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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
KURTIS: NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT… DON’T TELL ME, the NPR News quiz. I’m Bill Kurtis. We are playing this week with Paula Poundstone, Amy Dickinson and Hari Kondabolu. And here again is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
Thank you, Bill. Thanks, everybody. Right now – right now, it is time for the WAIT WAIT… DON’T TELL ME Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-WAITWAIT to play our game on the air.
Hi, you are on WAIT WAIT… DON’T TELL ME.
BETH WALLIS: Hi this is Beth from Tulsa, Okla.
SAGAL: Hey, how are things in Tulsa?
WALLIS: It’s in Oklahoma.
SAGAL: Are you – are you from Oklahoma?
WALLIS: I’ve lived here my whole life, yeah.
SAGAL: You have, and yet you haven’t managed to generate, it sounds like, a big head of enthusiasm for it.
WALLIS: Tulsa’s definitely the best city in Oklahoma. I can say that.
SAGAL: All right.
SAGAL: You are a measured woman. Well, Beth, welcome to the show. You’re going to play our game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what is Beth’s topic?
KURTIS: Falafel in the news.
SAGAL: Falafel – the one time you can talk about deep fried balls without becoming uncomfortable.
SAGAL: This week, falafel made the news for a reason not involving Bill O’Reilly. Our panelists are going to tell you about it. Pick the one who’s telling the truth. You’ll win our prize, the voice of Carl Kasell on your voicemail. Are you ready to play?
WALLIS: I’m ready.
SAGAL: All right. First let’s hear a falafel story from Paula Poundstone.
PAULA POUNDSTONE: Pixar Studios – the current gold standard of animated film – has had to pull the plug on their most recent movie, “Falafel,” the inside story of a courageous, deep-fried crust chickpea ball.
POUNDSTONE: Artfully employing the voice talents of Sean Connery as the wizened, old falafel king and Tony Shalhoub as the evil kabob skewer…
POUNDSTONE: …The film is packed with the combination of crackerjack, whip-sharp humor, surprise pathos and cinematic beauty that Pixar has mesmerized audiences with for decades. However, there’s a strong concern whether the rite of passage seen in “Falafel,” where the raw crust chickpea balls jump or are pushed into hot oil, might start an unsafe trend among young viewers.
POUNDSTONE: The future of the film is uncertain. Tensions ran high at a recent meeting between Pixar head John Lasseter and “Falafel’s” creator-writer-director Pete Docter. Look, Pete Docter was overheard to say, I can’t think of anything else to animate. We’ve done toys, bugs, fish, super heroes. We’ve done rats cooking. Disney already did spoons and forks. I created characters for the emotions inside an 11-year-old girl’s brain. I animated Ed Asner, for Christ sakes. What else is there? I had to do falafel. There’s nothing else left.
SAGAL: Pixar’s next big hit, “Falafel,” gets nixed. Your next story of somebody giving chickpeas a chance comes from Amy Dickinson.
AMY DICKINSON: Once upon a time, there was a falafel shop on a busy street in Beirut. Then the owner died. Now the owner’s sons are doing what brothers do best – competing, threatening each other and fighting over the size of their falafel balls. Like Cain and Abel, or J.R. and Bobby Ewing, Fouad and Zouhair Sahyoun grew up together, but the family business has driven them apart – well, 10 feet apart.
The battling falafel brothers split their father’s shop down the middle, and each took a half. So now there are two identical falafel shops right next to each other run by brothers who no longer speak, except to trash one another. Both shops have the same name and the same menu. Each shop has its own devoted customers – people who will eat one brother’s falafel but won’t touch the other brother’s falafel 10 feet away.
Fouad has hung on his storefront an enlarged notice from the Health Department penalizing Zouhair’s shop for a code violation and has a red arrow pointing to Zouhair’s shop. So why do people stand in line to sample the falafel balls of these battling brothers? Maybe it’s the secret family ingredient that makes these falafel so special – the spicy taste of white-hot hate.
SAGAL: Two falafel shops right next to each other in Beirut with the same name run by brothers who hate each other. Your last story of someone’s rise and fala-fall (ph) comes from Hari Kondabolu.
HARI KONDABOLU: A chef in a nursing home in Melbourne, Australia, has been fired, and residents are not too happy about it. After three months of cooking at the Happy Flowers nursing home, Rory O’Brien (ph) wanted to cheer up his octogenarian residents the best way he knew how, by adding THC to their falafels.
KONDABOLU: Quote, “they were just so depressed every day, and I hated seeing it. I know what I do when I feel that way, so I thought I’d help out by putting some marijuana oil in their falafels at lunch one day,” said O’Brien. The results were immediate.
KONDABOLU: Lunch had gone from a very quiet period of the day to one of the most uncontrollable and joyous moments of their lives.
KONDABOLU: Management, however, began to get suspicious when residents demanded falafel for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
KONDABOLU: And then there was the one incident where a few residents got paranoid and told the attendants to, quote, “stop staring at us, you narcs.”
KONDABOLU: Laboratory tests of the food later revealed the traces of THC, and Mr. O’Brien was promptly fired. Residents of Happy Flowers were furious about the dismissal. Eighty-seven-year-old Phil Simonson (ph) stated the firing was, quote, “an unfair dismissal of a pioneer in elder care.”
KONDABOLU: Raleigh Reagan (ph), 89, said, quote, “what’s the big deal? Are they worried we’d be less productive high?”
SAGAL: I could listen to those…
DICKINSON: All those quotes.
SAGAL: …Bitter pothead old people all day, I just want to say. All right, so here are your choices. Three stories about falafel in the news. From Paula Poundstone, Pixar nixing their next big movie, “Falafel.” From Amy Dickinson, a falafel shop – or, rather, two of them with the same name – run by brothers right next to each other, but they hate each other. And your last falafel story from Hari was about pot-laced falafel at a nursing home in Australia. Which of these stories do you think is most plausible?
WALLIS: Well, I really liked the last one a lot, but I think, probably, the most plausible is Amy’s story.
SAGAL: Probably the most plausible one is Amy’s story. So you’re choosing that about the evil twin falafel stands in Beirut. Well, let us bring you someone who knows a little bit about this real falafel story.
MOHAMAD YAGHI: Even though they have falafel shops that are, you know, adjacent to one another, they have taken a personal oath to never talk to one another again.
SAGAL: That, in fact, was Mohamad Yaghi. He is a reporter who wrote about the sibling falafel rivalry in Beirut and has sampled their falafel. Congratulations, you got it right. Of course, Amy was telling the truth.
SAGAL: You did a fantastic job of nosing that out. Amy has won a point, and you have won our prize – the voice of Carl Kasell. So congratulations. Well done.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “MY EVIL TWIN”)
THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS: (Singing) My evil twin, bad weather friend – he always wants to start when I want to begin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.