yes.

COULTON: OK, here we go. (Singing) Lady, you have wings made for flying, can be orange or red. Black spots, often dot your round body, touch me, you cute coccinellidae.

COULTON: Morgan.

RICHARDSON: Ladybug.

COULTON: Ladybug is correct.

COULTON: Ready?

ROBINSON: Yeah.

COULTON: Here we go.

ROBINSON: (Singing) Lady, from the moment I saw you standing at the VMAs You gave a whole speech in a meat dress. So were - were you just born that way?

COULTON: Morgan.

RICHARDSON: Lady Gaga.

COULTON: That's right.

EISENBERG: Craig, that is a silky voice. I think you could get all of the booty, all of it.

COULTON: OK, ready? (Singing) Lady, from the moment I met you, strutting your stuff on the street. You said hello, hey Joe, et cetera, not shy in your forward Creole.

COULTON: Morgan.

RICHARDSON: "Lady Of The Night."

COULTON: That's a good guess, but that is not what we're looking for. Elle, do you know the answer?

MILLER: "Lady Marmalade."

COULTON: Yeah, that's right.

COULTON: It was hard to Voulez-vous coucher avec moi in that lyric, so we had to write around it. That's right. That lyric only fits in the one song. You can't fit it in any other one. They did it one time, but it was sort of a miracle. Nobody's going to do it again.

ROBINSON: We'll see next. Next, I'm going to go an octave higher and see how that works out...

EISENBERG: All right.

ROBINSON: ...With this - the actual... this to that actual.

COULTON: Oh, you're going to go octave up.

ROBINSON: I'm going to try it...

COULTON: All right.

ROBINSON: ...For the next one, yeah.

COULTON: For the chorus - when we hit the chorus.

ROBINSON: For - oh, that's chorus, too. Wow.

COULTON: It's easy.

COULTON AND ROBINSON: (Singing) Lady...

EISENBERG: Yeah.

ROBINSON: Nope.

COULTON: Fair enough.

ROBINSON: All right.

COULTON: All right, here we go. (Singing) Lady of the strip mall, shoe shine through your doors. Sneakers made for running. Sports lady.

COULTON: Morgan.

RICHARDSON: Lady Footlocker?

COULTON: That's right.

COULTON: (Singing) Lady, turn you on when I'm lonely. Sing me all your songs. "Graceland," when you sang with Paul Simon. Harmony and South African charm.

COULTON: Elle.

MILLER: Lady Blacksmith Mambazo?

COULTON: It's...

ROBINSON: Close enough, right?

COULTON: ...Very close.

ROBINSON: Yeah.

COULTON: Yeah, we'll give it to you. Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

ROBINSON: Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

MILLER: Thank you, I was - I got a little nervous.

EISENBERG: That's all right.

COULTON: We're all a little nervous, Elle. I know.

COULTON: You're doing great. (Singing) Lady of the Hudson, torch shines in your hand. Stoic, green and friendly, symbolic lady.

COULTON: (Laughter) Morgan.

RICHARDSON: Lady Liberty.

COULTON: That's the one.

COULTON: Ophira, how did our contestants do?

EISENBERG: It was a very close game and a fun game. Morgan, you are the winner of this round and are one step closer...

EISENBERG: ...To the final round. Thank you to our amazing special guest, Craig Robinson.

ROBINSON: Thank you.

EISENBERG: And enjoy him in his new movie as the star in "Morris From America." Craig Robinson, everybody.

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