Ask Me Another
4:52 pm
Wed May 15, 2013

Ophira's Favorites: Round 2

Originally published on Fri May 17, 2013 11:10 am

We continue the hour of games handpicked by host Ophira Eisenberg with a tribute to a Billy Joel classic. In "We Didn't Start The Fire," house musician Jonathan Coulton rewrites some couplets of this oft-attempted, oft-maligned karaoke hit to quiz contestants about a few of its historical references. Jonathan also plays a cover of Billy Joel's "Pressure." Plus, Ophira chats with author Chuck Klosterman about his personal quirks, music, and pop culture. Then, we put Klosterman in the puzzle hotseat for an Ask Me Another Challenge about the band that wants to "rock and roll all night, and party everyday," KISS.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

This is ASK ME ANOTHER, from NPR and WNYC. I'm Ophira Eisenberg, and all this hour, we're featuring some of my favorite games. Our one-man house band Jonathan Coulton is a master of putting his own twist on famous songs and turning them into clues.

Naturally, in this game we gave him the wordiest Billy Joel song of all time, "We Didn't Start the Fire." And then we followed up with some offbeat trivia questions that resulted in a lot of inventive answers. Contestants Rebecca Chou (ph) and Paul Dryer (ph) succumb to the challenge that goes on and on and on and on.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Rebecca, you are a social science lawyer, but your hobby is quantum physics.

(LAUGHTER)

REBECCA CHOU: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

CHOU: I like quarks.

EISENBERG: And Paul, you're a bonds trader, but you are really into math.

PAUL DRYER: These are both true.

EISENBERG: You guys are like - you should talk. You should hang out.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: This game is called We Didn't Start the Fire. Now, Jonathan has been wanting to play this Billy Joel song since the beginning of the show, the inception, he demanded. And we waited and waited...

JONATHAN COULTON: That's not true.

EISENBERG: And finally, we just gave in to this guilty pleasure.

COULTON: That is not how I remember it happening, but...

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Yes, this is a game show, so we have changed some of the lyrics of Billy Joel's song "We Didn't Start the Fire" to be some trivia questions. So listen carefully; ring in when you know the answer. The winner of this round will go on to our Ask Me One More final round, at the end of the show. Are you ready?

DRYER: Yep.

CHOU: Okay.

(LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGING)

COULTON: Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnny Ray, South Pacific, Walter White cooks meth on what show?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Paul?

DRYER: "Breaking Bad."

EISENBERG: That is correct.

(APPLAUSE)

DRYER: I heard cooking math on what show.

EISENBERG: Cooking math, that's just the way your brain works.

DRYER: Yeah, and so that's why I was thrown.

EISENBERG: Yeah, that's just the way - you hear math in everything, don't you, Paul?

DRYER: It's a drug of sorts.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Is it? Flipping fractions, I understand.

(LAUGHTER)

DRYER: Dividing by zero right now.

(LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGING)

COULTON: Rosenberg, H Bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom, Brando, The King and I, what seeds are baked in Jewish Rye?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Rebecca?

CHOU: Rye.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: No.

CHOU: Caraway. Sorry.

EISENBERG: That's right.

COULTON: That's right.

EISENBERG: That is right.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: We're going to give it to her.

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGING)

COULTON: Eisenhower, vaccine, England's got a new queen, Marciano, Liberace, what's Japanese for goodbye?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Paul?

DRYER: Gosh.

(LAUGHTER)

DRYER: Sayonara.

EISENBERG: Sayonara.

(APPLAUSE)

(LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGING)

COULTON: Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac, Sputnik, Zhou Enlai, what country's the River Kwai?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Rebecca?

CHOU: Japan.

EISENBERG: Oh, I'm sorry. That is incorrect. Paul, do you have an answer to steal?

DRYER: China.

EISENBERG: Also incorrect. Let's see if anyone out there knows.

(SOUNDBITE OF AUDIENCE YELLING)

EISENBERG: Some people did and a lot of people didn't.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Thailand is the correct answer. Thailand.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGING)

COULTON: Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California baseball, Stark weather Homicide, who's Ryan Reynolds' new bride?

(LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Paul?

DRYER: Blake Lively.

EISENBERG: Yes, that is correct.

(APPLAUSE)

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGING)

COULTON: Hemingway, Eichmann, Stranger in a Strange Land, Dylan, Berlin, state the Pythagorean Theorem.

(LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Finally, you could put this to good use. Paul?

DRYER: The sum of the squares of the lengths of the two legs of a right triangle is equal to the square of the hypotenuse.

EISENBERG: No, no, no, the kind of stuff we learned in public school.

DRYER: A squared plus B squared equals C squared.

EISENBERG: There you go.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: Yeah, for goodness sake, dumb it down a little bit, Paul.

(LAUGHTER)

DRYER: I can prove it with a pretty picture.

(LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGING)

COULTON: Laurence of Arabia, British Beatle mania, Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson. Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British politician sex, JFK blown away, who sang at his 45th birthday?

(LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Rebecca?

CHOU: Marilyn Monroe.

EISENBERG: That is correct.

(APPLAUSE)

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGING)

COULTON: Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again, Moonshot, Woodstock, here's a joke, knock-knock.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Paul?

DRYER: Who's there?

EISENBERG: Yes, that is correct.

(APPLAUSE)

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGING)

COULTON: Begin, Reagan, Palestine, Terror on the airline, Ayatollah's in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan. Wheel of Fortune, Sally Ride, heavy metal suicide, foreign debts, homeless vets, what breed is Obama's pet dog?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Rebecca?

CHOU: Portuguese water dog.

EISENBERG: That is correct.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: It was a very close game, but it looks to me like Paul you are our winner, just by a hair.

(APPLAUSE)

DRYER: Thank you.

EISENBERG: All right, Jonathan, do you want to indulge us and finish off that song please?

COULTON: You got to hear the chorus, right? I guess.

EISENBERG: Yes, we do. Audience is crying out for it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGING)

COULTON: We didn't start the fire. It was always burning, since the world's been turning. We didn't start the fire. No, we didn't light it, but we tried to fight it.

Fight that fire, Billy Joel.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Thank you, Jonathan for lighting the fire.

COULTON: Sure.

EISENBERG: Would you like to play something you would choose?

COULTON: You know, I'm actually a Billy Joel fan. This is a song called "Pressure."

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGING)

COULTON: You have to learn to pace yourself. You're just like everybody else. You've only had to run so far so good. But you will come to a place where the only thing you feel are loaded guns in your face, and you'll have to deal with pressure.

You used to call me paranoid. But even you cannot avoid. You turn the tap dance into your crusade. Now here you are with your faith and your Peter Pan advice. You have no scars on your face, and you cannot handle pressure.

EISENBERG: Jonathan Coulton.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: Thank you.

EISENBERG: I've had the pleasure of talking with so many guests on our show, but one of the most memorable interviews was with author and pop culture writer Chuck Klosterman, because it got deep. Not only did we get to the bottom of why he hates turtlenecks and loves the color orange, but we played to his strengths in an ace quiz that was all about his favorite band Kiss.

CHUCK KLOSTERMAN: Orange, I don't know why I like it. I just do. It's a little like how the way Price likes purple.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

KLOSTERMAN: I don't have an orange motorcycle, but I prefer things to be orange. I once read a book about visual communication that implied that people who like orange are always hungry.

(LAUGHTER)

KLOSTERMAN: And that is true. I am always hungry.

EISENBERG: Interesting.

KLOSTERMAN: The turtleneck thing is more complicated. When I was in fifth grade, I really wanted a Nerf Hoop Basketball Set, you know. My mom would not buy me one, so I had to fashion one out of, like, an ice cream container, where you cut out the middle. And I would just hang it.

And one day, I fell like six feet onto concrete and I blocked my fall with my left arm, and I had a very severe compound fracture. Both of the bones in my arm busted, blood everywhere. I was wearing a turtleneck at the time.

(LAUGHTER)

KLOSTERMAN: So I get taken to the hospital. And I'm from a farm, so it was 25 miles away. And, you know, they had to cut it off with the scissors. And the worst part was them turning my arm in order to cut off this turtleneck.

So I have this really strange relationship with turtlenecks. Whenever I see one, the first thing I remember is the way it felt in my stomach when they were turning the broken bones in my arm to cut my turtleneck off.

And it's very odd because many women, including my wife, are very attractive when they wear black turtlenecks. It's a really good look. So whenever I see a woman with a black turtleneck, I am torn between wanting to sleep with her and throw up.

EISENBERG: Ah.

(LAUGHTER)

KLOSTERMAN: So I prefer not having turtlenecks around me.

EISENBERG: At least you're lucky that you know where the problem comes from. You write about pop - I mean, you write about so much - but pop culture, music, sports. You have seven books, five of them nonfiction, two of them fiction. You published billions of magazine articles. Yet, you grew up on a farm in North Dakota, which I am assuming is pretty culturally void.

KLOSTERMAN: Well, I guess. Yes, that is true. I mean unless you consider corn part of culture. It was, I suppose. Everyone always says that, but at the same time, it's like we got TV. You know, "Miami Vice" was on, you know.

(LAUGHTER)

KLOSTERMAN: You know, I could buy Poison albums or whatever. I guess the important stuff got to me. But yes, I mean I never had cable.

EISENBERG: The important stuff.

(LAUGHTER)

KLOSTERMAN: I never had cable growing up. I wonder what I would be like if I did.

EISENBERG: And we are very thankful because you - speaking of prizes - you made our grand prize tonight for our winner. It is a - his own very mixed CD. That's what our grand prize winner gets tonight.

KLOSTERMAN: I know, it's really valuable.

EISENBERG: It is very valuable.

KLOSTERMAN: A burned CDR.

EISENBERG: But wait a second.

KLOSTERMAN: With a bunch of songs that are on the internet.

(LAUGHTER)

KLOSTERMAN: Who could believe it exists?

EISENBERG: All right, so here is the big hint as to what we're about to put you through. Okay, Chuck?

KLOSTERMAN: Okay.

EISENBERG: So I was reading your book "Killing Yourself to Live."

KLOSTERMAN: Were you really reading it or did someone...

EISENBERG: Yes, I was.

KLOSTERMAN: Okay, that's fine. You can lie if you want.

EISENBERG: Listen.

KLOSTERMAN: Okay.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: I'm going to have to work on your self-esteem, Chuck.

KLOSTERMAN: Yeah.

EISENBERG: I was reading your book.

KLOSTERMAN: Okay, great. Awesome.

EISENBERG: And I liked the fact that not only are you a big Kiss fan.

KLOSTERMAN: I am.

EISENBERG: But you compared some of the women that you were in love with to different characters in Kiss.

KLOSTERMAN: That's true; I did do that.

EISENBERG: Which is a great way of categorizing the women.

KLOSTERMAN: Very normal.

EISENBERG: Very normal. So I would like to know something about a woman that you compared to Gene Simmons.

KLOSTERMAN: Well, they had similar hair. They both had elements of Judaism in their existence. You know, they were very interested in capitalism I have to say. And they were very interesting people.

Bruce Kulick, who was the guitarist for Kiss, and he has a website. And I saw one time on his website he talked about this part of this book where I compared him to a photographer I had dated in Akron, Ohio very briefly.

(LAUGHTER)

KLOSTERMAN: And he was very excited that I had done this, that I had done this. And I thought like this really shows how self aware Bruce Kulick is. He's like, wow, this guy sort of reminds me of this girl he wasn't that into. What a successful career I have had.

EISENBERG: I did well.

KLOSTERMAN: It made me think he was the greatest guy in the world. You know. The thing is I remember things that other people forget. That is my problem.

EISENBERG: That is your talent, my friend. That is your talent.

KLOSTERMAN: Okay.

EISENBERG: So, Chuck...

KLOSTERMAN: Okay.

EISENBERG: It's time for you to take your space behind the podium.

KLOSTERMAN: Okay, let's go.

EISENBERG: Give him a hand everybody, Chuck Klosterman.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Okay. So, Chuck, do you have any idea of what we're about to do to you? Do you have an inkling?

KLOSTERMAN: Is my wife going to freak out over this?

EISENBERG: No, you're wife is not going to freak out.

KLOSTERMAN: Okay, then no, I have no idea.

EISENBERG: Okay.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Okay. Let's bring back our puzzle guru John Chaneski.

(APPLAUSE)

JOHN CHANESKI: Hi, Chuck.

EISENBERG: He's very excited to present this next game.

CHANESKI: Chuck, you wanted the test and you got the test. The hottest band in the world: Kiss.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: So we also want to tell you, Chuck, that there's sort of an added element, because you will be playing for a lucky member in our audience. Hannah Diaz, can you stand up?

CHANESKI: There she goes.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: So, Hannah, you're in luck. So here's what's going to happen: Chuck if you get...

KLOSTERMAN: I really thought you were going to say you're going to be playing a member of Kiss.

(LAUGHTER)

CHANESKI: You wish.

KLOSTERMAN: I was like Terry Gross will not be happy.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: No, you're going to play. So, basically, if you get six right, Hannah is going to win a lovely prize.

KLOSTERMAN: Okay.

EISENBERG: But if you don't get it right...

KLOSTERMAN: I'll give her a thousand bucks.

EISENBERG: Perfect.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: I like the way you think.

(APPLAUSE)

CHANESKI: Here we go. Here's the first question. The Kiss logo, with its two S's shaped like lightning bolts is famous worldwide. However, most Kiss albums and merchandise in one particular country use backward Z's instead of lightning bolts. What country is that and why?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

KLOSTERMAN: Germany.

EISENBERG: Chuck.

KLOSTERMAN: Germany, because it represents the Kiss - the Nazi SS.

CHANESKI: That's right.

KLOSTERMAN: So they have to just make a different sort of logo that looks almost like normal S's.

CHANESKI: Yes, exactly.

EISENBERG: You're correct.

CHANESKI: Good job.

(APPLAUSE)

CHANESKI: It is illegal to display the S-S logo in Germany. Very good, Chuck.

EISENBERG: And I love that you're using the bell. You don't have to because you're not playing against...

KLOSTERMAN: I don't have to use the bell? Oh, okay.

EISENBERG: Yeah, but you can. I like it.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Yeah. It feels good, right.

(LAUGHTER)

CHANESKI: Many teenagers' first exposure to seeing Kiss was on a 1976 television Halloween special hosted by someone unusual. Who was it?

KLOSTERMAN: Oh, Paul Lynde.

CHANESKI: Paul Lynde is right, very good.

EISENBERG: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Circle gets the square.

CHANESKI: For a while, two Kiss cover bands made up of little people were in a legal battle over the very idea of a little people Kiss cover band. What were the names of the two bands?

KLOSTERMAN: Mini Kiss.

CHANESKI: Mini Kiss is one.

(LAUGHTER)

KLOSTERMAN: There were two of them.

CHANESKI: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: It's hard to believe.

KLOSTERMAN: So this is like a class action suit.

CHANESKI: It almost was, yes. If you have no idea, just what would you name a little people cover band for Kiss?

KLOSTERMAN: That's tough. Dwarf Kiss.

CHANESKI: No, no. It was Tiny Kiss.

KLOSTERMAN: Oh.

CHANESKI: Tiny Kiss. Yes, Tiny Kiss. Chuck, in 1978, the four founding members of Kiss simultaneously came out with individual solo albums. Gene Simmons' solo album included a cover of what Disney classic?

KLOSTERMAN: If you wish upon a star.

CHANESKI: "When you wish upon a star," very good, from "Pinocchio," good job.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: I want him to do Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho.

CHANESKI: Gene Simmons to do hi-ho, hi-ho.

About what item of Kiss merchandise did Gene Simmons say, "I love living but this makes the alternative look pretty damn good"?

KLOSTERMAN: Well, I would guess it would be the Kiss Koffin, with a K.

CHANESKI: Yes, the Kiss Kasket, with a K.

KLOSTERMAN: Okay.

CHANESKI: Very good, Chuck.

(APPLAUSE)

CHANESKI: If my two brothers, my sister and myself were to dress as the original members of Kiss in full makeup for Halloween, how many different colors of makeup would we need and what colors are they?

KLOSTERMAN: What members are you being?

CHANESKI: The original, original, original makeup.

KLOSTERMAN: But what two members are you, because they don't all need the same makeup.

EISENBERG: Oh, no, all of them.

CHANESKI: No, all four of us.

KLOSTERMAN: Oh, you have three sisters.

CHANESKI: I'm sorry. Let me say it again. If my two brothers...

KLOSTERMAN: Okay.

CHANESKI: ...my sister and myself - I have three siblings - were to dress as the original members of Kiss for Halloween, what makeup would we need?

KLOSTERMAN: Well white.

CHANESKI: White.

KLOSTERMAN: Black. Silver. Red. Green.

CHANESKI: Green. I'll take that.

EISENBERG: Correct.

CHANESKI: You know why? Because Ace Frehley only wore blue around his eyes occasionally.

KLOSTERMAN: Yes.

CHANESKI: But yes, that's a good answer. Chuck, nice work.

(APPLAUSE)

CHANESKI: You know what, you are very, very good.

EISENBERG: Chuck, you did amazing, which makes you really a winner.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Chuck Klosterman everybody.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EISENBERG: After the break, we'll celebrate literary criticism and attempt the impossible. We'll play Pictionary, yes, on the radio. I'm Ophira Eisenberg and this is ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.