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Bluff The Listener

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. We are playing this week with Hari Kondabolu, Paula Poundstone and P.J. O'Rourke. And here again is your host, a man currently looking at Airbnbs on Venus, Peter Sagal.

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PETER SAGAL, HOST:

Thank you, Bill. 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 the air.

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

JEN: Hi. This is Jen (ph) from Brooklyn, New York.

SAGAL: Hey, Jen. How are things in Brooklyn?

JEN: People keep asking me how I'm doing during the pandemic. And the best answer I can come up with is, oh, you know.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: What do you do there in Brooklyn?

JEN: I'm actually a dog trainer.

SAGAL: Oh, really?

JEN: Yeah.

HARI KONDABOLU: Wow.

PAULA POUNDSTONE: I have so many questions for you.

PJ O'ROURKE: Boy, do I have work for you.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I'm actually very glad to talk to you because I think my dogs are getting sick of us. At first, they were, like, oh, it's great. You're home all the time. That's great. But now they're, like, why won't you leave so we can eat the garbage again?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: What do you think the chances are of them just giving in and eating us?

JEN: Very, very minute. You know, you've got to go for cats for that.

SAGAL: Oh, true - good point.

(LAUGHTER)

O'ROURKE: Uh-oh, Paula.

POUNDSTONE: Not true at all. It's another WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME factoid.

SAGAL: Everybody knows if, God forbid, you have that second heart attack and pass away, we have got to get to you within eight hours. Otherwise, no one will ever find a trace of you.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Jen, it's great to have you with us. You're going to play the game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what is Jen's topic?

KURTIS: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor Louis DeJoy.

SAGAL: Nothing can stop the U.S. Postal Service - not even the guy in charge of it. This week, we heard a story that truly captures why we all still love the post office. Our panelists are going to tell you about it. Pick the real one, you'll win our prize - the WAIT WAITer of your choice on your voicemail. You ready to play?

JEN: Sure.

SAGAL: All right. Let's do it. First up, here's Paula Poundstone.

POUNDSTONE: The northern spotted owl that once thrived in the New England area is now rarely seen. In 1996, it was placed on the endangered species list, which made Jim Ford's (ph) discovery of two owlets in the back of his mailbox in Madawaska, Maine, all the more astounding.

I never look in the back of my mailbox. But my niece said she sent me a letter, and it didn't come, and it didn't come, and it didn't come some more. So I stuck my head in one day just to be sure. And there they were in the way back. They seem to have made a nest of Bed Bath and Beyond coupons. Mr. Ford posted a picture of the northern spotted owls online.

The story was picked up by the Northern Forecaster newspaper, which led to more Mainers looking in the way back of their mailboxes. People found keys, wallets, Mother's Day cards from years ago, jury summons, full cans of beer, baseball gloves, condoms - just stuff that they once shoved in there when their hands were full, meaning to come back and get it, and then forgot.

And several people found northern spotted owl nests, both empty and full. Even Maine Senator Susan Collins' cousin Bill Collins (ph) made such a discovery. Bill Collins was mauled by the mother owl the following day, and Maine wildlife officers warned against going near owl nests. Get another mailbox if you have to, they advise.

SAGAL: Mailboxes in Maine end up helping to save the northern spotted owl. Your next story of mail magic comes from P.J. O'Rourke.

O'ROURKE: The U.S. Post Office has constantly innovated since its founding in the 18th century, and it continues under Trump-appointed postmaster general Louis DeJoy who, as he likes to say, wants to put the joy back in the mail. The postmaster's latest innovation idea - electronic mail, a way to send a letter or card almost instantly anywhere in the country for just a small fee. Simply write out your message and bring it into your local post office, and a specially dedicated postal employee will type it into a computer and then, with a push of the button...

(SOUNDBITE OF WHOOSH SOUND EFFECT)

O'ROURKE: Or you can drop your message in any mailbox - 55 cents for an email, 35 cents for a social media posting. Asked about video-sharing platforms, DeJoy said, we're working on that. Maybe in the future, with special delivery, we can have the local mail carrier act out your comedy sketch, dance moves or lip sync routine.

SAGAL: The new service from the U.S. Postal Service - electronic mail. Your last story of postal positivity comes from Hari Kondabolu.

KONDABOLU: There are many lessons that disgraced Trump lawyer Michael Cohen could have learned during his year in Otisville Federal Correctional Institute - perhaps things like don't lie to Congress, or don't pay off pornographic film stars, especially with traceable LLCs created for the sole purpose of paying off pornographic film stars.

O'ROURKE: (Laughter).

KONDABOLU: However, he perhaps did not expect to learn that there are no spoiler alerts in prison. So what if you really, really don't like someone, but you abhor violence, and the person you don't like is in prison? Well, comic book writer Matt Miner decided to send postcards to Cohen with inane babblings followed by spoilers for movies like "Knives Out" and TV shows like "Game Of Thrones." Mr. Miner sent Mr. Cohen around 80 postcards in all.

Surprisingly, Mr. Miner did not spoil films that you would think would apply to Mr. Cohen such as "All The President's Men," "Liar Liar" or "Dumb And Dumber."

O'ROURKE: (Laughter).

SAGAL: All right. Something fun happened with the post office. Is it, from Paula Poundstone, how mailboxes in Maine ended up being a perfect nesting place for the endangered northern spotted owl; from P.J. O'Rourke, how postmaster Louis DeJoy has come up with a great new service, electronic mail that you can send via your local post office; or, from Hari Kondabolu, how a guy who really didn't like Michael Cohen, Trump's lawyer, sent him postcards spoiling every popular entertainment he could think of while Cohen was in prison?

Which of these is the real story of the Postal Service playing a role this week?

JEN: I'm going to go with the third one about spoiling movies and TV shows in postcards.

SAGAL: For Michael Cohen.

JEN: Yeah.

SAGAL: All right. That's your choice. You've chosen Hari's story of how somebody who just didn't like Michael Cohen sent him postcards spoiling everything. Well, to bring you the correct answer, we spoke to someone deeply involved with the real story.

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MATT MINER: I knew that Michael Cohen was probably bored enough or lonely enough in prison, and I just spoiled everything from "Game Of Thrones" to "Knives Out."

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE SOUND EFFECT)

SAGAL: That was Matt Miner. He's a writer and a vigilante who sent Michael Cohen 80 spoilers while Cohen was stuck in prison. Congratulations, Jen. You got it right. You earned a point for Hari, and you've won our prize - the voice of your choice on your voicemail. Congratulations.

JEN: Thanks.

SAGAL: Thanks for playing with us today.

JEN: It was lots of fun. Thanks.

SAGAL: Bye-bye.

JEN: Bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PLEASE READ THE LETTER")

ROBERT PLANT AND ALISON KRAUSS: (Singing) Please read my letter, and promise me you'll keep the secrets and the memories we cherish in the deep. Please read the letter... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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