Masked Singers

May 1, 2020

Everyone's wearing a mask these days, but some musicians got there first. Actors Stephanie Beatriz and Lauren Ash identify clips of masked performers.

Heard on TV Face-Off: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Superstore, Parks & Rec, Silicon Valley & Insecure

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JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: Hey, Ophira. Hello? Uh-oh.

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Hey, I'm having a...

COULTON: What's happening?

EISENBERG: I'm having some problems. The Internet's out here, so I'm just going to use the data on my phone, OK?

COULTON: Oh, no.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) If it's not good, I just want to do this because we only have a bit of time.

COULTON: Well, so why don't I get right to the song? Should I do the song?

EISENBERG: OK. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, let's play the song. Let's do this.

COULTON: All right, here we go. (Playing guitar) From NPR and WNYC, coming to you from our respective homes in beautiful Brooklyn, N.Y., it's NPR's hour of puzzles, word games and unstable Internet connections, ASK ME ANOTHER. I'm Jonathan Coulton. Now here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.

EISENBERG: Thanks, Jonathan. Oh, hang on a second. My husband's at the door. Yes. Hi. I'm attempting to record with the data on my phone.

JONATHAN BAYLIS: OK. I have the - are you getting my texts?

EISENBERG: No. I only have like 50 minutes to do this.

BAYLIS: Let's go. OK, Lucas.

EISENBERG: OK. Sorry.

COULTON: That's all right.

EISENBERG: Bye. See you later, Lucas. You know, there's - in some ways, knowing that I only have 50 minutes to do this - not for nothing but it's the only time constraint I've had in a couple months, and I really...

COULTON: (Laughter)

EISENBERG: ...Would like to adhere to it (laughter).

COULTON: Yeah. You're clinging to a time constraint. Oh wow, there's a deadline for - something needs to be done in an amount of time?

EISENBERG: I mean, there is something to the fact that people are like, oh, by the way, I apologize. I want to talk to you and, you know, catch up with you over Zoom, but I'm just going to let you know that I only have the, you know, personal free membership or whatever, which means that it's a 40-minute max. And I'm like, everything...

COULTON: Oh, yeah.

EISENBERG: ...Should be a 40-minute (laughter).

COULTON: Yeah, no. That's - I only have 40 minutes at a time for anything, no matter what it is. Absolutely. The blessed 40-minute limit. Oh.

EISENBERG: Let's kill, like - let's do - let's really catch up in 40 minutes.

COULTON: What should happen is you should be - there should be a setting where your Internet - you said your Internet should just reboot every 40 minutes...

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Yeah, in real life.

COULTON: ...So no matter what you're doing, you have an out.

EISENBERG: Yeah, because - yeah. This is, like, why I love, you know - when you perform stand-up, you have a light. Not that I love that. But also, it's good for the audience because the audience knows that there is something going on where after 20 minutes or 30 minutes or whatever, this is going to end (laughter).

COULTON: Right. There's a grown-up in control - in charge.

EISENBERG: That's right.

COULTON: Because otherwise you fear even as you're plowing your way through your third bowl of Lucky Charms.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

COULTON: Inside, you fear that you would just go all the way through the box if nobody stopped you, so it's nice...

EISENBERG: Right.

COULTON: ...To have a grown-up in charge.

EISENBERG: Deadline. Yes. And I have noticed recently, there are a lot of culture pieces being written about the culture we are in, and I do not like a lot of them.

COULTON: Right. You don't need to read a think piece about the thing you're thinking about all the time.

EISENBERG: Right. And some of them - I mean, I was really mad about this article, which from - I believe it was BBC that was like, why Zoom calls and catch-ups are more exhausting. It's like, yeah, I get it. I get it.

COULTON: Yeah, I know. I know (laughter).

EISENBERG: What else is bad? I needed 2,000 words on that? You know, it's just like...

COULTON: Yeah (laughter).

EISENBERG: ...This is the only thing I have. What else is bad - at-home workout injuries that you'll never recover from, you know?

BAYLIS: Right. Right. How we are failing our children. OK, that one I got covered. I know. I already know.

EISENBERG: Will your marriage survive anything? No.

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Here's 2,000 words.

COULTON: Clearly not.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

COULTON: All right, so should we play some games?

EISENBERG: Yeah, I think we should. We've got a wonderful show. From HBO's "Insecure," we're going to check in with actor Natasha Rothwell and, fresh off the premiere of their Netflix improv comedy special "Middleditch And Schwartz," we're going to play some games with comedians Thomas Middleditch and Ben Schwartz. But first, we're going to kick things off with Stephanie Beatriz from "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and Lauren Ash from NBC's "Superstore." So let's go.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EISENBERG: Hello, Lauren. Hi, Stephanie.

LAUREN ASH: Hi.

STEPHANIE BEATRIZ: Hi.

EISENBERG: How is your week going? It's been a long everything.

(LAUGHTER)

BEATRIZ: That's pretty much how it's going. That's how it's going.

ASH: Yeah, I've - yeah, it's going well. I think I've managed to somehow overextend myself, which feels impossible...

(LAUGHTER)

BEATRIZ: That doesn't...

ASH: ...During a panic.

COULTON: That's amazing. Yeah.

BEATRIZ: That seems absolutely normal for you, actually.

EISENBERG: You know, this is the first week, we were talking, that some of us are putting on our calendar our TV watching.

ASH: Yes.

EISENBERG: Like we're like, tonight at 8, you know on the Google cal (ph) or whatever you use a calendar. I'm putting everything in my calendar. And I do feel like I did commit to a few things because occasionally, I wake up with this idea that I'm like, I'm going to do that, and I'm going to try this show or whatever. And then yeah, at the end of the day you're like, what am I doing? Like, I...

ASH: I know.

EISENBERG: ...Can barely do anything.

ASH: Oh, I've gotten those black bananas out of the freezer...

EISENBERG: (Laughter)

ASH: ...Like six or seven times. They've thawed, and I've put them back. It's like, the banana bread will come. But who knows when?

COULTON: That banana bread...

EISENBERG: Yeah.

COULTON: ...Is going to taste so amazing when you finally get to it.

ASH: It does. The thawing and refreezing, I think, is really going to add to it. Yeah.

COULTON: That's what they say. Let them go black and then thaw them and refreeze them several times.

ASH: Yeah. Yeah.

EISENBERG: Stephanie, are you cooking? Are you doing any of the intense recipe...

BEATRIZ: It's a balance of, like, how responsible do we want to be to all the people that are making these deliveries all the time? So, you know...

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah.

BEATRIZ: ...We don't want to be self-centered and order food every chance we get, even though at first, it seemed like, oh, this is going to last for two weeks? Let's order pizza every night, you know? So we've definitely - we've gotten some Farmboxes, and we've tried to do stuff with them. And some have been hits. Some have been misses.

EISENBERG: Yeah. Like, too many turnips, that kind of thing?

STEPHANIE BEATRIZ: Well, we got a box that was, like, full of - we had to look it up on the Internet and, like, try to figure out what it was. And what it was, like - it turned out to be, like, watermelon radish sprouts or something. So I spent an entire episode and a half of "RuPaul's Drag Race" taking the little sprouts off the thing. And then Brad made a salad. And it was, like, just OK. And I was like, well, that's not happening again.

COULTON: (Laughter).

BEATRIZ: Brad will ask me what's for dinner, and I'm like, I don't know. I don't want - I don't want to be responsible for it. So, yeah, (unintelligible).

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: I know, it's too much. Everybody I know is reading recipes. I am reading instructions on the back of a box, OK? So let's go to your first game. It's an audio quiz called Masked Singers because these days everybody's wearing a mask. But some musicians were way ahead of the curve. I'm going to play you a clip of a musician who famously obscures their face. And you're going to tell me who we are hearing. And if you have no idea, you can make something up (laughter). And we're going to go back-and-forth.

LAUREN ASH: Got it.

EISENBERG: Lauren, this is for you. She's an Australian artist who often uses a large, blonde wig to shield her face. And sometimes she tops it with a bow.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHANDELIER")

SIA: (Singing) One, two, three, one, two, three, drink. Throw them back till I lose count.

ASH: It's Sia.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

COULTON: All right, Stephanie, this for you.

BEATRIZ: OK.

COULTON: Because this singer's voice sounded so much like Elvis's, many conspiracy theories emerged that Elvis was still alive and releasing music under this alias in the 1980s.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ORION: (Singing) Well, I'm not trying to be just like Elvis. I'm doing my best to make it all...

COULTON: I will say, it seemed as though he was leaning into the Elvis thing a little bit.

ASH: Yeah.

BEATRIZ: Definitely.

(LAUGHTER)

ASH: Yeah.

BEATRIZ: I'll take a multiple choice because I truly don't have a clue, so I'm going give my best guess.

COULTON: OK, I'll give you the multiple choice. Was it A, Orion - B, Bill Haley and His Comets - or C, Jefferson Starship?

BEATRIZ: I think Bill Haley and His Comets. Who is that? That sounds cool.

COULTON: (Laughter) It does sound cool. It's incorrect. That was Orion.

BEATRIZ: Oh, Orion?

COULTON: Yeah, his name is Orion...

BEATRIZ: Like Orion's Belt?

COULTON: That's the very same. He wore a masquerade-style mask. And during his time with the Sun Record label, which was also Elvis's label, he made over 11 albums. He toured with Jerry Lee Lewis and Dionne Warwick. There's a documentary about his life in 2015 called "Orion: The Man Who Would Be King." So he really did lean into the Elvis thing, as it turns out.

BEATRIZ: Wow.

EISENBERG: Lauren, the members of this French electronic duo appear onstage wearing helmets. And rarely...

BEATRIZ: Come on. Lauren's getting all the good ones here.

EISENBERG: ...(Laughter) I know. I know. I know, Stephanie. There's more. There's more. And rarely give interviews.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ONE MORE TIME (12 MIX)")

DAFT PUNK: (Singing) One more time. We're going to celebrate. Oh, yeah. All right. Don't stop the dancing. One more time...

ASH: I know this is terrible, but I'm going to need the multiple choice.

BEATRIZ: Oh.

EISENBERG: OK. Is it A, The Chemical Brothers - B, Daft Punk - or C, LCD Soundsystem?

ASH: It's Daft Punk, B.

EISENBERG: That's right.

ASH: Yes, I needed to hear it. I was a - because in my mind I was like, is that - no, it's not LCD Soundsystem. I knew that, but that's all that was coming into my head. I'm so sorry.

BEATRIZ: My husband's literally wearing his Daft Punk shirt today, and then Lauren gets that question. Great.

ASH: Yeah...

BEATRIZ: That is a slap in the face.

(LAUGHTER)

BEATRIZ: It is. Straight up. Straight up slap in the face.

COULTON: All right. Well, maybe some redemption will come here, Stephanie.

BEATRIZ: OK. Let's see.

COULTON: This electronic trio of musicians hails from Boise, Idaho, and first appeared on the scene in 2013.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAGIC SWORD'S "IN THE FACE OF EVIL")

BEATRIZ: I need the multiple choice.

COULTON: Sure. Was it, A, Merlin's Beard? - B, Broken Wands? - or C, Magic Sword?

BEATRIZ: Man, I don't know.

COULTON: That doesn't help very much, I know.

ASH: That's hard.

COULTON: You got hard ones.

BEATRIZ: Broken Wands sounds cool. I hope that's their name.

COULTON: That is a cooler name than their actual name, which is...

BEATRIZ: Magic Sword.

EISENBERG: Magic Sword.

BEATRIZ: I mean, they sound great.

COULTON: Two of the band members perform wearing hooded cloaks and fencing masks with glowing laser lines for eyes, while the third member of the band supplies moody projections. One of the band's member's, known as The Keeper, said that he came up with the idea while staying at a meditation retreat. That's where all good ideas come from. He said - he said Day 7 it dawned on me that this is what I wanted to do. It was the one constant in my life - '80s epic soundtrack music.

BEATRIZ: Wow.

COULTON: I love - that's a very sweet - that's a very sweet story, I think.

BEATRIZ: It is very sweet and also, like...

EISENBERG: (Laughter) It's darling.

BEATRIZ: ...Pure, like, well, this is it. This is what I'm meant to do.

COULTON: I know nobody wants to hear this but me, but this is what I want to do.

(LAUGHTER)

ASH: They probably will sweep the category at the Grammys because they're going to have to make that category at the Grammys...

EISENBERG: Yeah.

COULTON: That's right.

ASH: ...In order to facilitate this music.

BEATRIZ: Yeah.

EISENBERG: The nominees are Merlin's Beard, Broken Wands, and Magic Sword.

(LAUGHTER)

ASH: They're like, oh, Merlin's Beard again, ah. They're so derivative. They're so derivative.

EISENBERG: They're so derivative.

BEATRIZ: They stole our sound. They stole our sound.

ASH: We were doing this four years ago.

COULTON: Yeah, that's right. Merlin's Beard is the Orion to Magic Sword's Elvis.

(LAUGHTER)

ASH: Oh, chef's kiss, chef's kiss.

EISENBERG: Beautiful.

ASH: Gorgeous.

BEATRIZ: Actually, saying chef's kiss is now my new favorite thing since I heard you do it.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Chef's kiss is amazing.

BEATRIZ: That's really great. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

EISENBERG: So good.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EISENBERG: After the break, we're going to play another game with actors Stephanie Beatriz and Lauren Ash. And later, I'll switch to my soft focus Zoom filter for a chat with actor Natasha Rothwell from HBO's "Insecure." I'm Ophira Eisenberg, and this is ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.