Bluff The Listener

Mar 29, 2013
Originally published on March 30, 2013 11:15 am
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CARL KASELL: From NPR and WBEZ-Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!, the NPR News quiz. I'm Carl Kasell. We're playing his week with Adam Felber, Kyrie O'Connor, and P. J. O'Rourke. And, here again is your host, at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, and filling in for Peter Sagal who is spring breaking, Tom Bodett.


Thanks, Carl.


BODETT: You know, I can't wait to see that video "NPR Radio Hosts Gone Wild." Terry Gross has a second glass of wine and mauls Sylvia Poggiloi's last name.


BODETT: Steve Inskeep reads his Kindle. While we're waiting for that fun, it's the WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME! Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-Wait-Wait to play our game on the air. Hello, you're on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!

LAURENCE COVEN: Hi, Tom, this is Larry Coven. I'm in Hollywood, but I'm originally from Chicago.

BODETT: All right, Larry. How you doing out there?


COVEN: Good. It's a great town. It never ceases to remind you what a wonderful city Chicago is.

BODETT: Is that right? So you live in Hollywood. So you're a movie star. What have I seen you in?

COVEN: I don't know. Have you seen Hackolantern or the Laughing Dead?

BODETT: Yes, I have those.

COVEN: Oh good. Well, I'm the one who gets the ax in the head.

BODETT: That was great. So it's great to have you, Larry. You're going to play the game where the panel lies to you and doesn't even feel the slightest bit bad about it.


BODETT: Carl, what's our topic?

KASELL: This isn't a popularity contest. Oh wait, it is.

BODETT: You know, there's nothing more annoying than a friend who always has to "pencil you in," when you know full well he spends every single night of his life at home playing Call of Duty.

Our panelists are going to tell you about someone's attempt to appear more popular than they are. Guess which of these stories is not a bald-faced lie, and you'll win Carl's voice on your home answering machine or voicemail. Are you ready to play?

COVEN: I'm going to beat this game like the Bulls did the Heat.

BODETT: All right, there you go.


BODETT: First up, it's P. J. O'Rourke.

P. J. O'ROURKE: Personal popularity is so important these days. People are dying to be popular, literally. There is now a company that will send complete strangers to your funeral to be grief stricken and show how popular you are, or were.

Rent a Mourner is base in Essex, England. They provide men and women who never met you, but who are guaranteed to be bereft and sorrowful for 45 British Pounds per hour each. It's all quite professionally done.

Rent a Mourner briefs the hired sad people on your background, your achievements, your sterling qualities and what a loss to the world the death of you is. Now, I'm guessing from family experience that Irish funerals present certain challenges to Rent a Mourner.


O'ROURKE: I mean, finding just the right character to get drunk and tell the story of how you were left to mind the children, went to the pub instead, came home, mistook the pig for the baby, slopped little Patty and diapered the sow.


O'ROURKE: But, I'm sure Rent a Mourner can manage it. Your personal popularity will be boosted to high heaven, even while you're on your way to hell.


BODETT: All right. Next up, we have Kyrie O'Connor.

KYRIE O'CONNOR: Ryan McKitrick had everything. He was center on the minor league hockey Binghamton Senators and he had a lovely girlfriend, Chrissy, about to turn 23. So Ryan planned a surprise for Chrissy's birthday, and that's where good intentions started paving the ice road to hell.

Ryan arranged for a bunch of his townie buddies to skate out before the puck dropped, holding placards spelling out "Happy 23 Chrissy." That birthday evening, after a couple of cases of Jenny Crean, the pals hatched other plans, if plans include breaking into a costume store.

Soon, Ryan's eagerly awaited moment came and went. The sloshed and oddly costumed pals wobbled onto the ice, proudly holding up their letters, reading "Crappy 23 Hissy."


O'CONNOR: Ryan hauled off and punched letter C, dressed as Snow White. Both benches cleared, and soon Spongebob, Shrek, Evil Clown and Little Mermaid were sprawled on the ice.


O'CONNOR: Fans rained down beer cups. It wasn't until Chewbacca ran the zamboni into three opposing players that police arrived.


O'CONNOR: And Chrissy? "Ryan's a good guy. His friends are morons."


BODETT: All right, a melee at the hockey rink from Kyrie O'Connor. Your last story of someone who would really like to be liked comes from Adam Felber.

ADAM FELBER: It's the most sought after variety of endorsement in politics. Someone says "you see that guy up there on the TV screen, well I met him. Salt of the earth. Great guy."

If you're a politician, you can't buy that kind of support, unless you're Poughkeepsie, New York Mayor Craig Gerber, in which case you did. Yes, through the Freedom of Information Act, it was learned this week that Mayor Gerber's reelection campaign spent last fall deploying a strategy called, quote, "Project Barfly."

Here's how it worked. Staffers would scout local watering holes to identify the sort of gentlemen at the end of the bar who seemed to be always talkative and, well, always there. And then the mayor would drop by and buy that fellow a drink, thus creating an army of walking, talking advocates, or at least wobbling, slurring advocates.


FELBER: Opponents have cried foul, but Mayor Gerber seems proud to have spun about 40 to 50 crippling addictions into pure political gold.


FELBER: Still, it's not clear that the strategy paid off. When asked about the election, one charter member of Project Barfly said, "I voted for what's his face."


BODETT: All right. Larry, here's your choices. From P. J. O'Rourke, you have a Rent-a-Mourner. From Kyrie O'Connor, you have a holiday on ice gone completely south. And from Adam Felber, I think you would call that rent-a-drunk.


BODETT: Which is the real story of someone trying to seek more popularity than they deserve?

COVEN: Wow, this is really hard. You know, I think I remember that back in medieval times even they hired mourners for funerals. So I'm going to go with that story.

BODETT: You're going to go with P. J.'s story...


BODETT: ...about the mourners for hire?


BODETT: OK. Well, to find out the correct answer, we spoke to someone involved with the real story.

JASMINE BURTLES: To me, the idea of attending funerals is not a fun job. If anybody would like to pay me to attend their weddings, that's a bit more like it.

BODETT: Yes, that was Jasmine Burtles, founder of, who did market research for the mourner-for-hire business. Congratulations, Larry, you got it right.


BODETT: You've earned a point for P. J., and you've won our prize. Carl Kasell will record the greeting on your voicemail.

COVEN: Thank you for having me on the show.

BODETT: Thanks for playing with us today.

O'ROURKE: Thank you, Larry.


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