WBEZ | humorist http://www.wbez.org/tags/humorist Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The Mo Rocca Interview http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2012-12/mo-rocca-interview-104589 <p><p><span id="internal-source-marker_0.28590838527447426"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Mo%20Rocca.jpg" style="height: 280px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="Mo Rocca cooks, makes documentaries and writes books. What a mensch. (Thom Kaine)" />Today I chat with a man whose voice you&rsquo;re probably familiar with if you&rsquo;re a regular NPR listener, as he&rsquo;s a frequent panelist on </span><em>Wait, Wait...Don&rsquo;t Tell Me!</em></p><p>Also a former<em> Daily Show </em>correspondent, he&rsquo;s now contributing his corresponding talents to <em>CBS News Sunday Morning</em>. Recently, he starred in the documentary <em><a href="http://electoraldysfunction.org/">Electoral Dysfunction</a></em>, which looks at how much there is to know and not-know about the Electoral College. If that weren&rsquo;t enough, he&rsquo;s also got a Cooking Channel show called <em><a href="http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/my-grandmothers-ravioli/my-grandmothers-ravioli/index.html">My Grandmother&#39;s Ravioli</a></em>, as he learns to cook from this country&rsquo;s fine crop of grandparents.<br /><br /><strong>Who have been some of the guests to call in for &ldquo;Not My Job&rdquo; on WWDTM that you felt starstruck by?</strong><br />Well <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130739954">Dick Van Dyke was just the best</a>. &nbsp;When he sang the lyrics to The <em>Dick Van Dyke Show</em> theme (who knew there were <a href="http://lyricsplayground.com/alpha/songs/t/thedickvandykeshowthemesong.shtml">words</a>?!), we were all beyond thrilled. &nbsp;Those 45 seconds were maybe the most exciting 45 seconds of my career -- and I was just listening.<br /><br /><strong>If your grandchildren cooked with you one day, what recipe do you think would be most pleasant or meaningful to make with them?</strong><br />Probably my own grandmother&#39;s ravioli -- and that&#39;s not just a plug for my show (Cooking Channel, Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET). &nbsp;My grandmother was an amazing lady. &nbsp;She worked full-time at a downtown DC department store (in the china and crystal dept) until she was 87. &nbsp;She would often walk to and from work, about 3 miles. No kidding. &nbsp;And she insisted on making these gargantuan holiday meals for us. &nbsp;(My own mother worked hard and cooked for us all week so she needed a break.) &nbsp;Making the ravioli (big handmade pasta envelopes filled with ground beef, spinach and garlic -- really pretty simple), with a light tomato sauce, would be a great way to keep her memory alive. &nbsp;And they&#39;re delicious.<br /><br /><strong>What are some of the Rocca family holiday-time culinary traditions?</strong><br />Lots of pies. &nbsp;Lemon meringue, apple, cherry, pumpkin. &nbsp;<br /><br /><strong>What&rsquo;s the best thing you&rsquo;ve eaten recently?</strong><br />My romantic life has been scandalously quiet recently. &nbsp;The duck poutine I had at <a href="http://www.bistrosixone.com/">Bistro Six-One in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario</a> (I was there doing a story on the Canadian perspective on the War of 1812) made up for that. &nbsp;It was so good, it sent me to another place. &nbsp;Honestly I didn&#39;t know what was happening to me. &nbsp;Every one of my chakras was in overdrive. (Please note, I do not know what chakras are.) &nbsp;I only wish Rob Reiner&#39;s mother had been there to witness the scene. &nbsp;<br /><br /><strong>What are some of the most surprising things you learned during the making of <em>Electoral Dysfunction</em>?</strong><br />We don&#39;t have a constitutionally enshrined affirmative right to vote. &nbsp;And that&#39;s not just some quirky factoid. &nbsp;It&#39;s the root of the very confusing and costly and chaotic way that elections are run in this country. &nbsp;And it continues to corrode our confidence in democracy.<br /><br />Also, people who make documentaries are people of deep faith in the value of content over flash. &nbsp;They have to believe in what they&#39;re making to see their projects through years of struggle. &nbsp;I am lucky to have worked with <a href="http://www.turingfilm.com/about/production-team/bennett-singer">Bennett Singer</a> (from Chicago!), <a href="http://ny011.urj.net/DavidDeschamps.htm">David DesChamps</a> and <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0268266/">Leslie Farrell</a>.<br /><br /><strong>You have a background in musical theater; what&rsquo;s a favorite old show of yours you think is underrated that you&rsquo;d love to see revived on a major stage?</strong><br />Gee whiz, everything has been revived at least a couple times by now. &nbsp;I don&#39;t know the book of <em><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anyone_Can_Whistle">Anyone Can Whistle</a></em> (and maybe that&#39;s the problem) but the score is so great. &nbsp;I&#39;d like to see that. &nbsp;I&#39;m also curious to see if they can ever get<em> Funny Girl</em> back to Broadway. &nbsp;Streisand was so outsized by the time she did it at the ripe old age of 21. &nbsp;I think it would be great to see it with revived with someone who&#39;s equally larger than life (if that&#39;s possible). &nbsp;Maybe Lady Gaga as Fanny Brice? &nbsp;(She could also play lead in <em>Bells Are Ringing</em> - what a score! - in the Judy Holliday role. &nbsp;I&#39;m stealing that idea from my good friend Gerard Alessandrini, creator of <a href="http://www.forbiddenbroadway.com/">Forbidden Broadway</a>.)<br /><br /><strong>Typically, what&rsquo;s the first step you take when researching your interview subjects?</strong><br />Read anything I can about them. &nbsp;If I&#39;m doing a profile, I don&#39;t shy away from watching interviews of them on YouTube. &nbsp;I hate to resort to this, but if they&#39;re giving me nothing I&#39;ll go to stories I know they&#39;ve told before, if only to loosen them up.<br /><br /><strong>Do you have any tricks on how to improve the situation when a subject is being unfriendly, taciturn or just plain boring?</strong><br />Change the subject abruptly. &nbsp;Philip Seymour Hoffman is a difficult interview. &nbsp;(If I ever meet him again, I&#39;ll tell him -- and I mean this in a totally non-snarky way -- that he <em>should not be giving interviews</em>. &nbsp;He&#39;s one of the few actors who doesn&#39;t need to. &nbsp;He&#39;s that good at acting. &nbsp;The work speaks for itself. &nbsp;Giving an interview is apparently painful for him ... and it&#39;s ain&#39;t a picnic for the interviewer.) &nbsp;Anyway, out of the blue, I said &quot;You know who&#39;s terrific? Laura Linney!&quot; &nbsp;Of course she is terrific. &nbsp;And Hoffman smiled and really loosened up for a bit. &nbsp;I think he was happy to talk about someone else and he appreciated the spontaneity. &nbsp;Or maybe it just surprised him.<br /><br /><strong>Who are some dream interview subjects of yours?</strong><br />Oh heck, why deny it, Streisand. &nbsp;But I wouldn&#39;t let her know it&#39;s a dream. &nbsp;That would irritate her. &nbsp;Of course I wouldn&#39;t act like it&#39;s a chore. &nbsp;I&#39;d find a balance. &nbsp;(Yes, I&#39;ve rehearsed the interview 50 times. &nbsp;Just me and a chair a la Clint at the RNC.)<br /><br /><strong>What&rsquo;s the most difficult part about writing for children&rsquo;s television?</strong><br />Keeping everything moving. &nbsp;You can&#39;t mark time or tread water, like you can in grown-up entertainment. Kids are too smart. &nbsp;They&#39;ll get instantly distracted if the story isn&#39;t moving forward. &nbsp;Writing for them is the best exercise in learning how to write dynamically.<br /><br /><strong>If you wrote <a href="http://www.amazon.com/All-Presidents-Pets-Reporter-Refused/dp/1400052262/ref=la_B001K8W3AQ_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1356643826&amp;sr=1-1">a new book</a>, what do you think it would be about? Would you return to humor/satire or do something a little more straightforward?</strong><br />I want to do more history. &nbsp;I want it to be funny. &nbsp;Maybe more naturally funny. &nbsp;Less high-concept. &nbsp;(Helen Thomas as a turkey buzzard who had an affair with Millard Fillmore qualifies as high-concept, yes?)<br /><br /><strong>How does it feel to be the 336th person interviewed for<a href="http://zulkey.com/WBEZ?"> Zulkey.com/WBEZ?</a></strong><br />That&#39;s the area code for Winston-Salem, NC where I spent two of the best summers of my life, studying acting at the North Carolina School of the Arts. &nbsp;I&#39;ll always be grateful to my parents for sending me there and the teachers who taught me (sorry I never lost my lisp!) and the friends I made, including Lisa Anderson (who lives in Greensboro, also 336!) and Parker Posey, who has gone on to have a spectacular career!</p></p> Fri, 28 Dec 2012 08:32:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2012-12/mo-rocca-interview-104589 Jim Gaffigan brings the laughs back home to Indiana http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-03/jim-gaffigan-brings-laughs-back-home-indiana-90054 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-August/2011-08-03/allmedia_img.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Comedian and actor <a href="http://www.jimgaffigan.com/index.shtml" target="_blank">Jim Gaffigan</a> has a lot of voices. Not impressions of famous types--just voices–all&nbsp; funny! The laid-back-yet-gregarious onstage persona,&nbsp; the voice of his wife and he frequently mimics a disapproving audience member. The Hoosier will perform a pair of shows at the <a href="http://tickets-center.com/ResultsVenue.aspx?event=Jim+Gaffigan&amp;vname=The+Venue+at+Horseshoe+Casino&amp;venid=8969&amp;nid=1&amp;ppcsrc=1-HY-The+Venu-Jim+Gaffi&amp;sortcol=retail&amp;sortord=asc&amp;dist=GS&amp;uq=jim%20gaffigan%20tour&amp;cid=7429623275&amp;gclid=CLrR4qy9s6oCFQ7MKgodVTY89Q" target="_blank">Horseshoe Casino</a> in Hammond, Indiana on Saturday, Aug. 13. But first, <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> corralled him for a chat on his comedy and Midwestern roots.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Music Button: Chris Joss, "Magic Tubes", from the CD Teraphonic Overdubs, (ESL)</em></p></p> Wed, 03 Aug 2011 15:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-03/jim-gaffigan-brings-laughs-back-home-indiana-90054