Opening Acts Rutherford Falls star Ed Helms and Jana Schmieding compete in an audio game where they hear clips of a famous musician's earlier gig, before they catapulted to superstardom.

Opening Acts

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Our first two guests are friends who also play friends on the Peacock series "Rutherford Falls." Ed Helms and Jana Schmieding star as the main characters, Nathan and Reagan. Nathan's ancestors founded Rutherford Falls, and Reagan runs a Native American cultural center. Ed, Jana welcome to ASK ME ANOTHER.

ED HELMS: Hello, hello.

JANA SCHMIEDING: Hi. Thanks for having me.

EISENBERG: So - by the way, you know, you play best friends on "Rutherford Falls" - old friends and best friends. Did you have the opportunity to do anything to, you know, hang out and start creating that kind of vibe?

HELMS: Yeah. I think the - what was cool is that we hadn't cast the show before we started writing. So the - we were just pals in the writers room, having a great time, tons of laughs, just a great camaraderie. And then, you know, how many months was that, Jana, that we were able to actually meet and write together?

SCHMIEDING: Yeah, it was January through May, the writing process.

HELMS: Yeah, which was so great. And it - I think it's cool that you became Reagan much later in that process, which allowed our friendship to kind of blossom in a very organic way. There was no sort of like, oh, we better get along 'cause we're going to be cast mates or anything like that.


HELMS: Absolutely.

HELMS: Later on, we cast a wide net and auditioned a lot of people for the part of Reagan Wells. And Jana just swooped in and nailed it. And it was like, hey, this person, this amazing writer from our team is also going to be co-star.

EISENBERG: And Jana, I noticed your earrings. You also wear beautiful beaded earrings on the show. And you do beadwork yourself. Can you tell me more about those pieces?

SCHMIEDING: The ones in the show are - some of them are mine. But I worked together with the costume department to make sure that a different Native bead artist was featured in each episode. So it's a combination of my own beadwork and beadwork from other Native designers across the - across Turtle Island.


SCHMIEDING: You know, beyond that, there are - there's some Native fashion designers who are featured on the show as well. There's - Native folks just have a lot of touch across the community on our show. It's really exciting.

EISENBERG: It is a joyful show.


EISENBERG: Thanks for putting new content into this world because you know that we need it.


SCHMIEDING: Yes, we do.

HELMS: Yeah. Well, also, Peacock needs it. That's where it's streaming.


JONATHAN COULTON: More to point, yes.

HELMS: I think we're one of the first comedy - original comedy series on Peacock, which is a distinction we're very, very proud of. And hopefully, we're - we'll get a lot more eyeballs on that service.

EISENBERG: All right. Do you guys want to play a couple games?

HELMS: I love games.

SCHMIEDING: Yeah, let's do it.

EISENBERG: OK, great. So we've got a couple for you. In this first one, you're going to take turns answering questions. That's how we do it. This first game is an audio quiz called Opening Acts. We're going to play you a clip of a famous musician, but it's their earlier gig right before they catapulted to superstardom. All right.

HELMS: I love it.

EISENBERG: Jana, this first one is for you.


EISENBERG: In 1993, this future pop star and singing judge on the Voice joined the cast of the all new "Mickey Mouse Club."


CHRISTINA AGUILERA: (Singing) I ain't no psychiatrist, ain't no doctor with degrees, but it don't take too much IQ to see what you're doing to me. You better think, think about what you're trying to do to me.

SCHMIEDING: I know this one, thank God. This is none other than Christina Aguilera.

EISENBERG: Absolutely, that is correct.

HELMS: How old is she in that recording?

EISENBERG: She was cast at 12. So, yeah, she was 14 in that one.

HELMS: What?

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

SCHMIEDING: She has the voice of a woman.

COULTON: Yeah, she does.


COULTON: She really does.

HELMS: Yeah.


HELMS: Yeah, that's incredible.

SCHMIEDING: She does that little, like, very mature, like (vocalizing) like a really...

HELMS: Yeah (laughter).


SCHMIEDING: ...Scrape - a soulful scrape. It's a classic Christina.

EISENBERG: I - so in 1993, too, the cast that she came from also included Britney Spears and Ryan Gosling.

HELMS: Yeah, I had a real hard time reconciling the movie "Drive" with his being on "The Mickey Mouse Club."


HELMS: Like, when he stomps on that guy's face and it - I just...

COULTON: It's a different vibe.

HELMS: It's kind of like - pop culture, like, went through a wormhole in that moment.


COULTON: Yeah. Yeah. All right, Ed, here's another one for you. This singer and rapper showed us what she could do in the movie "Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit."


LAURYN HILL: (As Rita Watson, rapping) Won't grab no phillies, my style is willing if you let me, or if I choose to 'cause women's lib said I don't have to, so think again before you test a sister 'cause with my girls behind me we got lots of power mister.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, rapping) Who gots the flow, grab the microphone...

HELMS: None other than Lauryn Hill.

COULTON: That is correct, Lauryn Hill. Yeah.

EISENBERG: By the way, whoever named the sequel "Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit" should name all sequels.

COULTON: It's a good - it's a - it's a good one.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

HELMS: I feel like "Curly's Gold" might be the best sequel name.


EISENBERG: (Laughter) "Curly's Gold." All right, Jana, before she became the queen of pop, this icon was part of the bands Breakfast Club and Emmy and the Emmys.


MADONNA: (Singing) Oh, oh, you're society's boy. You make some little girl a toy. My mistake, didn't think that you'd be another victim of high society.

SCHMIEDING: That song is so strange. What...


EISENBERG: Right? Right?


HELMS: It's like bubble gum emo.

COULTON: (Laughter).

SCHMIEDING: So I'm going to say Britney Spears.

EISENBERG: What if I said to you that - what did she say in that song? That was high society. That's a good hint because she also was known as a material girl.

SCHMIEDING: Oh, it's Madonna.

EISENBERG: Yeah, Madonna...

SCHMIEDING: Queen of pop. Yes, of course.

EISENBERG: ...Used to go by Emmy. That was her nickname before Madonna, Emmy.

SCHMIEDING: What a sweet girl.


COULTON: All right, Ed, this is the last one. It's for you. This musician was the lead singer and organist in the psychedelic rock band Attila.


ATTILA: (Singing) About two years ago working in a rodeo, I saw the strangest looking man playing in a rock 'n' roll band. He had a 20-foot mustache. He wore a purple lavender sash. The drummer brought him on to crash. They introduced the one and only California Flash.

HELMS: OK, that song is awesome.


HELMS: That is some - that's just some, like, grinding '70s organ funk, and I love it.

COULTON: Pretty groovy.

HELMS: And it's clearly a different side of Billy Joel.

COULTON: That is correct. Yeah.

HELMS: Billy Joel was, I think, my first, like, arena concert. The Bridge Tour was one of my first...

COULTON: Me as well. That was one of my first arena shows. I have a picture of myself wearing a bridge - the Bridge T-shirt from the - from that tour and holding up my driver's license when I was 16 years old.

HELMS: Jonathan, our lives are overlapping in ways that are - is making me uncomfortable.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

COULTON: Agree. Agree.

SCHMIEDING: I used to do improv on, like, Saturday nights at a theater called the Magnet Theater in New York City. And it was two blocks away from MSG. Certain Saturday nights, because Billy Joel had a residency at Madison Square Garden, you would hear his helicopter land, like, flying up to MSG...

HELMS: No way.

SCHMIEDING: ...Because he took a helicopter, like, from where he lived on, like, Long Island to the show every night.

COULTON: Straight from his house to the show. Yeah. Yeah.

HELMS: Oh, that's genius.

SCHMIEDING: Yeah, it was cool.

HELMS: Oh, that's so rock star. I love that, to fly in from the Hamptons and just drop down right in MSG.


HELMS: Rock everybody's faces off.

COULTON: Probably, like, 10 minutes before he was going on, too. He's probably like - they would land and then run out on stage.

HELMS: Oh, that's so awesome.

EISENBERG: You guys did great with that game. That's all I want to say. You both did fantastic with that game.

SCHMIEDING: Thank you.

EISENBERG: Well done. Well done.


EISENBERG: More with Ed and Jana after the break. And we'll play games with Alex Bleeker and Martin Courtney from the band Real Estate. I'm Ophira Eisenberg, and this is ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR.


BEATLES: Number 9, number 9.

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