Bluff The Listener

Jan 10, 2014
Originally published on January 11, 2014 12:14 pm
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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 Charlie Pierce, Paula Poundstone and Adam Felber. And here again is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.



Thank you, Carl. Thanks, everybody. Right now, it is time for the WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME! Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play our game on air. Hi, you're on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!

FRANCISCO CALDERON: Hi, this is Francisco from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

SAGAL: Hey, how are things in Grand Rapids?

CALDERON: We're approaching a heat wave.

SAGAL: Really? How warm is it getting?

CALDERON: I think in the teens.

SAGAL: Oh, balmy. What do you do there in Grand Rapids?

CALDERON: I work for Amway Corporation.

SAGAL: Oh, the famous Amway Corporation, multi-level marketing. What do you do for them?

CALDERON: I am a business analyst.

SAGAL: A business analyst?

PAULA POUNDSTONE: Do you're not one of the people - do they still go door to door?




POUNDSTONE: You mean they're not supposed to?


CALDERON: Most of the business is abroad.

POUNDSTONE: Really, so they door to door like in France?

CALDERON: It's mostly in Southeast Asia.

ADAM FELBER: Dear God, they go like door to door in Vietnam?

CHARLIE PIERCE: Yeah, but there they call it Namway.


SAGAL: Francisco, I hope you don't regret giving us a call because...


SAGAL: It's actually nice to have you with us. Francisco, you're going to play our game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Carl, what is Francisco's topic?

KASELL: Worst Ted talk ever.


SAGAL: So we've all had to sit through terrible presentations: Power Point freezes or the guy talking forgot to wear his pants. This week our panelists are going to read you three presentation tactics to avoid. Guess the real one, reported in this week's news, and you'll win Carl's voice on your answering machine or voicemail. Ready to play?


SAGAL: First up let's hear from Charlie Pierce.

PIERCE: The annual Midwest Sports and Fitness Winterfest in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, got a bit wild the other night. Volley Top Manufacturing(ph) was demonstrating its ProForm 2000, a revolutionary new training machine that fires tennis balls at students for practice purposes but unlike similar machines also moves at random so as to better simulate an action opponent.

The demonstration was going swimmingly until a guidance chip in the ProForm machine failed, causing the speed at which it was firing the tennis balls to double and for the machine's foot speed to increase. The machine spun wildly through the ball room. Several people took shots to the head. Gradually, though, the people in the room organized a counterstrike.

Several of the better players in the room grabbed racquets from some of the other exhibits and began volleying the balls back at the machine, calling out 15-love every time they hit it with a shot.


PIERCE: The police arrived and managed to subdue the machine but not before an EMT had scored a forehand winner toward the Gatorade stand using only a defibrillator paddle.


PIERCE: Naturally we're sorry people were so alarmed, commented Sam Jepson(ph), the director of marketing for Volley Top, but in a way this showed exactly what a valuable teaching and coaching tool the ProForm can be. Jepson said the company's orders have doubled since the story hit local television.

SAGAL: A tennis ball machine in a demonstration goes berserk, engaging in a match with besieged viewers. Your next story about a less-than-presentable presentation comes from Paula Poundstone.

POUNDSTONE: Fred Caruso(ph) of United Biotech(ph) is a ball-of-fire enthusiast for the exploration of his innovative company. He has gone around the country making an impressive presentation of the heretofore unknown uses of fleas in energy production. Unless they're actively biting, they do not sit still. They procreate and look for other fleas to procreate with. That's the life of a flea, says Caruso.

And they can be controlled by a high-pitched noise that humans can't hear. I know it sounds crazy, but we don't need public transportation, we need fleas. What would you rather do, have the government fund a project to harness the energy of fleas or ride on a train with a bunch of people you'd rather not know?

At his recent guest lecture appearance at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, Caruso spoke to a crowd of eager alternative energy students. The guy was nuts, mumbles student Randolph Peters(ph) through painfully swollen lips. He kept saying that the fleas were having sex and that if you put them on a turbine, the force of their group thrusting would turn it.


POUNDSTONE: Finally he turns and lets them out. The next thing you know students were screaming and scratching, and an unbearable keening, piercing sound rent the air. A lot of students had temporary hearing loss, but the fleas were unaffected. It wasn't a total loss. I learned that we're allergic to flea bites, and we'd better watch our fuel consumption.

SAGAL: A proselytizer for flea energy makes a mistake when he lets the fleas out. And lastly your story of a talk gone wrong comes from Adam Felber.

FELBER: Hey, here's a little known piece of diplomatic etiquette: When you're making a presentation to a bunch of foreign dignitaries, it is considered bad form to point a gun at their heads. Sadly, nobody conveyed this to Jerome Hauer, New York's commissioner of the Division of Homeland Security, who opted to highlight his October presentation about the state response to Superstorm with a laser pointer that happened to be attached to the barrel of his handgun.

Three Swedish emergency managers described themselves as rattled when the gun's laser tracked across their foreheads, as Hauer sought out a map of New York. And two other guests reportedly dove out of the line of the laser when it turned on them. Governor Cuomo has pledged to look into it but stood by the maxim that the only thing that can stop a bad lecturer with a gun is a good lecturer with a gun.



SAGAL: All right, these are you stories of a presentation gone bad.


SAGAL: Oh boy, let me review them for you while you think. We heard from Charlie Pierce about a demonstration of a tennis ball machine that got out of hand. We heard from Paula Poundstone about a man who proselytizes for flea energy but might have gone a little too far when he released the fleas into the auditorium. And we heard from Adam Felber about a bureaucrat who was delivering a very standard presentation but used a very unstandard laser pointer, the laser site on his handgun.

Which of these is the story of a presentation done maybe not in an optimum way?

CALDERON: Well, since we've heard so much coming out of the New Jersey-New York area, I'm going to go with number three.

SAGAL: You're going to go with Adam's story of the handgun's laser site being used as a laser pointer for a presentation. Well, to bring you the correct answer, we spoke to someone familiar with the story.

SETH TOOMBS: Hauer instead turned to his sidearm and used the laser sites on his handgun as a laser pointer.


SAGAL: That was Seth Toombs. He covered the covered the laser-sight laser-pointer incident for Newsy. Congratulations, Francisco. You got it right. You earned a point for Adam Felber. You've won our prize. Carl Kasell will record the greeting on your home answering machine. Well done, sir.

CALDERON: Great, thank you.

SAGAL: Thank you.

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