Isn't It Ironic?

Jan 23, 2014
Originally published on September 2, 2015 11:30 pm

Rest assured, this game contains no ironic t-shirts or mustaches. Here, irony is defined as an "incongruous yet appropriate juxtaposition that highlights the discordant, revelatory nature of the universe." Deep. Play along as host Ophira Eisenberg asks contestants about certain ironic situations, like how the best-selling holiday song of all time, "White Christmas," was written by Irving Berlin--who was Jewish.

Plus, Jonathan Coulton tops off this game with a rendition of the pop standard "Everything Happens To Me."

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Let's get started with our first two contestants, Jessica Morello and Dave Miss.


EISENBERG: Dave, you own a candy company. What is one of the signature candies you sell?

DAVE MISS: Pistachio crack.



EISENBERG: What is in that?

MISS: Pistachios, butter, toffee, kind of - sea salt.

EISENBERG: Sea salt, that's the crack part right there, right the sea salt?

MISS: It's all kind of the crack part, excellent. Jessica, you do many interesting things.


EISENBERG: If I were to look at your resume, what is - what is the job that might stand out?

MORELLO: Maybe lettuce picker but probably zookeeper.

EISENBERG: Lettuce picker and zookeeper, that - what is that, a bachelor of the arts that you needed to...?


MORELLO: I was a film major.


EISENBERG: Film major, OK. Yeah, sorry, fine arts, fine arts, of course. Zookeeper, what kind of animals?

MORELLO: I interned with the elephants. I worked in the children's zoo. I scratched a warthog's back.

JONATHAN COULTON: They keep children in the zoo?


EISENBERG: Our first game is called Isn't it Ironic. Turns out many people are confused as to what irony means. Mary, can you help clarify?

MARY TOBLER: No. Well...



TOBLER: Well not in under an hour because there are lots of different types of irony. There's verbal irony, dramatic irony, situational irony. And in this game we're choosing to define irony as incongruous yet appropriate juxtapositions that highlight the discordant revelatory nature of the universe.


EISENBERG: Ah yes, of course. So this is about interesting coincidences, that's what this is about. If you have a better definition of the word irony, please feel free to send letters to WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY, attention Will Shortz.


EISENBERG: He will answer each one of them personally. Right now contestants, we're going to ask you trivia questions about fun facts that we find ironic. Ring in when you know the answer. And the winner of this round will move on to our Ask Me One More final round at the end of the show.

Ironically, what's the bestselling holiday song by legendary songwriter Irving Berlin, who was Jewish?


MORELLO: "White Christmas"?

EISENBERG: That is correct.


EISENBERG: Well done, Jessica. Ironically, Frank Beard is the usually beardless drummer for what rock band known for their facial hair?






EISENBERG: But I imagine this is for a reason. I turn to you, Jonathan Coulton, as a musician. Is it a safety hazard, having a beard and drumsticks? Is that what...?

COULTON: Oh yeah, super-dangerous because the sticks will get caught in your beard, and then it'll come right off.

EISENBERG: It's over, right, it's over for you. Ironically, what mammal can no longer be found in the wild in the state of Michigan despite its state's nickname?



MORELLO: Wolverine?

EISENBERG: That's a guess, that is correct, yes.


EISENBERG: Dave, you knew that one, and you were...?

MISS: Yes.

EISENBERG: Yes, you did.

MISS: Slow.


MISS: I'm slow.

EISENBERG: You're slow. Hey, hey, hey, hey, it's OK. Don't get down on yourself. It's going to be all right. Wolverine was a great guess, but you're also not from Michigan, so you just pulled that out of nowhere.

MORELLO: Oh yeah, a zookeeper.

EISENBERG: Zookeeper, that's right. It's all paying off for you right now, like really all of a sudden, all of your jobs...

MORELLO: Those long hours of scooping poop...

COULTON: The next question is about lettuce.


EISENBERG: Ironically, what inventor was born in 1947 to a woman who would later go deaf?



MORELLO: Alexander Graham Bell?



MORELLO: I'm sorry.

EISENBERG: Given his last name, it's ironic that one of the co-founders of Wikipedia is from Alabama, not what part of the United Kingdom?



MISS: Scotland.

EISENBERG: His last name's Scotland, is that what you're saying?

MISS: Birmingham.


EISENBERG: Oh, I see what's going on here.

COULTON: Just naming some random places in the United Kingdom, hoping for the best?

MISS: Lettuce.


EISENBERG: I'm sorry, none of those are correct. Jessica, do you want to try to steal? No idea? I'm sure some people are yelling this right now at their radio, but let's throw it out to our audience.


EISENBERG: That is correct, Jimmy Wales is his name. No, both of them don't know and don't look impressed to now know. This is your last clue. Ironically, what athlete turned actor was considered to play the title role in the Terminator until producers decided that audiences would just not believe he could be a killer?



MISS: OJ Simpson.

EISENBERG: You got it. That is right.


EISENBERG: Mary Tobler, how did these contestants do?

TOBLER: Jessica has won this round, congratulations.

EISENBERG: Well done, Jessica, you'll be moving on to our final round at the end of the show. Thank you so much Dave Miss.


EISENBERG: Hey, Jonathan, do you have a song about lettuce or something you could play for us?

COULTON: I don't have any songs about lettuce. This song is not really about irony, which is maybe a little ironic.


EISENBERG: I'm trying my best. This is more about bad luck. This is called "Everything Happens to Me."


COULTON: (Singing) Black cats creep across my path until I'm almost mad. I must have roused the devil's wrath because all my luck is bad. I make a date for golf, and you can bet your life it rains. I try to throw a party, and the guy upstairs complains. I guess I'll go through life just catching colds and missing trains. Everything happens to me.

(Singing) I never miss a thing. I've had the measles and the mumps. And every time I play an ace, my partner always trumps. I guess I'm just a fool who never looks before he jumps. Everything happens to me. Everything happens to me.


EISENBERG: Jonathan Coulton

COULTON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.