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Not My Job: The Creators Of 'The Big Sick' Get Quizzed On A Big Chick

BILL KURTIS: This is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. And here is your host, who has perfected his quarantine recipe, SpaghettiOs with a Goldfish Cracker garnish, Peter Sagal.

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

Thank you, Bill. So we're reviewing what it has been like to do our show with no audience but each other, our bored pets and the collection of creepy dolls on the shelf.

KURTIS: They stare and stare and never sleep.

SAGAL: One nice thing about our pandemic edition shows is that we get to talk to guests in their homes, where they're a little more relaxed. It's like being invited over to hang with people who would never invite us over in real life.

KURTIS: For example, Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon, who were nominated for an Oscar for their movie about their own courtship, "The Big Sick." Peter asked them how they were coping with an even bigger sick.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

KUMAIL NANJIANI: Well, you know, it changes every day. I feel like every day is a whole new set of feelings. And it's sort of like, hey, I wonder what today will hold. If I wake up and look at the news, that changes my whole day.

EMILY GORDON: That's correct, which you do as soon as you wake up.

NANJIANI: I've resisted today and yesterday. The two days prior to that, was not able to resist and just really worked myself up into a lather by 8:30 a.m.

SAGAL: (Laughter) Now, you guys made a movie about how you met called "The Big Sick," in which, Kumail, you actually played yourself. And it was a huge hit. And I think it's true that people sort of fell in love with you as you two fell in love in this successful film. So do you feel a particular obligation not to go crazy and try to kill each other stuck inside all the time?

NANJIANI: But what would be better than that for the sequel?

GORDON: Kumail...

SAGAL: (Laughter).

NANJIANI: Obviously, it wouldn't be us making it. Somebody else would have to play me.

GORDON: Yeah, we're not going to work together after if that happens.

NANJIANI: No matter what side of the equation I'm on, I'm not going to be in this movie.

SAGAL: I have to ask about one scene in particular. It's a scene where Emily, the character, is over at Kumail's house and has to get up in the middle of night and demands, like, I got to go get a cup of coffee at the diner around the street. And it seems incredibly strange that you would want to do this. And it turns out she just really has to go to the bathroom. So my first question is, A, did that really happen? And, secondly, whose idea was it to put it in the movie for people like me to see?

GORDON: (Laughter) It very much was my idea because I was trying to think of milestones of intimacy in relationships that you don't really get to see in movies ever. And I always have talks with my girlfriends of, A, when you're early in a relationship, what do you do when you need to poop at the guy's house? It's just a conversation I've had at brunch many times. And everybody's got a fun story of, like, oh, I had to go to Target. I had to run to the coffee shop. I had to do this. But it is a sign - like, pretending we don't have any bodily functions to having bodily functions is a progression of a relationship.

(LAUGHTER)

MO ROCCA: I'm just - I wanted to ask at what point in the brunch does that come up?

GORDON: As soon as drinks are ordered, I would say.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So, yeah, we've talked about your movie, but I think what America wants to hear about is this picture of you, Kumail, a nice, geeky South Asian, came out, and you're not skinny anymore.

NANJIANI: Yeah.

GORDON: No. No, he's not.

NANJIANI: No.

SAGAL: You became an Internet sensation.

NANJIANI: I did not think it would become as much of a sensation as it did. It was really surprising. So I was actually shooting the movie that I got buff for. I posted it. And I checked an hour later, and nothing had happened. And then I checked an hour later, and it had become - it was everywhere. And it was - honestly, I felt very - well, I felt very naked for a very good reason. But I felt emotionally naked as well. I didn't know it was going to turn into what it turned into.

SAGAL: First of all, we should explain. You got a role in a Marvel superhero movie, right?

NANJIANI: Yeah, it's a Marvel superhero movie called "Eternals." And, you know, for me, it was like - I was the first South Asian superhero in a Marvel movie. And I was like, I want this to be a guy who looks like he can take on someone like Thor, who can take on someone like Captain America, you know? So that's where I was coming from. I didn't want the first South Asian superhero to also be the first out-of-shape Marvel hero.

(LAUGHTER)

NANJIANI: I was like, I want to break just one barrier right now. The other one is for someone else.

GORDON: (Laughter).

NANJIANI: So that's where I came from. I was like, I have to really get in shape to try and, like, hang with Thor, you know?

GORDON: Also, you love it.

NANJIANI: Now I love it.

GORDON: Yeah.

NANJIANI: I do love it. But I didn't quite get to Thor, but that was my effort.

ROCCA: Are you able to maintain that at home, like, when you're not able to go out and go to the gym, say, while you're sheltering in place?

GORDON: Let me just really quickly say he's not able to maintain it because he's actually added to it in the last three weeks.

NANJIANI: Well, I - basically, right before the quarantine hit, we saw it coming, so I got a set of dumbbells and a bench, and we put it in our garage. And I have been working out as if my sanity depends on it.

SAGAL: (Laughter).

NANJIANI: It's - I don't know what it is about not being able to control anything in the world that makes me really want to control the one thing I can.

GORDON: It's textbook, Kumail.

ROCCA: Well, you know, there's this concept called zero-risk bias, where in an uncertain situation, you do something that makes you feel like you're bringing control to the situation. And that's why most people hoard toilet paper - because it's really cheap, and you can feel like you're doing something to control the situation. But you work out, and that's your version of buying toilet paper.

GORDON: That's absolutely right.

NANJIANI: Yeah, we have no toilet paper, but my biceps look great.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, Kumail and Emily, it's a pleasure to talk to you. And we have asked you here today to play a game we're calling...

KURTIS: The Big Chick.

SAGAL: That's right. You made the movie "The Big Sick," so we're going to ask you about The Big Chick - namely, Big Bird.

GORDON: (Laughter).

SAGAL: Answer 2 out of the 3 questions about the giant whatever it is, and you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, the voice of anyone they might choose on their voicemail. Bill, who are Kumail and Emily playing for?

KURTIS: Bella Norvig of New York, N.Y.

SAGAL: All right. Here is your first question, guys. You ready to do this?

GORDON: Ready. We're ready.

SAGAL: All right. Your first question - Big Bird can be litigious, like a lot of giant animals. Big Bird, or his human representatives, once sued whom - A, the owners of the Seagram Building in New York because he kept walking into the big glass windows and giving himself a concussion; B, Yandy, makers of the sexy Big Bird costume; or, C, the makers of a, quote, "male enhancement supplement," which used the slogan, how do you think Big Bird got that way?

NANJIANI: OK.

GORDON: OK, let's talk this through.

NANJIANI: OK, let's talk about this. What do you think? It's either the...

GORDON: The sexy costume or the male enhancement.

NANJIANI: I feel like it's B.

GORDON: I do, too. I think it's B.

NANJIANI: Are we OK with that?

GORDON: Yeah, let's go B.

NANJIANI: We're going to go B.

SAGAL: You're right, guys.

GORDON: Yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: It was fun - it was, like, wonderful watching your process. It was like "The Big Sick 2."

GORDON: (Laughter).

SAGAL: It was great. Yes, the answer is B. It's a pretty sexy Big Bird costume, I have to say.

All right. Big Bird has had some amazing achievements while he's away from "Sesame Street," such as which of these? Is it, A, he ran a faster 40-yard dash than several offensive linemen at the NFL Combine; B, he defeated actor Jason Schwartzman on an episode of "Lip Sync Battle"; or, C, he took first place at the 2003 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, besting both Joey Chestnut and Cookie Monster?

NANJIANI: OK.

GORDON: OK.

NANJIANI: So I think we're going to go...

GORDON: A?

NANJIANI: Let's go A.

SAGAL: No, it was actually B. He beat Jason Schwartzman in a rap battle.

(SOUNDBITE OF SAD TROMBONE SOUND EFFECT)

ROXANNE ROBERTS: Oh, no.

SAGAL: All right. Here's your last question. If you get this, you win it all. Here we go. Big Bird's costume - assuming it's a costume and not an actual bird - is made out of what - A, turkey feathers but only from the butt of the turkey; B, N95 masks; or, C, leftover parts of Bert?

GORDON: Oh.

NANJIANI: Oh, my God. OK, so this is a tough one. I wonder if you can make N95 masks out of Big Bird's costume, in which case I imagine a bunch of Big Bird costumes being sent to hospitals all over the country.

ROCCA: That is such a heartwarming segment to end a newscast with.

(LAUGHTER)

GORDON: Children just crying.

NANJIANI: Yeah.

GORDON: I think maybe A is the answer.

NANJIANI: OK.

GORDON: It feels like they're maybe turkey feathers.

NANJIANI: We're going to go with A.

GORDON: Yeah.

SAGAL: Yes.

GORDON: Yay.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: It was, in fact, A. It's made of turkey butt feathers. By the way, that's the same thing that they make those feather boas that the Vegas showgirls use.

GORDON: Wow, wow, wow.

SAGAL: Bill, how did Kumail and Emily do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Well, it was quite a journey, but they won. Two out of 3 is a winning vote.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE SOUND EFFECT)

SAGAL: Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon, hosts of the podcast "Staying In." They're also producers of "Little America" on Apple TV.

Kumail and Emily, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME. We so appreciate it.

NANJIANI: Thank you so much for having us.

GORDON: Yeah, thank you.

SAGAL: Take care. Bye-bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONNY LESTER'S "FOR STRIPPERS ONLY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.