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Not My Job: We Quiz 'Queer Eye' Culture Expert Karamo Brown On Yogurt

(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. And here is your host, whose cabin fever is getting so bad the cabin might catch on fire, Peter Sagal.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE SOUND EFFECT)

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

Thank you, Bill. Nostalgia is usually fun. And these days, it's a survival technique, so we're looking back at some good times from the recent past.

KURTIS: "Queer Eye" is a show about how people can improve their looks and their dress and their cooking and their homes - and also, sometimes, their soul.

SAGAL: That's the department of Karamo Brown, a member of the Fab Five who joined us in March. I asked him what it meant, exactly, to be the show's culture expert.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

KARAMO BROWN: Yeah. I don't know what it means.

SAGAL: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: You tell me what culture means, and - I mean, I know what the word culture means, but I don't know what it means in the sense of this show. Like, I understand grooming, cook, design. Culture - don't know what to do with that.

SAGAL: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So if you don't know what you were supposed to do with it, how did you get the job?

BROWN: I made it up.

SAGAL: You just did.

BROWN: Yeah - just made it up. One day, just (unintelligible) - I'm just going to start making people cry. Let's figure that out.

SAGAL: Really? That was...

BROWN: And I was, like...

SAGAL: That was your goal.

BROWN: I knew - like, I have a background. I worked in social services for many years. I was a social worker. So I was, like, I need to get to the core of what's happening. I was, like, you know, there's some job security if, like, this guy can make them laugh, and I can make them cry. There's something that's going on there, so - you know?

SAGAL: You actually have a sort of a pedigree in reality TV because you were, I'm told, the first openly gay person on "Real World." Is that not right?

BROWN: No, no, no - not the first. There were many, many, many, many, many gays before me.

FAITH SALIE: You were standing on the shoulders of other gays.

BROWN: Many gays...

SALIE: Yeah.

BROWN: Many gays. I don't know if you've ever tried to stand on the shoulders of gays. It's not an easy task. But...

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: It's been working for me. No, I was the first openly gay African American...

SAGAL: Ah.

BROWN: ...Man, so yeah.

SAGAL: OK. So do you remember, like, the first time on "Queer Eye" that you decided, I'm not going to care about, like, sending them to a show? I'm going to, like, find out what their trauma is and bring them to catharsis.

BROWN: Yeah, episode one - the very first episode. Yeah, it was the very first episode with a guy named Tom Jackson. The first time shooting, the very first time working with someone, and I just was literally, like, no. You're sitting in this room by yourself. I'm going to figure out why because all this other stuff we could change - external. But if I don't figure out what's going on the internal, then it's not going to work. And I was so proud because he had such a cathartic moment. And then I watched it back, and they cut it all out.

SAGAL: No, really?

SALIE: Oh.

BROWN: (Laughter) Yeah.

SAGAL: Because I actually...

BROWN: They even wanted to - they cut it - most of Season 1, a little bit of Season 2, they cut out all of that stuff because that wasn't their vision for it. And so it's no shade. You know, there's no shade at all. But, like, they would leave in, you know, me doing a, you know, photo album. You know, like, and you'd see the person crying, and you'd be, like, wow, that photo album was really good. But...

(LAUGHTER)

MO ROCCA: Can I ask you - if you had, let's say, like, the Karamo primary as part of the political season, are you confident that you could have gotten all the candidates to cry?

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: Yes. Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

ROCCA: Which one do you think would be the hardest one? Or which one do you think would fold right away - just start blubbering?

BROWN: Oh, Biden. I've met Biden...

ROCCA: Yeah.

BROWN: ...Before.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Really?

SALIE: Yeah. Yeah.

SAGAL: He's a crier.

SALIE: He cries a lot.

SAGAL: He's a crier.

BROWN: Yeah. It takes nothing at all. I would just be, like, Black people. And he'd be, like, South Carolina...

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: Like, it's very, very simple.

ROCCA: All right. Which one would have been getting, like, you know, blood from a stone? Which one would have been - would it have been hard to get to cry?

BROWN: I probably think, like - I don't know.

ROCCA: Bloomberg, right?

BROWN: Bloomberg would probably be my choice, you know what I mean? You can't become a billionaire without being a bit of a [expletive], so...

(LAUGHTER)

ROCCA: I think it would be hard to get Buttigieg to cry.

BROWN: Oh, no. Buttigieg would be even easier for me. Like...

SALIE: What?

SAGAL: Really? All right.

SALIE: What would you do?

SAGAL: All right.

BROWN: Oh, my gosh.

SAGAL: Imagine...

BROWN: Warren and Bloomberg would probably be the hardest because women have sort of been taught in our culture to show weakness makes them difficult or something, so I think she would probably be in the sense of, like, I've got to be strong. And Bloomberg - like I said, that whole bit. But Buttigieg? Uh-uh. Are you kidding me?

SAGAL: How do you - how would you make Pete Buttigieg cry or get in touch with his innermost feelings?

BROWN: No, I can't do it. Like, the gays will attack me on Twitter if I go...

(LAUGHTER)

ROCCA: What are you going to say? You seem really straight.

BROWN: Yeah, I cannot say anything right now. Like...

SAGAL: All right.

BROWN: I'm trying not to be cancelled in 2020, OK? Like...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You've been engaged for a while.

BROWN: Yes, I am. My baby daddy and I are getting married in September.

SAGAL: Oh, that's awesome. And do you have...

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Again, just imagining the kind of pressure to excel that are on all of you, do you have anything special planned for the wedding?

BROWN: Oh, this wedding is ridiculous.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: Like, it's actually sent my fiance to the hospital twice already because of anxiety attacks.

SALIE: What?

BROWN: So - and I'm not saying this very proudly, but...

SAGAL: Your wedding planning has actually put your fiance in the hospital twice.

BROWN: Twice. Twice.

SAGAL: OK.

BROWN: Yeah. So when - so the thing was that, like, the first time, when we - when I put the deposit down for our Ferris wheels, he was...

(LAUGHTER)

SALIE: Wheels plural.

BROWN: ...Not OK with it.

ROCCA: Plural.

SAGAL: Wheels.

ROCCA: Well, you have to.

SAGAL: All right. Go on.

BROWN: I also - so we went to a spot here in LA where you can get peacocks trained to - kind of to show their, like, bloom of their feathers at the same time. And so I wanted, like, when I say I do peacock feathers to go up. And that, like...

(LAUGHTER)

SALIE: Wait - that's, like...

SAGAL: Wait a minute.

SALIE: ...Synchronized squawking.

SAGAL: You wanted the peacocks...

BROWN: Exactly. That's what it is.

SAGAL: ...To actually spread their tail feathers on cue.

ROCCA: Like Vegas peacocks.

BROWN: On cue. I say I do, and they go up - and which is very possible to do because peacocks can be trained. But he just - it gives him a lot of anxiety because...

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: I don't know why.

ROCCA: I have to say, Ferris wheels and peacocks - this is a very gay wedding.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: Sure is.

SALIE: It's amazing.

BROWN: Honey, you have no idea. Like...

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: I mean, he's just scared of that.

ROCCA: Can I ask a personal question of you?

BROWN: Yeah.

ROCCA: If your fiance doesn't make it because of the stress, will you still have the wedding?

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: The answer is yes.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You can't get the deposit back on those trained peacocks, Mo.

BROWN: You cannot. You cannot. So I'll send him a postcard and say, you missed a wonderful day. We wish you were here.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, Karamo Brown, it is really fun to talk to you. But we have...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Invited you here to play a game we're calling...

KURTIS: Mmm (ph), Yogurt.

SAGAL: So you're...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So you are ostensibly the culture expert on "Queer Eye."

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: Yeah.

SAGAL: So we thought we'd ask you about another kind of culture - namely, the bacteria culture that makes yogurt such a delicious...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Nutritious treat. Answer 2 out of 3 questions about yogurt, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners. Bill, who is Karamo Brown playing for?

KURTIS: Phil Dembinski (ph), who won our smart speaker quiz. You can be a winner, too - just say, open the Wait Wait Quiz.

SAGAL: All right. Business done. Here we go. Karamo, first question.

BROWN: Yes.

SAGAL: Yogurt was introduced into Europe in the early 17th century by whom? Was it, A, a merchant in Prague who opened a shop whose name translates to The Hapsburg Empire's Best Yogurt...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...B, a magician who advertised his amazing ability to eat spoiled milk with a spoon with no aftereffects; or C, the French king Francois I, who sent to Turkey for yogurt because he heard it could cure his chronic diarrhea?

BROWN: I'm going to go with C.

SAGAL: You're right.

SALIE: Yeah.

SAGAL: That's what happened.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

BROWN: Oh.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: That's the story. And it worked, so...

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: Yeah. There you go.

SAGAL: These days, everybody really loves Greek yogurt. The Greeks sometimes use Greek yogurt for the traditional practice of yaourtoma (ph), which is what? A, the practice of throwing yogurt on a politician in protest, which was so widespread in the 1950s that the government banned it under penalty of having your head shaved...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...B, a man hides a wedding ring in yogurt and gives it to his beloved? If she eats it without noticing, they are officially married.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: We're getting a divorce.

SAGAL: Or C, foretelling the future by leaving a cup of yogurt out and then reading the patterns of mold that appear?

BROWN: Oh, no. Oh, let's go with A.

SAGAL: You're right. That's what...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: The real thing - there really was a real problem with it in the '50s, so they had to threaten people with public shaming. All right.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Last one. If you get this one right, you're - I was about to say perfect, but in your case, I'll say more perfect.

BROWN: Aw.

SAGAL: Yogurt is an incredibly popular food, as I'm sure you know. But not all yogurt-based products succeed. Which of these failed to find an audience? A, Clairol's Touch Of Yogurt shampoo...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...B, McDonald's Filet of Yogurt Sandwich; or C, Lee's Yogurt Lover jeans with a yogurt cup-shaped pocket on each thigh.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: B because that sounds like American stuff.

SAGAL: I love you for choosing it, but that's not right.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: Oh.

SAGAL: The answer was Clairol's Touch of Yogurt shampoo.

BROWN: Oh, because of the culture.

SAGAL: Yeah.

BROWN: I told you that I didn't know what it meant.

SAGAL: It's all right. It failed.

BROWN: Told you.

SAGAL: It failed. Bill, how did Karamo Brown do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Two out of 3 - that means you're a winner.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Congratulations, Karamo.

BROWN: Thanks.

(SOUNDBITE OF THOMAS DOLBY'S "SHE BLINDED ME WIH SCIENCE EXTENDED VERSION") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.