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Not My Job: Writer Lindy West Gets Quizzed On Kanye West

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 at the Chase Bank Auditorium in Chicago, Peter Sagal.


Thank you, Bill.


SAGAL: Thank you. So we're trying to cram in as much fun as we can in the last moments of summer. Time is short, so I recommend listening to this while playing beach volleyball while ziplining at a music festival - multitask, people.

SAGAL: Earlier this year, Hulu released a show called "Shrill," based on the memoir by Seattle journalist Lindy West. We interviewed Ms. West herself in Seattle in December, 2017.


SAGAL: So you grew up here in Seattle. You're an actual Seattleite.

LINDY WEST: Yes, born and raised. My parents and I all went to the same high school, not at the same time...

SAGAL: No, that would've been weird.


SAGAL: I've been reading your book, "Shrill," which is a great book...

WEST: Thank you.

SAGAL: ...Hilariously funny. And you were a very different person growing up than you are now.

WEST: Yes, I was very shy and weird. And I just wanted to hide it sort of under a blanket and never talk to anyone. Like, in the book, you know, when I was 8 or something, I just peed in my chair because I was afraid to ask the teacher if I could go to the bathroom. And it wasn't, like, the first day of school. It was like I'd been there for months.


WEST: And she was really nice.

SAGAL: Let's just put this briefly. You're not like that anymore.



SAGAL: You have this chapter in your book about going to a menstruation festival, which is truly one of the great things ever.

WEST: Yeah, it - to the Red Tent Moon ceremony.

SAGAL: Yeah.

WEST: It was just a bunch of ladies sitting in a fake tent. It wasn't in a real - like, they made a pillow fort, essentially...


WEST: ...Inside a community center.

SAGAL: Yeah.

WEST: And then we sat on the floor and, like, ate Hershey bars.

HELEN HONG: Oh, that sounds fun.

WEST: I know.

ADAM FELBER: I would do that.

ALONZO BODDEN: (Laughter).

SAGAL: Yeah. That would be great. I mean, you know...

WEST: No, you're not welcome. This is our thing.

SAGAL: Dang it.


SAGAL: You wrote here in Seattle for The Stranger, and you wrote for Jezebel, the feminist website. And you've written for - you wrote your book. And now you write for The New York Times.

WEST: Yeah.

SAGAL: What is that like? Do you have to, like, wear a tweed jacket with patches?

WEST: Yep.

SAGAL: What do you have to do?

WEST: Yeah, the failing New York Times.

SAGAL: The failing New York Times.

FELBER: The failing New York Times, yes.

WEST: It is terrifying. So I built my personal brand on, like, all caps and, like, farts...


WEST: ...And just horrible vulgarity. And I can't do any of that at all.

SAGAL: Oh, I know. Did they - when they brought you in, they said Lindy, we admire you. We think you're interesting. We want to bring your voice to The Times, but there's a few rules around here.

WEST: They didn't even give me that talk. I think they were like, come on, you know. It's - you have to have dignity.

SAGAL: Right.

WEST: You know, and...


FELBER: Dignity.

WEST: I know.

SAGAL: Do you find - because you, of course, famously were trolled a lot on Twitter. You engaged one of your trolls in a great This American Life Story in a chapter in your book. But do you find that the trolling that you get from The New York Times is different?


SAGAL: Is it more sophisticated?

WEST: Yeah, the - what I get from The New York Times is, like - well, I don't delve into the comments. But I do get, like, 10,000-word emails from, you know, 70-year-old men explaining to me...

SAGAL: Oh, God. It's my father, isn't it?

WEST: Yeah. I mean, it's fine.

SAGAL: I'm sorry.

WEST: It'll be, like, here's a few things you need to know about women's lib. You know, like I...


WEST: They're, like - it's actually very charming in a way. It's - instead of, like, a thousand tweets a day, I get - like, once a week, I get a couple just tedious emails.


WEST: It's a different life. It's a new world for me. I am reborn.

SAGAL: I know - tedium instead of, like, vicious misogyny.

WEST: Yeah.

SAGAL: Yeah. I guess it's better.

WEST: Yeah.

SAGAL: Well, Lindy West, it is a personal pleasure for me to meet you because I'm such a fan. But we've in fact asked you here to play a game we're calling...

KURTIS: Yeezus Christ.

SAGAL: So...


SAGAL: ...You are Lindy West.

FELBER: I see where this is going.


SAGAL: We're going to ask you about your probable relative, Kanye West.

WEST: Yes.


SAGAL: You saw that coming. Answer two questions correctly about the man who gets to wake up to Kim Kardashian most every day, and you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - the voice of their favorite WAIT WAIT person on their voicemail. Bill, who is Lindy West playing for?

KURTIS: Kerry Lupina (ph) of Everett, Wash.


SAGAL: Now we were looking into this and I actually found a column that you wrote, I think, for Jezebel about Kanye West.

WEST: Oh, God. Whatever I - OK.


SAGAL: We were wondering when we were coming up with this - we were like what - maybe you're a huge fan, and you'd, like, know all the stuff and correct us.



WEST: I mean, I really actually do love Kanye quite a bit, but I'm - I wouldn't say that I know things...

SAGAL: All right.

WEST: ...About anything.

SAGAL: Well, we'll find out. Here's your first question.


SAGAL: So Kanye West is a huge international star, global fan base with fans across the globe. In Beijing, his fans call him Kanye, which is obvious. But it just so happens that in the Beijing dialect of Chinese, Kanye means what? A, quote, "guy who steals your noodles with his chopstick...."


SAGAL: ...B, quote, "someone who brags a lot with no actions to follow it up..."


SAGAL: ...Or C, quote, "essentially TMI."

WEST: OK. I'm going to go with C.


WEST: Yeah.

SAGAL: No, it was actually B. Kanye is an idiomatic phrase meaning someone who brags a lot...

HONG: Wow.

SAGAL: ...With nothing to back it up.


WEST: That's, like...

HONG: That's so - I know.

WEST: I know.

HONG: I was, like, it can't be that one.

BODDEN: What did it mean before Kanye West?

SAGAL: Yeah, I know.


SAGAL: All right. You still have two more chances here.


SAGAL: In 2008, Kanye went to jail briefly for destroying a paparazzo's camera. Who did he call with his classic one phone call? A, John McCain, mistakenly thinking he had been elected president and might be able to help him; B, the paparazzo himself, asking him if he had gotten a good photo of him coming for the camera; or C, he used his one phone call to order Chinese food delivery to the jail.

WEST: I'm going to go with B.

SAGAL: You're going to go with B.

WEST: He called the...

SAGAL: He called the paparazzo who he had just attacked?


WEST: C - is it C?

SAGAL: They really like C.

WEST: I really want you to win the thing. Everyone seems to be yelling at me.



SAGAL: Again, not something you're not used to, so...

WEST: I know, it's true. I feel nothing. But...


SAGAL: Just because you're emotionally numb to it doesn't mean you won't listen.

WEST: OK, I - listen. I will go with C, he ordered Chinese food.

SAGAL: You're going to go with C, and you're right.


SAGAL: In fact, he ordered Chinese food.


SAGAL: Because why not?


SAGAL: All right. Here's the last question. If you get it right, you win everything. Everything there is to win, you will win if you get this right.

FELBER: And if she gets it wrong?

SAGAL: Terrible things will happen.


WEST: Oh, my God.

SAGAL: Humiliation, awfulness.


SAGAL: Last question. Kanye recently was quoted by his own wife saying that something doesn't get enough credit. What was it? A, pollinating insects; B, Art Garfunkel; or C, his own wife's boobs.


HONG: Oh, you guys sound split.

WEST: I need you guys to be unified in your murmuring.

HONG: Yeah.


WEST: OK. Do you guys have a feeling? Do you know?

HONG: My inclination would be C because - come on. Because Kanye loves...

WEST: 'Cause people always talk about the bust (ph).


HONG: I mean, those boobs are amazing.

BODDEN: Well, what else would they talk about?


HONG: Seriously. Exactly.


WEST: OK. I'm going to go with C.

SAGAL: And you're right. Yeah.


SAGAL: This is the quote. Kim told GQ magazine, quote, "even though I'm an ass girl, Kanye always says my boobs don't get as much credit as they deserve" - unquote. Bill, how did Lindy West do on our quiz?

KURTIS: She got 2 out of 3, so she's a winner.

SAGAL: Congratulations. Yes.


SAGAL: Lindy West, thank you so much.

WEST: Thank you.

SAGAL: She's a contributing op-ed writer for The New York Times. She's the author of the book "Shrill."

Lindy West, thank you so much for being on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

WEST: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.