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Who's Bill This Time

BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. (Singing) Deck the halls with Bills of holly, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-Bill.


KURTIS: I am Bill Kurtis. And here is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.


Thank you, Bill. Thank you, everybody.


SAGAL: Thank you so much. We have a great show for you today to warm you up this December. Later on, we're going to be talking to Mike D and Ad-Rock of the classic hip-hop group the Beastie Boys - the band that was making hip-hop safe for white people decades before "Hamilton."


SAGAL: Consider this your license to call. The number is 1-888-WAIT-WAIT - that's 1-888-924-8924. Now let's welcome our first listener contestant.

Hi, you are on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

MALCOLM DICKINS: Hi. This is Malcolm from Stamford, Conn.

SAGAL: Hey, Malcolm. How are you?


SAGAL: I'm glad to hear it. What do you do there?

DICKINS: I'm a teacher.

SAGAL: Oh, what do you teach?

DICKINS: During the week, I teach at a Montessori elementary school, and on the weekends, I teach clarinet and saxophone lessons...

SAGAL: Oh, wow.

DICKINS: ...And play them.

SAGAL: So you're a music teacher.


SAGAL: I have a policy. I never make fun of music teachers because I think you guys are giving the gift of magic to our children. Welcome to the show, Malcolm. Let me introduce you to our panel this week. First up, it's a feature reporter for the Style section of The Washington Post. It's Roxanne Roberts.

ROXANNE ROBERTS: Happy Holidays.


SAGAL: Next, it's the co-host of the podcast "Nobody Listens To Paula Poundstone" - it's Adam Felber.


ADAM FELBER: Hi there, Malcolm.


SAGAL: And, finally, we welcome back a comedian whose new book "Maeve In America" does make an incredible Christmas gift - it's Maeve Higgins.




SAGAL: So, Malcolm, welcome to the show. You know how this works. We start with Bill in Who's Bill This Time. He is going to recreate for you three quotations of the week's news. Your job - correctly identify or explain just two of them. Do that, and you win our prize - the voice of your choice on your voicemail. You ready to play?


SAGAL: Here is your first quote.

KURTIS: We're not building a concrete wall.


KURTIS: We're building artistically designed steel slats.


SAGAL: That was somebody changing his Christmas wish list a bit who now says he'd rather shut down the government than go without his beautiful wall.

DICKINS: The statement could only have come from one mouth, and that's the one of Trump.

SAGAL: That is the one of Trump. Yes.


SAGAL: First, President Trump said he would shut down the government in order to get his wall at the beginning of the week. And then he reversed himself. And then he reversed his reversal. That actually is the most exercise he's ever gotten.


SAGAL: But even by his standards, this was a weird week. First, as you heard, the president let us all know we had it wrong. It wasn't a big, ugly concrete wall. It had nice, stylish steel slats. Didn't we know that? You remember all the rallies - build those slats.


SAGAL: Build those slats.

FELBER: You know, slats - this whole conversation is a lot more pleasant, I discovered today, if whenever you hear slats, you hear it to the tune of Queen's theme from the "Flash Gordon" movie.

SAGAL: So...

ROBERTS: How would that go?

SAGAL: Please demonstrate

FELBER: (Singing) Slats - they'll save every one of us. Duh-nuh-nuh-nuh...


FELBER: (Singing) ...Dum-dum-dum-dum. Slats.

I promise you, you'll have a much better...

SAGAL: I can see that, yeah.


FELBER: ...If you do it that way.

SAGAL: By the way, it is not the wall or a wall. It is just wall.



SAGAL: That's what homeland security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in front of Congress this week. Quote, "I would ask for wall. We need wall" - unquote.


SAGAL: Oh, please. Give me break.


FELBER: You know what it is?

SAGAL: What is it, Adam?

FELBER: That whole administration is not even pretending to not be Russian anymore.

SAGAL: Really?


FELBER: (Imitating Russian accent) We need wall.

SAGAL: (Imitating Russian accent) We need wall.


FELBER: (Imitating Russian accent) I ask for wall, I get wall.


SAGAL: On Thursday, after everybody had agreed to fund the government and go home for Christmas, just let everything ride until next year, Trump changed his mind. He said he was not going to fund the government. He wanted his slats. He was fed up with all the slat-shaming.


SAGAL: Apparently...

ROBERTS: Well...

SAGAL: What?

ROBERTS: But they said mean things during the week. Fox said mean things about him.

SAGAL: Yeah, I know.

ROBERTS: They said the worst thing they could say. They said, he's just like Obama. And it freaked him out.


SAGAL: Yeah.

HIGGINS: He is so much better-looking than Obama.

SAGAL: Really?



HIGGINS: Peter...

SAGAL: Sorry.

FELBER: Come on.

SAGAL: Your next quote is a tweet from Netflix.

KURTIS: We're not the type to slide into your DMs.

SAGAL: Netflix was trying to calm people's nerves after it was revealed this week by The New York Times that who shared all of your private messages with them and other companies?

DICKINS: Facebook.

SAGAL: Yes, Facebook.


SAGAL: It turns out that Facebook was even worse than we thought. And we thought it was pretty bad.


SAGAL: The New York Times revealed that over the last few years, they have been selling or even giving all of our private data to these other companies and these data-sharing agreements. And they even let some companies like Netflix look at, write and delete the private messages people send on Facebook. So, for the love of God, use some other service to ask your parents for their Netflix password.


SAGAL: I mean, isn't that weird that Netflix can write messages in - you know, and send them to you as if they were a friend? That's why you got, like, weird invitations from people you hardly knew to come over and me and chill.


FELBER: Yeah. And, like...

SAGAL: Oh, no. Wait, Adam. They have to think about that one for a second.

FELBER: OK. I'll give them time, but I don't think they're going to like it any better.


FELBER: You let us know when you're ready to move on, audience.


SAGAL: We can move on, Adam.

FELBER: OK (laughter).

ROBERTS: Is the idea that they send messages, and then you think it comes from someone you know? But you're sort of embarrassed to ask because...

SAGAL: Well...

ROBERTS: ...You have this wide circle of pseudo-friends on Facebook?

SAGAL: The idea is that Facebook knows that the data they've collected on you is this huge asset. It's called personal data. It's called the oil of the 21st century. And...



SAGAL: Oh, I know. I know. Makes it feel even greasier than it already did.

HIGGINS: The social lubricant.

SAGAL: So...


HIGGINS: I hate that.

SAGAL: So presumably, they're handing all this data over to Netflix, and Netflix could look at your - and look at your messages and decide what services to sell you or what movies to recommend. But they say they never use this capacity to actually read your messages or write them. They would never do that. And also, Sue (ph) in Wichita, Steve (ph) is cheating on you, and it's so sad because you're so trusting.


SAGAL: Malcolm, here's your last quote.

KURTIS: Do I have something in my beard?

SAGAL: That was somebody wondering why he's not just getting the attention he's used to this Christmas season. He was actually one of many iterations of this person. Who are we talking about?

DICKINS: Sounds like Santa Claus.

SAGAL: It is Santa Claus.




SAGAL: It's a sad time for Santa Claus this year. Spare a thought this Christmas for Santa Claus. It's been a tough year for the guy. We're not talking about the real Santa Claus, who lives in the North Pole. He's fine. He's been on a keto diet. Instead of his belly being a bowl full of jelly, his stomach is like a six-pack of Smucker's jars. He's doing great.


SAGAL: No. But 2018 has been rough for all those Santa's helpers out there working at shopping malls and, you know, Christmas festivals - that sort of thing. Most mall Santas are bored because no one goes to malls anymore. It's even worse at the busier malls because - this is true - rich kids can now skip the line with something that is called - and I am not kidding - the Santa FastPass.

ROBERTS: (Laughter)



SAGAL: It's a national program. It might be at your mall. You can buy premium access to Santa. These kids - they don't have to wait. They get a new sanitary covering to put on Santa's lap...


SAGAL: And they are promised anything they want for Christmas, including parents who don't cover up their emotional distance with money.



HIGGINS: But the waiting is fun, too - like, when you're waiting, and you're, like, picturing it, that's, like, even more fun than the thing.

SAGAL: Really?

HIGGINS: I think so.

SAGAL: Were you taken to see Santa as a child?

HIGGINS: Yeah. And I do remember. Otherwise, it's just, like, all over in two seconds. You know, it's better to be, like, lining up and be, like, what's going to happen? How drunk will he be?


ROBERTS: Were you...

SAGAL: I was about to say that getting really excited, anticipating, nervous and then - for something that's over very quickly is good practice for adulthood...


SAGAL: ...It seems to me.

HIGGINS: Totally.

SAGAL: Totally, yeah.

HIGGINS: Yeah, especially when you're a woman.


SAGAL: Bill, how did Malcolm do on our quiz?

KURTIS: It was a Christmas gift. Malcolm got them all right.

SAGAL: Congratulations, Malcolm.


DICKINS: Thank you.

SAGAL: Thanks so much for playing.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOB DYLAN SONG, "MUST BE SANTA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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