Are You Not Edutained?

Aug 21, 2020

Tony Shalhoub and Luke Kirby (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) go back to school in a game involving audio clips from vintage educational films. Luke and Ophira discover they have a lot in common.

Heard on Joseph Gordon-Levitt And Tony Shalhoub: 10 Things I Hate About Zoom.

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OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Our next two contestants won Emmys for their roles on "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," and they've been nominated again this year. Tony Shalhoub, Luke Kirby, welcome to ASK ME ANOTHER.

TONY SHALHOUB: Hi - great to be here.

LUKE KIRBY: Hello.

EISENBERG: So nice to see you. And also, congratulations on Season 4 being officially announced.

SHALHOUB: Thank you. It's happening.

EISENBERG: Has any of the production happened?

SHALHOUB: No. No.

EISENBERG: Zero. OK.

SHALHOUB: I mean, I'm assuming the writers are...

EISENBERG: Writing.

KIRBY: I've been shooting for months.

(LAUGHTER)

SHALHOUB: I had been fired. And they didn't tell me. It's fine.

(LAUGHTER)

JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: That happens.

EISENBERG: It's all possible.

COULTON: That happens in this business.

EISENBERG: So I assume you both met each other on the set of the show.

SHALHOUB: Whoops. Everybody's frozen.

EISENBERG: Tony, for me, is frozen. Is he frozen?

KIRBY: Yeah. Me, too.

EISENBERG: OK. Tony, you're frozen.

COULTON: I thought he was just playing it cool. But I guess he's frozen.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

KIRBY: He's very still.

EISENBERG: Oh, he's gone.

KIRBY: He bailed. Way to go, guys.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: I've heard he's the toughest interview around.

KIRBY: Oh, my God.

COULTON: Well, I guess we'll see if he comes back.

EISENBERG: Luke, I wanted to say I'm from Calgary, by the way. I grew up in Calgary.

KIRBY: Oh, yeah. Right on.

COULTON: (Laughter).

KIRBY: Did you go to...

COULTON: Here we go.

KIRBY: ...Winston Churchill?

EISENBERG: No, I went to Western Canada.

KIRBY: Oh, right on.

EISENBERG: But I had a lot of friends that went to Winston Churchill.

KIRBY: All right. Let's name them.

EISENBERG: OK.

KIRBY: OK. Peter Oldring?

EISENBERG: Yes, of course.

KIRBY: Really?

EISENBERG: Yeah, of course.

COULTON: Is that a person or a place?

EISENBERG: Yeah. Peter Oldring - he's a great actor...

KIRBY: He's now a place.

EISENBERG: ...And an improviser.

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Yeah. He's a great improviser and actor. And he's sort of infamous. He was very close friends and, like - of an ex-boyfriend of mine.

KIRBY: Who was your boyfriend, may I ask?

EISENBERG: Albert Howell.

KIRBY: Oh, my God. I know Albert Howell also. In fact, I was in LA, and I was staying at Peter's house, and so was Albert Howell.

EISENBERG: Oh, no.

KIRBY: And we talked so much about you.

(LAUGHTER)

KIRBY: Should we - what about Semi Chellas? Do you know her?

EISENBERG: Semi Chellas? I took an acting class - I took a Meisner class - Jacqueline McClintock's Meisner class...

KIRBY: Oh, yeah.

EISENBERG: ...With Semi Chellas.

KIRBY: I took a class with Jacqueline in Montreal.

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah.

COULTON: Semi Chellas?

EISENBERG: Yeah.

COULTON: You guys are just making up these names now. This is not...

KIRBY: Jonathan, apologies.

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: No, Luke, this is great because Jonathan went to Yale. And all of his friends that are famous, including him, went to Yale. And I have to hear them catch up all the time. And finally, it's happening for me.

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Tony went to Yale, says our producer.

COULTON: (Laughter) Yeah. See?

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Tony, you're back.

SHALHOUB: I'm sorry. But I had a little bit of a - I think my Internet just kind of went out for a second there.

COULTON: It happens.

EISENBERG: Well, Tony, did you go to Yale, by any chance?

SHALHOUB: I did. I went...

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah.

SHALHOUB: Well, I went - not to undergrad. But I went there for graduate school.

KIRBY: I wish I went to Yale.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) I wish I went to Yale. You went to the National Theatre School. That's fine.

SHALHOUB: I wish you had gone to Yale, too.

(LAUGHTER)

SHALHOUB: Terrible thing to say.

KIRBY: Sure, sure. Yeah, yeah.

EISENBERG: I went to McGill. I just want to let you all know that. I went to McGill.

SHALHOUB: Ooh.

KIRBY: Ooh.

EISENBERG: I know. I know. (Unintelligible).

KIRBY: Kamala Harris's mother taught at McGill.

EISENBERG: Really? I did not know that.

COULTON: I took a yoga class with Kamala Harris's mother.

KIRBY: You did not.

COULTON: No, I did not. No.

EISENBERG: So everybody's watching television right now. And I even feel like, you know, even parents who have strict TV rules have let their kids watch TV during this time. I'm one of them. I have a 4-year-old. He is watching television a little bit more than I like. Tony, as a kid, am I right in saying that your father did not want you guys to have a television, and you didn't have one in your house till you were, like, 8 or 10?

SHALHOUB: Yeah. We were sort of the last house on the block to get TV.

COULTON: Wow.

SHALHOUB: And my father - he just didn't want it around. You know, there were a lot of us. I have a lot of siblings. And I think he loved that thing where he would come home from work, and he would just get swarmed by all these, you know, critters - would come and hug him and make a fuss over him. He liked that. And then, finally, when we did get TV, he would come home, and he would just, like, stand there in the doorway - nothing.

COULTON: Oh, no (laughter).

SHALHOUB: Everybody was glued to the set.

COULTON: (Laughter).

SHALHOUB: It was really sad. I feel bad for him now but...

EISENBERG: Yeah. They're like, we have a new parent.

SHALHOUB: Yeah, that's right.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) And then you say a swarm of you because you are...

SHALHOUB: I'm one of 10.

EISENBERG: One of 10.

KIRBY: Wow.

COULTON: Where do you fall? In the middle or...

SHALHOUB: I'm the second youngest - the youngest boy but the second youngest of 10, so No. 9.

EISENBERG: Luke, were you allowed to watch television growing up?

KIRBY: Sort of. I mean, my mother had a thing where she would come home from work and feel the back of the TV.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Oh, yeah, that old trick.

KIRBY: And I don't - you know, so we never - I don't think we ever tried to, like, outsmart her.

SHALHOUB: You didn't, like, shove a cooler up on the back of it...

(LAUGHTER)

KIRBY: No.

SHALHOUB: ...Just before she got it.

EISENBERG: Blow on it.

KIRBY: No, no.

SHALHOUB: Bags of ice.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: And, Tony, you know, obviously, you play the father figure, Abe. I see my father in Abe in some ways because of the way that he is so desperate to hang on to his authority, I would say.

SHALHOUB: Yeah. I see a lot of my father in Abe, too. And also, I think interestingly, you know, like Abe, you know, my father and a lot of those guys at that time - there was a point, you know, when they reached their mid-50s or early 60s where they really did kind of have these midlife crises, you know? And they're struggling with the idea of, what am I qualified to do? What is - what do I really want to do? What happened to my passions? What happened to my...

EISENBERG: Right.

SHALHOUB: What happened to my youth?

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Yeah. You know, I'm the youngest of six. And when I was in junior high, I remember that my mom bought a moped. And I felt like that was her being like, I have never done anything for myself...

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: ...Because she had kids from, like, 18 to 42.

SHALHOUB: Yes. Sure.

EISENBERG: And all of a sudden, she had a moped (laughter).

SHALHOUB: That's so interesting. My mother - a similar thing happened after being - you know, years of laundry and cooking and housewifing (ph), she got a job. She went out and got herself a job. And there were only, like, two of us left at home at this point.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

SHALHOUB: And she didn't drive until - that's a that's a whole nother Zoom conversation. Let's not (unintelligible).

(LAUGHTER)

SHALHOUB: She never learned to drive, but she loved riding her bike to work. So she was like this woman, grandmother, you know, mother and riding her, like, little Schwinn...

EISENBERG: Riding her bike.

(LAUGHTER)

SHALHOUB: ...To her little shop, her little boutique shop. And, I mean, that was her, like, Easy Rider minus a hundred, you know what I'm saying?

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Yeah, yeah. It was her freedom. It was her freedom. All right. We have a couple great games for you. Would you like to play a couple games?

SHALHOUB: Sure.

KIRBY: Yeah.

EISENBERG: So in the mid-20th century, studios like Coronet and Centron and Britannica and Disney pumped out dozens of educational films. I don't know if you remember watching any of these kinds of films in school.

SHALHOUB: Yes, I do.

EISENBERG: Yeah. Which ones do you remember, any of the plots?

SHALHOUB: Oh, there were so many...

EISENBERG: Yeah.

SHALHOUB: ...About, you know, industry and about agriculture...

EISENBERG: Yes.

SHALHOUB: ...And all of this stuff. Yeah.

EISENBERG: I have one that I remember, and it was about not lying or shirking your duties.

SHALHOUB: I think I auditioned for that.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Did you get a callback? Did you get a callback?

SHALHOUB: No, no.

EISENBERG: No, you didn't. OK. So we're going to play a clip of an educational - a vintage educational film. You just have to guess what is the subject of the movie. But we have multiple choice for you.

KIRBY: Oh, good.

EISENBERG: OK. Luke, this one is for you. This clip is from a 1961 Disney cartoon.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) We're the spirits of progress. And we advise you to pay some undivided attention while we help you with your great invention. Find yourself alone. Here's what you do. Slice off a slice. Yeah, you better make it two.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) OK. Is that cartoon about, A, making sandwiches out of wood, B, the advantages of capitalism or, C, the invention of the wheel?

KIRBY: I think it's a sandwich. It's a Canadian hoagie.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: That's right.

KIRBY: No, I think that I should go with the obvious. It's the wheel of progressivism.

EISENBERG: It's the wheel.

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: In this movie, by the way, Donald Duck is a cave man.

SHALHOUB: A cave duck.

COULTON: A cave duck.

EISENBERG: A cave duck.

KIRBY: Yeah.

EISENBERG: And finally, you understand why no pants.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: That's a good point. That's a good point. All right. Tony, this one is for you. What is this 1946 Encyclopedia Britannica film about?

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Letters are most important, so Mr. Dolan (ph) sorts them first. Now Mr. Dolan sorts the magazines and newspapers and packages.

COULTON: So is this film about, A, the importance of paying your bills on time, B, the life of a mailman or, C, what Kurt Vonnegut dreams about?

SHALHOUB: Wow. I'll have to say - because it actually - as it turns out, when I was - I think I was 18 or 19. I had a summer job. I worked in the post office.

COULTON: No kidding.

SHALHOUB: Yes, I did.

COULTON: Was that an enjoyable job?

SHALHOUB: It was, actually. I didn't get to drive around and deliver mail. I actually worked in the building sorting mail and taking long lunch breaks and things like that.

(LAUGHTER)

KIRBY: Did you ever meet Mr. Dolan?

(LAUGHTER)

SHALHOUB: No.

(LAUGHTER)

SHALHOUB: I'm going to go with post office employee.

COULTON: You are absolutely correct.

EISENBERG: That's amazing.

COULTON: That is what it's about.

KIRBY: Not to be too topical, but may I say, Mr. Dolans of the world unite.

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Luke, this film is from 1950. Here we go.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) Yes, sir. Father and mother do a good job of working together like a team. And Tommy would like to be on that team.

KIRBY: But Mommy and Daddy won't allow it.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Is this film about, A, appreciating your parents, B, preparing for your appearance on "Family Feud" or, C, that divorce can happen when you least suspect it?

KIRBY: I mean, it's clearly propaganda for conscription. Let's be honest.

(LAUGHTER)

KIRBY: But with a little wink, I'll say it was A.

EISENBERG: Yeah. It's working together like a team. You know what? My family, we do not work together like a team. We work together like a struggling nonprofit, I would say.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: All right. This is going to be the last one. Tony, this is for you. What is this 1953 film trying to help you deal with?

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) His mother isn't home yet, so he can't talk to her, but he can make a funny picture of his aunt, and that makes him feel better.

SHALHOUB: Wow.

COULTON: Is this film helping you deal with, A, keeping yourself entertained, B, anger management or, C, the basics of drawing caricatures?

SHALHOUB: Is there a D?

(LAUGHTER)

KIRBY: It's all of the above.

COULTON: I mean, sure.

SHALHOUB: Well, I was going to say anger management.

COULTON: You are absolutely correct. It is anger management.

SHALHOUB: Oh, no, I was really - I was - I said anger management to intentionally to be wrong.

COULTON: We anticipated that you would do that and so we gave you this question, which was a particularly difficult question.

KIRBY: That's how you deal with anger - you draw your...

COULTON: Well, if you - I think - what we're not hearing I think is that he maybe had an argument with his aunt.

SHALHOUB: Oh, I thought it was his ant, like, his pet ant like...

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: To be fair, that could be what it is. I don't know.

EISENBERG: If I went into a young boy's room and the walls were just covered of funny pictures of small ants, I would be very, very worried.

COULTON: (Laughter) I'd be disturbed. I think this kid is managing his anger too much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EISENBERG: You guys did great.

SHALHOUB: Tell us what we won.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Our respect and appreciation.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EISENBERG: We'll have more with Tony Shalhoub and Luke Kirby after the break. And you know him from "Third Rock From The Sun," "The Dark Knight Rises" and "500 Days Of Summer." It's Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I'm Ophira Eisenberg, and this is ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.