OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:
Hi, Jonathan Coulton.
JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: Hello, Ophira Eisenberg of NPR's ASK ME ANOTHER.
EISENBERG: So I'm not going ask how you are.
COULTON: Thank you.
EISENBERG: So here's another totally ridiculous question.
EISENBERG: What's new?
COULTON: It's a good question.
COULTON: This week I did a couple of home improvement projects.
EISENBERG: That's excellent. That is so - I mean, that involves so many things I don't have - energy, focus.
COULTON: Yeah. Listen; I'm not an expert at this stuff. I'm relatively handy in that I can figure stuff out.
COULTON: But I feel like every time I approach one of these projects, I'm terrified that I'm going to do it wrong. And it usually goes the way I think, which is that I'm missing a crucial tool.
EISENBERG: (Laughter) Yeah.
COULTON: Or I don't have the skill that I think I have, or it doesn't - it just doesn't go the way it's supposed to do. I think this is how it is for everybody. I think you just learn how to work around all these problems. But for me, I'm like, all right. I have the shower that has, like, a glass - two glass walls on it.
COULTON: And it has always leaked. It has always leaked.
COULTON: And so I was like, you know what? I'm going to get in there, I'm going to tear the caulk out, and I'm...
COULTON: ...Going to re-caulk this shower. So...
EISENBERG: That is such a strain. I have once tried to do that to the edge of a tub. The hand strength required for...
COULTON: (Laughter) First of all...
EISENBERG: ...That caulking gun is insane.
COULTON: It's exhausting. It's exhausting. Caulking is so much more exhausting than you think it is. You have to squeeze that thing, and then you have to keep squeezing it and...
COULTON: ...Keep squeezing it.
EISENBERG: ...Crazy, yeah.
COULTON: It's no good.
EISENBERG: It should be an Olympic event.
COULTON: Yeah. Anyway, I got it done. I put the caulk in. I was like, oh, man, here we go. And I turned on the shower, and I took a shower. And I got out, and it's still leaking.
EISENBERG: (Laughter) I'm sorry.
EISENBERG: I'm sorry.
COULTON: So that was a waste of time. But it's so frustrating to me, these home improvement projects, because it's always like - I always just want them to be smooth and beautiful and easy. And instead, they are just endlessly complicated. My Achilles heel is that if I find that I don't have the right tool...
COULTON: I proceed anyway. So I'm like, oh, I can't - I need a special thing that is specially made for exactly this problem. I don't have that. Am I really going to go back to the hardware store? No. Instead, I'm going to take a butter knife, and I'm going to jam it in there. And I'm going to hit the butter - I can't reach the hammer, so I'm going to hit the butter knife with this, you know...
COULTON: ...With this Xbox controller. And that...
COULTON: ...Probably is going to work fine.
EISENBERG: The amount of times that I will even be too lazy to get a screwdriver and I just grab a steak knife...
COULTON: (Laughter) Yeah, I know. Putting a screw in with a steak knife that's - and, you know, I always, like - in those moments, I always fast-forward to myself in the emergency room.
EISENBERG: Right - trying to explain this.
COULTON: Trying to explain, like, well, I didn't want to go get a screwdriver, so I just used a steak knife, which is why I'm here in the emergency room with a knife in my leg.
EISENBERG: OK. Well, maybe we should try something we don't need any special tools for, like our show maybe.
COULTON: Yeah - good point. Let's do it.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
COULTON: From NPR and WNYC, coming to you from our respective homes in beautiful Brooklyn, N.Y., it's NPR's hour of puzzles, word games and MacGyvering (ph) home improvement projects for no good reason, ASK ME ANOTHER. I'm Jonathan Coulton. Now here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.
EISENBERG: Thank you, Jonathan. We have a packed episode for you with so many wonderful people. From "Top Chef," we have host Padma Lakshmi, and she tells us what to do with all of those awkward pantry items we have in our kitchen that we're now desperate enough to use. Then we'll help Grammy-nominated musicians Margo Price and Jeremy Ivey spice up their couple's quarantine with a Billy Joel-themed music parody game. But first, returning to the show are comedy writers Amber Ruffin and Jenny Hagel. Let's play some games.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
EISENBERG: And here they are - returning champions Amber Ruffin and Jenny Hagel. Hello.
AMBER RUFFIN: Hi.
JENNY HAGEL: Yay. Hi.
EISENBERG: Hey - happy to have you both join us. Amber, you and Jenny both write for "Late Night With Seth Meyers." But, Amber, at the beginning of June, when the Black Lives Matter protests were hitting the streets, you actually started each show. You did a series of videos about your experiences being mistreated by the police, and I think it was about the fourth one that you started by saying, OK, you know what? I'm actually out of stories. And then you were like, just kidding. I could keep doing this.
RUFFIN: So many more.
EISENBERG: So many more, yeah.
RUFFIN: I have more. Yep.
EISENBERG: What kind of response did you get?
RUFFIN: A lot of people were like, oh, my God. We had no idea it was like that. And now we're looking at things in a different way - you know, because I do feel like until these protests, I think people thought that the cops were always right, you know? I think there was a lot of that. Like, I can remember grown men and women that I know being like, well, yeah, the community says that the cops were crazy, but the cops said that it was the person who was, in fact, nuts.
RUFFIN: So, you know, grown adults - and I thought, oh, well, OK. They just have no reason to stretch their minds to make room for, you know, the fact that a whole community can't be wrong. Everyone in the community is a crazy person? All right.
EISENBERG: Yeah. No, you're absolutely right. So we have the two of you here. You're good friends. You work together. You're used to hanging out. How often have you been talking to each other over the last few months?
RUFFIN: Not enough.
HAGEL: I know.
RUFFIN: Jenny and I used to get breakfast together every morning at work.
HAGEL: From the second I would walk into work, we would immediately - one of us would be like, I have a story to tell you. And then we would go to the cafeteria and get oatmeal and gossip, and then we would do our work. And then we would go and get lunch. And then we would come back, and we'd do our work. And then at night, we'd be, like, texting each other.
RUFFIN: We are together so much that the lady who is the cashier upstairs - once, I came in to get lunch with my husband, and then later that day she saw Jenny alone. And she said to Jenny, I saw your friend in here with a man.
HAGEL: She really thought Amber was stepping out on me, and she was letting me know.
EISENBERG: That's nice.
RUFFIN: I thought she would be on my side...
RUFFIN: ...And let me dip out.
HAGEL: She's on the side of our relationship. That's whose side she's on.
RUFFIN: That's right.
EISENBERG: I love that.
RUFFIN: I'm just trying to live.
EISENBERG: All right, we have a couple games for you.
EISENBERG: The first one is a audio quiz. It's an audio edition of our recurring game This, That Or The Other. We're going to play you a short clip of a YouTube video, and you have to tell us if the sound you hear is made by a cat, a sheep or a human baby.
HAGEL: This is great - cat, sheep, human baby.
EISENBERG: All right, here's your first clip.
(SOUNDBITE OF CAT VOCALIZING)
EISENBERG: All right, Amber.
RUFFIN: It's a sheep.
EISENBERG: It's a sheep - interesting choice. Jenny?
HAGEL: It's an alien baby.
EISENBERG: Alien baby.
HAGEL: No, no, I think it's a sheep.
RUFFIN: Human, Jenny.
HAGEL: OK, OK then. That's - I'm going to agree with Amber for once and say it's a sheep.
RUFFIN: Wait. No. If she's agreeing with me, then I'd like to change my answer.
RUFFIN: I would like to change it to human baby.
EISENBERG: OK. So, Amber, you're going with human baby. Jenny...
RUFFIN: Human baby.
EISENBERG: You're going with sheep.
RUFFIN: Final answer.
EISENBERG: OK. It's interesting. That's a cat.
EISENBERG: That's a cat.
EISENBERG: Yeah, that's from a YouTube channel called Animals Are Awesome. So this cat is probably making the chattering sound because it's seen a bird or some other prey. Scientists don't know exactly why cats make that sound.
HAGEL: Well, let me tell you.
RUFFIN: Because he wants to eat it.
HAGEL: You could stop that sentence at scientists don't know why cats.
COULTON: That's right.
HAGEL: They're gross. They're mean.
COULTON: Cats are weird for sure.
HAGEL: They are disgusting. And they - every single one of them is just biding their time till their owner turns their back so they can kill them.
EISENBERG: I'm glad you brought this up. How is your feral cat, Jonathan Coulton?
COULTON: He's doing exactly what Jenny described. He is plotting. He's waiting for just the right moment, and then he's going to kill me and eat me.
HAGEL: What NPR listeners can't see right now is that in the frame - Jonathan's Zoom frame - there's a paw with a knife just slowly...
COULTON: Right, right. There's a cat behind me making the, like, slit your throat motion...
COULTON: ...With his paw.
EISENBERG: One more day, and then...
COULTON: OK. Here's your next clip.
(SOUNDBITE OF BABY LAUGHING)
COULTON: So, Jenny, is that a cat, a sheep or a human baby?
HAGEL: That's a human baby.
RUFFIN: It's definitely a human baby, but I do not like Jenny Hagel. I have got to go sheep. It's a sheep.
COULTON: You're going to go sheep just in case.
RUFFIN: Sheep - final answer.
COULTON: OK. The answer is it is a baby.
EISENBERG: Baby. All right, here is your next clip.
(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO)
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Hello.
(SOUNDBITE OF SHEEP BLEATING)
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Aww (ph).
(SOUNDBITE OF SHEEP BLEATING)
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: How cute is he?
(SOUNDBITE OF SHEEP BLEATING)
EISENBERG: All right - cat, sheep or baby, Amber?
EISENBERG: A very strong vote for sheep. Jenny?
EISENBERG: Cat - Jenny going with cat. All right - yep, sheep.
EISENBERG: That is a lamb, what appears in the video to be at a petting zoo.
COULTON: All right. Here's another clip.
(SOUNDBITE OF CAT VOCALIZING)
COULTON: Amber is smiling and nodding...
RUFFIN: I know this clip.
COULTON: ...Because I think she knows it. But Jenny...
HAGEL: You know this clip?
RUFFIN: I've seen it on "America's Funniest Home Videos."
COULTON: You get to go first. Is that a cat, a sheep or a human baby?
HAGEL: I'm going to say human baby. But Amber, I feel like, is going to get this right.
RUFFIN: It is the funniest America's funniest home video ever...
RUFFIN: ...Because it is a cat. And what they did was they put subtitles underneath it, and the subtitles match up so perfectly to what you hear.
RUFFIN: But cats don't speak English.
RUFFIN: So it's freaking hilarious.
COULTON: Yeah. No, that's correct.
RUFFIN: Google it.
COULTON: It is a cat. That cat is named Marquis, known affectionately on the Internet as the no, no, no, no cat.
EISENBERG: Says no all the time.
COULTON: Says no all the time. Unfortunately, he is no longer with us. He passed away in 2018.
EISENBERG: Aww (ph). I hope his...
RUFFIN: Aww (ph). No, no, no.
EISENBERG: No (laughter).
COULTON: No, no, no, no.
HAGEL: That's what they said. I think that was the eulogy.
EISENBERG: All right - great game. We weren't keeping score on that game, but Amber won.
RUFFIN: I'd like to thank - I don't know - my parents...
RUFFIN: ...Hard work and myself.
EISENBERG: After the break, we'll play another game with comedy writers Amber Ruffin and Jenny Hagel. And later, I'll get out my tasting spoon for a chat with "Top Chef's" Padma Lakshmi. I'm Ophira Eisenberg, and this is ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR.
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