Not My Job: We Quiz Journalist Ronan Farrow On Egyptian Pharoahs
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where people who do important things answer questions about trivial things. It's called Not My Job. Ronan Farrow was working as an investigative reporter at NBC News when he told his bosses that he had this blockbuster story about the crimes of Harvey Weinstein. They said it wasn't good enough to publish, so he went to The New Yorker and won a Pulitzer Prize. And after that, the only thing left to do, of course, was start a podcast, Catch And Kill, to go with his book of the same name. He joins us now.
Ronan Farrow, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
RONAN FARROW: Such a pleasure to be here. Thank you, guys.
SAGAL: So I don't know whether one should say this to someone whose book has led to criminal charges against a monster. But congratulations?
FARROW: Yeah, it's always a little weird. People say congratulations with this kind of sour face, like, eh, maybe it's a little sad.
FARROW: But I'll take it.
SAGAL: We're looking at your life. We knew some things. Obviously, you've been in the public eye for a while. One thing we did not know was that you went to college at the age of 11.
FARROW: I did.
FARROW: And I think I did. I don't really remember any of it.
SAGAL: Yeah, well, you were young.
LUKE BURBANK: And you're - what? - 12 now?
SAGAL: I know.
ADAM BURKE: Yeah. If you went to college at 11, when did you go to grade school, 3?
FARROW: This is going to be brutal. I started kindergarten, prenatally.
FARROW: This is the problem with going to college at 11. I really don't remember a thing. And, also, I was quite drunk at the time, obviously.
SAGAL: Obviously. Well, that's - I imagine the fraternity rush was very exciting. There are so many questions about that. What did the actual college-age kids think when you showed up as a preadolescent?
FARROW: You know, they were pretty great about it. I think they found it hilarious. I had - so one thing my mom did was she really leaned into the kind of awkward child prodigy thing by giving me a bowl haircut.
SAGAL: Oh, that'll help.
FARROW: Big Coke-bottle, round glasses. So you can imagine what people thought.
SAGAL: And so you were - I mean, I find this surprising because you're a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. You seem fine to me, but is that how you still consider yourself?
FARROW: Have you never met a journalist? We're all awkward.
SAGAL: That's - you make a good point.
FARROW: I was awkward then, and I am awkward now. And I'm not going to apologize for it.
SAGAL: All right. You...
BURBANK: You're among friends with these public radio listeners, Ronan.
SAGAL: Having achieved remarkable things in your chosen field of journalism, you have decided to join us clowns and started to do a podcast. This is the podcast that goes with your book. It's the same title, Catch And Kill. But it's not, like, just the substance of the book. It's, like, how you came to report the book, right?
FARROW: Think of it as a mini-true crime docu...
SAGAL: Hang on.
BURBANK: Oh, no. They got to him.
SAGAL: Hello, did we lose you? Oh, yeah.
SAGAL: Did we lose you?
BURBANK: Is Harvey Weinstein there, Ronan?
SAGAL: I think we lost him.
SAGAL: We're checking. Ronan, are you back?
FARROW: Guys, did you miss me?
SAGAL: We did.
SAGAL: We were worried. We thought maybe Weinstein finally got to you. In the podcast, you talk about how these Eastern European thugs were hired to track you. Are you, in fact - and, of course, we all know Mr. Weinstein does not take these things lightly. Have you, in fact, been worried about your - you know, I don't know - your safety?
FARROW: The book is basically a long saga of me getting increasingly paranoid and then getting much more paranoid, still, when I realize this is actually happening. There's an international espionage plot. I'm able to get the contracts and prove it and stuff. But, yeah, there's kind of a - there are two Russian guys who are a little bit bumbling. They have some Boris and Natasha accents. And they, you know, hang out outside my apartment. One time, they followed the wrong guy for two days. They're not great at the job.
FARROW: Yeah, he looks a little like me.
SAGAL: One of the things that your book has been noted for - well, let me just put it this way. You and I seem to have something in common, which is that we both are not as good at foreign accents as we like to think we are.
FARROW: (Laughter) Yes, I should add - read the book, listen to the podcast and then accept my apologies for my attempt at a Ukrainian accent.
SAGAL: So, no, it's amazing. There are compilations online of Ronan Farrow's accents. You can get his Ukrainian accent, his Italian accent, his Kiwi, which may be your best.
FARROW: The book has a lot of overlapping dialogue, and they're all characters with accents. So the sources very graciously worked with me and did, like, voice memos of their dialogue a lot of the time. But they were also all very tolerant of my lack of dialect.
SAGAL: You actually practiced?
FARROW: Oh, yeah.
SAGAL: Now, I...
FARROW: You know what? I'm just gonna breeze past that slight.
SAGAL: You should know. I don't know if you - if - how carefully you listen to this, but nobody is worse at foreign accents than I am. Whatever I'm doing - French, Russian, Chinese - they all sound like old Jews. That's...
SAGAL: I got one. But it's weird when you're doing, like, Queen Elizabeth. And I'm like, I don't know what I want. They're leaving or...
SAGAL: It doesn't work out. It...
FARROW: Queen Elizabeth played by Larry David is my ideal accent.
SAGAL: Exactly, they all sound like Larry David. You - now, of course, you have a podcast. I don't know if people know this. But your fiance, Jon Lovett, is also sort of a king of podcasting. He has two incredibly popular podcasts - Pod Save America...
FARROW: I like to say a podcast despot.
SAGAL: Really? I see.
FARROW: A tyrant, you know? I tell him things like the Catch And Kill podcast - it's No. 2 on the charts. And he sort of stares at me, blankly, and says, well, the other charts matter more.
SAGAL: Really? Is it causing tension around the house?
FARROW: He would not contest to this. But, you know, I think he wants to keep the crown. There's no risk of me challenging the job or the crown. I mean, cool college kids come up to him and say that they love the pod. I pick up the phone and say it's Ronan Farrow, and everyone hangs up.
SAGAL: I just love this rivalry with your fiance. I'm just imagining him giving you tips on podcasting. Like, do more accents, Ronan. You should...
SAGAL: Well, Ronan Farrow, It is a pleasure to talk to you. But we have, in fact, invited you here to play a game. We're calling...
BILL KURTIS: You're The King of All Egypt.
SAGAL: Your name, as you may have heard, is Ronan Farrow, strikes terror into the hearts of everyone. But what do you know about the pharaohs? That is, the rulers of ancient Egypt.
BURBANK: It was either going to be about this or the grain.
SAGAL: So answer two out of three questions about pharaohs. You will win our prize for one of our listeners, the voice of anyone they may choose on their voicemail. Bill, who is Ronan Farrow playing for?
KURTIS: Tim Glotch of Stony Brook, N.Y.
SAGAL: All right. So here are your first of three questions about pharaohs. The war-hungry Pharaoh Sesostris was not simply content with conquering all of his neighbors. If he felt they had not put up enough of a fight, he would also do what? A, send some of his soldiers over to the other side and tell them to try again; B, construct a giant statue of a vagina in the defeated nation's capital city; or, C, rename the conquered city after a very cute animal, like, the equivalent of Puppyville (ph), Kittenopolis (ph).
FARROW: I'm gonna go with the vagina statue.
SAGAL: You're exactly right. That's right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: He would do this. The implication was that the soldiers of his conquered enemy were not particularly manly. All right, next question.
FARROW: Personally, I love a vagina statue and would take it as a high compliment.
SAGAL: There you are.
ROXANNE ROBERTS: You know what to get for the wedding.
FARROW: Yeah, everyone please see my Amazon wish list.
SAGAL: All right, next question. They didn't have modern plumbing or anything like that in ancient Egypt, so flies were a problem. One pharaoh, Pepi II, came up with a brilliant solution to the flies swarming around. What was it? A, he covered his servants in honey so the flies would be attracted to them instead. B, he trained a company of archers with tiny, tiny, tiny bows.
SAGAL: Or, C, he commanded his dancers to dance in such a way as to mesmerize and attract the insects, creating the first-ever fly girls.
FARROW: I'm going to go with the honey.
SAGAL: You're going with the honey. And, again, you're right, Ronan.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: That's true.
SAGAL: What the...
FARROW: I'm sweating bullets here, guys.
SAGAL: You are. History has not...
FARROW: I'm sweating this out.
SAGAL: History has not recorded what the servants thought of this, but that's what he presumably did. All right. Last question. After ruling - if he was so lucky as to do so - for 30 years, a pharaoh had to prove he was still capable of holding the throne by doing what? A, letting other people talk for 30 whole minutes without interrupting them, B, complete a 20-mile chariot trip without having to stop to use a restroom; or, C, put on an animal tail and run a fast lap around a courtyard in front of official witnesses.
FARROW: I'm going to go for the fast lap?
SAGAL: You're right again, Ronan. That's what he did.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: This is a ceremony that apparently persisted for centuries. And if the pharaoh was able to do it and kept the throne, he had to do it every three years after that. Bill, how did Ronan Farrow do on our quiz?
KURTIS: Ronan is now among the elite in this game. He got them all - three right. Congratulations.
SAGAL: Ronan Farrow is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. He is the creator of the Catch And Kill podcast. You can download it now. It goes very well with his book of the same title. Ronan Farrow, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME. Utter delight to talk to you.
FARROW: Thank you for having me, guys.
SAGAL: Thank you, Ronan. Take care.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE BANGLES SONG, "WALK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN")
SAGAL: In just a minute, Bill gives us a tour of his new Hair of the Dog exhibit in the Listener Limerick Challenge. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to join us on the air. We'll be back in a minute with more WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR.
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