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Not My Job: William Shatner Gets Quizzed On Cannes

BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. Hey there, De Niro. Get a load of me - Raging Bill...


KURTIS: ...Bill Kurtis. And here's your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in Chicago, Peter Sagal.


Thank you, Bill.


SAGAL: Thanks, everybody. Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, and it's time to take a moment to enjoy the spring because pretty soon, the only seasons we will have will be summer, summer two, mega summer and everything's on fire.


KURTIS: So while we can still go outside without putting on SPF 500 sunscreen, we're breathing in some fresh air and taking a week off from the news. Instead, we're going to listen back to some segments we love.

SAGAL: Let's start with an interview with my second favorite Bill, William Shatner, who joined us back in December.

KURTIS: Peter tried not to geek out and failed.


SAGAL: So when I was a kid, I loved "Star Trek" - the original series, of course. I loved it so much that I used to dream of being a crew member on the Enterprise - not one of those red shirt guys - they get into trouble - but a blue shirt, maybe even a yellow shirt. And I would get...


SAGAL: All right.


SHATNER: That's...


SHATNER: I mean, you can have ambition, but that's my job, OK?

SAGAL: All right. All right. All right.


SAGAL: This isn't how I thought it would go, but I dreamed in those days that I would someday get to talk to Captain Kirk himself. We'll now find out if that's as good as I dreamed it would be because William Shatner has a new album of Christmas songs out, and he joins us now. William Shatner, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

SHATNER: Well, what a pleasure.


SAGAL: What a joy to talk to you.

SHATNER: I'm really excited to be on because I've got to tell you, I've listened to the program over the years. It's one of my favorites. Driving somewhere on a Saturday afternoon - WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

SAGAL: Thank you. I can't tell you what it means to me to know that you listen to me after I spent so many happy hours watching you.

SHATNER: Yes, but I didn't know it was you.

SAGAL: All right.


SAGAL: You have a new record out. You've become quite a recording artist.

SHATNER: I have. I've got two records - two albums out this year, a country music album and this Christmas album that we've called "Shatner Claus."


SAGAL: Now, your singing career, if I may be so bold, began with a record that you put out when you were playing Captain Kirk back in the '60s called "The Transformed Man."


SAGAL: I've listened to the whole thing.

SHATNER: How - pity is the...

SAGAL: No, no.

SHATNER: ...Only thing I feel for you.


SAGAL: And this is the famous record where you did that that eventually infamous version of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds."



SAGAL: As I'm sure you know, this became, shall we put it, a novelty song after a while and subject of much amusement.

SHATNER: I believe the word derision is the...

SAGAL: Yes, yes, yes, yes.


HELEN HONG: You said it, not us.

SAGAL: And was that hard for you to deal with when that became, like, a hilariously funny thing that people were sharing back in the...

SHATNER: Well, I understood it does enter the area of the perception of silly.

SAGAL: Right. But it didn't bother you. You kind of embraced that as the singing William Shatner.

SHATNER: No, no. It bothered me, and I embraced it.


SAGAL: So we all know the famous sketch you did on "Saturday Night Live" where you're at a "Star Trek" convention and you express some, shall we say, impatience with your more avid fans. Was that reflecting your experience?

SHATNER: No. It was meant as a joke. And I'm sorry that you took it so seriously that you moved out of your parents' apartment.


HONG: Wow.

SAGAL: It's all right.


SAGAL: I was getting tired of my mother's cooking.

SHATNER: But look what it's done for you.

SAGAL: I know. I feel good.

SHATNER: You're master of ceremonies of these silly questions.

SAGAL: I know.


SAGAL: I know that there has been - because there's been so many versions of "Star Trek" since the best one...


SAGAL: ...That a lot of people spend their time arguing over which captain was better. I assume you believe it was Kirk rather than Picard or any of the others.

SHATNER: Well, I don't know what the argument is about, actually.


SAGAL: Do you - I mean, do you actually, like, get together with the other actors and ever hash this out?

SHATNER: Yes. Several blows were struck.


SHATNER: No. I think everybody thinks they're the best, and I just leave them their quandary. I don't want to disturb their mental stability.

SAGAL: One of the things that so many people have done over the years is they do their William Shatner impressions.


SAGAL: I have done a William Shatner impression. I'm not going...

SHATNER: I'd like to hear it.



SHATNER: What do you mean no?

HONG: Do it.

SAGAL: No, I can't. How could I...

HONG: Come on.

SAGAL: ...To the face of the - in the face of the - all right.


HONG: Oh, Peter, do it.

SHATNER: I would like - by popular demand, you're being requested to do the imitation.

SAGAL: All right. The only thing I can think of to do is the episode where you - the crew of the enterprise ends up on the planet where the Kohms are finding fighting the Yangs, if you remember this, and Captain Kirk and the crew the Enterprise save them by introducing the U.S. Constitution. Remember this one?

SHATNER: Well, vaguely. Yes.

SAGAL: Yes. And so...

SHATNER: Are you going to recite the Constitution?

SAGAL: Well...

SHATNER: I don't know if I can put up with that.


SAGAL: And this is one of the great things - is that Captain Kirk sort of gets this document, and he says, here's this thing that says (imitating William Shatner) we the people...


SHATNER: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. That's the worst imitation...


SHATNER: ...I've ever heard.


SHATNER: God. Oh, my god. I hope you don't do that in public.

SAGAL: Well, William Shatner, as you can tell, we're all pretty delighted to talk to you. But we must do our business. We have invited you here to play a game we're calling...

KURTIS: (Shouting) Cannes Film Festival.


SAGAL: So one of the greatest moments in all of cinema, we would agree, was you shouting Khan in "Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan." So we thought we'd ask you about a different Cannes - the Cannes Film Festival in France. Answer 2 out of 3 right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - the voice of anyone they like on their voicemail. Bill, who is William Shatner playing for?

KURTIS: Chris Taucher of Columbus, Ohio.

SHATNER: Oh, I know him.


SAGAL: Here is your first question. Martin Scorsese has been a fixture at Cannes since the '70s, but he always hasn't had the best relationship with the press, who, of course, swarm Cannes. In 1978, talking to the press, he decided to stop all the interviews. Why? A, he ran out of cocaine, saying no more coke, no more interviews; B, He called the police on a reporter who asked him, how tall are you, anyway? Or C, he snapped and responded to a question by shouting, you talking to me? You talking to me?

SHATNER: (Laughter) Well, it's got to be that he snapped.

SAGAL: He did - he snapped and started shouting, you talking to me? You talking to me?


SAGAL: No. In fact, it was the cocaine - you know, the '70s - different time. All right. Next question - Cannes is famous for the film competition but also for elaborate publicity stunts around it such as when one company once did what? A, swarmed the celebrities on the red carpet with 200 fake zombies, resulting in three actors getting bitten; B, poisoned the food at the party's buffet just to entice partygoers to visit some port-a-potties that were covered with ads; or C, storming the famous Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc with fake terrorists dressed like ISIS members?

SHATNER: That's the kind of thing they would do.

SAGAL: The last one.

LUKE BURBANK: (Laughter).


SAGAL: You're right, Captain. That's what...


SAGAL: ...They did.


SAGAL: It was supposed to promote this company's broadband services. It did not help. All right.


SAGAL: Last question - if you get this right, you win, and my life has meaning. The festival can be dangerous, as in which of these happened? A, over the years, at least 14 women and four men have fainted from being crammed into too-tight outfits for the runway; B, when the actress Simone Silva took off her top in a photo shoot with co-star Robert Mitchum, two photographers suffered broken bones in the ensuing crush; or C, the sound of all the cameras going off attracts hordes of wild dogs known as the les chiens du cinema (ph)?


SHATNER: I love the picture of Mitchum standing by while the lady disrobes, and people are crushed.

SAGAL: That's the one you're going to go with?


SAGAL: You're right.


SAGAL: That's what happened.


SAGAL: The ensuing photograph, in which Mitchum is kind of using his hands as a makeshift bra - that picture is actually one of most famous images to be taken at Cannes. Bill, how did William Shatner do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Two out of 3. And, Captain, that's a win.

SAGAL: Congratulations.


SAGAL: William Shatner's new Christmas album, "Shatner Claus," is out now. William Shatner, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.


SHATNER: Picture yourself in a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade skies. Somebody calls you. You answer quite slowly - a girl with kaleidoscope eyes. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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