As Seen On TV Comedians Ashley Nicole Black (A Black Lady Sketch Show) and Chelsea Devantez (Bless This Mess) order this audio quiz about infomercials just in time to get free shipping and handling.

As Seen On TV

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JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: Hey, everybody. This is Jonathan Coulton. You know me from ASK ME ANOTHER, but I'm also a singer-songwriter. I'd like to take this opportunity to play a song that I wrote. This is called "Theme From Ask Me Another."


COULTON: From NPR and WNYC, coming to you from our respective homes in beautiful Brooklyn, New York, it's NPR's hour of puzzles, word games and virtual backgrounds, ASK ME ANOTHER. I'm Jonathan Coulton. Now here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.


COULTON: Well, that was perfect, as usual. Why don't I call Ophira, see if she's around?




COULTON: Hi, Ophira. How are you?

EISENBERG: Jonathan Coulton.


EISENBERG: I was expecting your call.

COULTON: (Laughter) Oh, were you?

EISENBERG: I was hoping.

COULTON: You were hoping.

EISENBERG: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

COULTON: Well, it's about that time, isn't it?

EISENBERG: Yeah. How are you doing?

COULTON: I'm doing OK. I just got off the phone with the vet.

EISENBERG: Oh, no. What happened?

COULTON: No, no, everything's fine. I - in the backyard, in the complex of backyards behind my building here, there's a bunch of feral cats.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Perfect.

COULTON: I've started on a new project of taking care of these feral cats. This is a thing called TNR, which stands for trap, neuter, return.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) What? Can't you just do sourdough bread like everybody else?

COULTON: No, it's not...


COULTON: I did that. I got bored with it. So I had to come up with a more complex project.

EISENBERG: You have a different starter. OK, so what - say - tell me again. It's...

COULTON: TNR - it's trap, neuter, return.


COULTON: And you trap them, and then you neuter them. Or actually, technically, you bring them to the vet.


COULTON: I asked. You can't do it yourself.

EISENBERG: Should not.


COULTON: And then you put them back where they are, and then there's no more kittens. But they...

EISENBERG: Right. They can...

COULTON: Because they're feral, they can't really be adopted very easily or sometimes at all. So you have to lull them into a false sense of security, get them to trust you, and then you trap them.


COULTON: And that's what I did. I trapped one of them. I brought them to the vet to get taken care of.

EISENBERG: Anybody can do this? Like...

COULTON: Well, you have to get certified.


COULTON: So there's a bunch of organizations that you can work with. And there's an online course. There's an in-person course.

EISENBERG: Yeah. What did you do?

COULTON: I took the online course.


COULTON: I got my certification.


COULTON: And I met a nice lady with the organization and - who let me borrow some traps. And I just got - there's one guy back there, he's got some sort of skin issue. It looks very itchy and uncomfortable.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Aww.

COULTON: So I trapped him first and brought him in. And I had to do the whole thing with, like, the - keeping the end of the trap open with a bottle attached to a string. It was like a cartoon. It's crazy.

EISENBERG: Oh, my goodness. Yeah, you're building a...

COULTON: So I staked him out all weekend.

EISENBERG: And what are you luring the cats with?

COULTON: Well, I've been feeding them. So they're sort of used to me...


COULTON: ...Coming out there and giving them stuff.


COULTON: But in this case, I used sardines.


COULTON: Again, complete cliche.

EISENBERG: Yeah. I know.

COULTON: But it works. They really like sardines.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) They're like, oily omega 3.


EISENBERG: I need that. OK.

COULTON: But he was so pissed off because I saw, as he was going into the trap, he was like, something is not right. I don't know.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) This is too easy.

COULTON: And then I sprung it on him. He was like, ugh, I knew it. He was so mad. He's currently hanging out in my basement. I have a special cage set up for him...


COULTON: ...A little den for him to live in.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

COULTON: And he's just hanging out down there, you know, nursing a grudge.

EISENBERG: So yeah, you don't have a feral cat; you have a cat.

COULTON: (Laughter) Yeah. I mean...

EISENBERG: I just want to let you know something.

COULTON: I will say, one thing I did not miss about having a cat is cleaning out the litter box.

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah (laughter).

COULTON: It's not a fun job.

EISENBERG: But you've adopted a cat. There's a low supply of animals to adopt right now because so many people recently have wanted to - you know, they've had more time, and they're lonely, and they've adopted a pet. So you've just gone into the wild.


COULTON: Yeah, that's right. I just went out and got my own. And now I'm going to get him all fixed up.


COULTON: And then I've got a commodity that other people want.

EISENBERG: Right. You can flip the cat.

COULTON: Yeah, I'm basically flipping cats.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

COULTON: I'm going to make a lot of money - my new show "Cat Flippers."

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Coming up next, "Flip Or Feral?"

COULTON: (Laughter) Yeah. You know, "Mouse Hunters."

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah. Or "Mouse Hunters International."



COULTON: That one's better. I like that one better.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

COULTON: But I did not call just to talk about cats, as much as it seems like I want to talk about cats exclusively.


COULTON: I want to know, do you want to do the show?

EISENBERG: I would love to do the show. I also would love to do the show because I need to drown out the sound of all these loud birds around me.

COULTON: Yeah, the worst. And listen - if you (laughter) if you want to send some birds over this way, I know a cat who might enjoy hanging out with them.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Yeah. Oh, yeah. I'll train wild birds. That's possible, right? They're very responsive.

COULTON: (Laughter) I'm sure it is. I'm sure it is.

EISENBERG: Actually, this is one of our most fabulous homegrown episodes ever. From "RuPaul's Drag Race" and the HBO series "We're Here," we're going to talk to the endlessly entertaining D.J. "Shangela" Pierce. And we're going to see what comedians Aparna Nancherla from Netflix's "The Standups" and Joyelle Nicole Johnson have been getting up to while staying indoors. But first, we're hanging out with some comedy writers and longtime besties. From the HBO series "A Black Lady Sketch Show," Ashley Nicole Black and, from ABC's "Bless This Mess," Chelsea Devantez. Let's play some games.


EISENBERG: Hello, Ashley. Hello, Chelsea.


EISENBERG: OK. You guys have known each other for a long time. You're both Second City Chicago alums. Is that where you met?

ASHLEY NICOLE BLACK: Yeah. We met in our first ever comedy class, sketch comedy class at the Second City, Day 1, and we're still friends.

EISENBERG: Oh. My goodness.

DEVANTEZ: (Laughter).

BLACK: Yeah. Then we were like - wrote for late night and then wrote for sitcoms. Like, I call Chelsea my pace car.


BLACK: Like, every time she levels up in her career, I know my level-up is six months behind.


DEVANTEZ: Yeah. She says that, except she's been ahead of me for the past four years. But, like, at the beginning of our friendship, I would be in front, so now it's in her head that I'm always in front.

BLACK: Yeah.

DEVANTEZ: And then I'll have to be, like, hey, Ashley, Elizabeth Warren tweeted at you yesterday. And we're just not living the same life anymore.


EISENBERG: I like that you call her Elizabeth Warren, Chelsea, but Ashley refers to her as Senator Warren.


BLACK: It is, like, an old black lady that lives inside of me. Like, I call Stacey Abrams, like, the speaker. Like, I just can't not. If a lady earns a title, I will call her it.


EISENBERG: And right before we were all asked to stay in our homes and social distance, I'm assuming you were both in the middle of working on your shows. Ashley, were you not in the middle of making "A Black Lady Sketch Show?"

BLACK: Yeah, we're working on season two. And, yeah, all of LA shut down. It is tough. I definitely feel this. And then I feel bad about it. It's hard to be, like, oh, this pandemic...


BLACK: ...Means I can't make my jokes. But...

COULTON: (Laughter).

BLACK: ...I do feel that way.


BLACK: Like, my job is essential. It totally isn't, so...


EISENBERG: That's right. I mean, you know, it's, like, you can't work. It's like a mental toll. It's how we all identify with our lives.

BLACK: Yes, and the amount of productivity we're able to have. Yeah.

EISENBERG: I know. It's insane.

DEVANTEZ: And some of us have made it their entire personality, and we're really stressing.


EISENBERG: All right. Let's play a couple games. This first one is an audio quiz called As Seen On TV. We'll play you a clip of a well-known infomercial. You just tell us the product it's advertising.



BLACK: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: This game, you're going to be competing against each other, so we'll go back and forth. Ashley, here's your first clue. What product is this teen idol promoting?


JUSTIN BIEBER: Hey, guys - Justin Bieber here. There are some things that just come with being a teenager. We grow like crazy - can't stop that. Hormones kick in - I don't want to stop that. And then there's this. I can stop that.

BLACK: Is it Proactiv?


BLACK: Yeah.

EISENBERG: Yeah. I feel like I haven't been dating for a while, but I do remember dating and going back to whoever's house and always looking in his medicine cabinet - because everyone does that, right? You just look in their medicine cabinet.

BLACK: Right.

EISENBERG: And anytime I saw Proactiv, I was a little bit, like...

BLACK: Oh, yeah - this dude's rich.


EISENBERG: Yeah, right - like, very expensive.

BLACK: Twenty dollars a month or something, and it came to your house. Now everything comes to our house. Like, I have deodorants shipped to my house because I couldn't possibly go to Rite Aid and buy deodorant. But at the time, it was, like, a big deal that you were getting face wash shipped to your house (laughter).

DEVANTEZ: Also, that commercial is so creepy. He's, like, I'm Justin Bieber. I'm 13. I have hormones, baby.


COULTON: Yeah. I don't - and he says, like, hormones kick in. I don't want to stop that, which I - is gross to me...

EISENBERG: Totally gross.

COULTON: ...To think about Justin Bieber, like, loving his hormones.

DEVANTEZ: Oh, yeah. And you - I mean, he's just too young to be - I know he's older now, but at the time, he's, like, my hormones won't stop. And you're, like, oh, no.


COULTON: Just stop it, Justin Bieber. All right, Chelsea. This one's for you.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: You want to keep warm when you're feeling chilled, but you don't want to raise your heating bill.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: Blankets are OK, but they can slip and slide. And when you need to reach for something, your hands are trapped inside.

DEVANTEZ: Snuggie?

COULTON: Yeah, it is a Snuggie.

DEVANTEZ: (Laughter).


COULTON: That's right - the blanket with sleeves.

EISENBERG: That is the clearest example of my favorite thing about infomercials. They use, like, that slow-motion sepia tone, so it looks like, you know, sort of surveillance footage or whatever.

COULTON: That's right.

BLACK: Yeah, that's a problem from the past.


COULTON: It doesn't happen anymore.

DEVANTEZ: Now that we have Snuggies, you can just get your own filth all over you and the thing you wear every day.


EISENBERG: The future. All right, Ashley - here's your next clip.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: Seventeen of today's hottest superstars in one all-new power pack collection.


HANSON: (Singing) Mmmbop, ba duba dop (ph)...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: Move into a new dimension with the year's biggest songs.


HANSON: (Singing) Ba do, yeah, yeah.


BACKSTREET BOYS: (Singing) I don't care who you are...

BLACK: It's "Now That's What I Call Music!"...


BLACK: I'm going to say 1999.

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Oh, my - that wasn't even part of the answer, but...

DEVANTEZ: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: I just - a thousand points - a thousand points...

DEVANTEZ: Did she get it right?


DEVANTEZ: Oh, my God.

EISENBERG: I don't actually know what year that clip...

BLACK: It's got to be '98 or '99.


BLACK: I didn't have friends as a child, and I spent a lot of time sitting on the floor of my bedroom with a CD player (laughter).

EISENBERG: Hey, producer Travis just came in to say 1998.


EISENBERG: Well done.


EISENBERG: Well done.

COULTON: Really showing off, Ashley.

BLACK: It would have taken us till '99 to get the CD.


EISENBERG: Excellent.

COULTON: OK, Chelsea. This is your last clue.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: Whole arm is getting a workout. A world leader in biomechanics showed it burns muscle energy and calories over five times faster than a dumbbell. Now, here's the part that blows my mind...

DEVANTEZ: The Shake Weight.


COULTON: Yeah, the Shake Weight is correct.

DEVANTEZ: Shake Weights were just, like, a gift for comedy shows.

EISENBERG: Oh, totally.

DEVANTEZ: They were, like, no one's going to work out, but comedians - they need something for, like, a decade.


DEVANTEZ: Let's make Shake Weights.

BLACK: In that, like, box of props, there's always, like, five bad wigs...

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

BLACK: ...And, like, a clown costume and a Shake Weight.

EISENBERG: It's true. I feel like there was a while where it's, like, if you - you would watch this - the comic on before you because you're, like, are they going to do the Shake Weight joke?

BLACK: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Because then I can't do my...

COULTON: Yeah, I've got throw out the whole 20 minutes. That's...

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

DEVANTEZ: Oh, and then there was the night where I was, like, everyone's seen the Shake Weight joke. But they haven't seen it in my Snuggie.


EISENBERG: So after the break, we'll play another game with comedy writers Ashley Nicole Black and Chelsea Devantez. And later, I'll virtually travel to Paris, Texas, for a chat with D.J. "Shangela" Pierce from "RuPaul's Drag Race" and HBO's "We're Here." I'm Ophira Eisenberg, and this is ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR.


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