Things With Wings

Apr 28, 2017
Originally published on August 18, 2017 10:12 am

Inspired by the 1980s band from Phoenix, Arizona, house musician Jonathan Coulton takes us under his wing for the Mr. Mister parody the world's been waiting for! We rewrote their hit song "Broken Wings" to be about things...with wings.

Heard on Penn Jillette: Fool Us Once

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JONATHAN COULTON: This is NPR's ASK ME ANOTHER coming to you from the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix, Ariz. I'm Jonathan Coulton with puzzle guru Art Chung. Now here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.



Thank you, Jonathan. Before the break, we met our contestants, Shoshana and Frea. Soon, I'll slow dance with Jonathan Coulton at the music parody prom of my dreams. Keep your hands on my waist.

COULTON: Yes, of course.

EISENBERG: But first, let's check in with our contestants. Shoshana, from the ages 9 to 15, you went to a circus camp run by hippies?

SHOSHANA SIMONES: Yes, actually run by Wavy Gravy, so a very famous hippie. He emceed Woodstock.

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah. OK, so what did you learn?

SIMONES: I learned nothing particularly well.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

SIMONES: I can do a little bit of trapeze, a little bit of tightrope. I'm pretty good at throwing together a ridiculous costume. I can get on stage and be ridiculous and not fear the consequences.

EISENBERG: Yeah, that's an art. That is an art. Frea, you once did a face plant into the Declaration of Independence. Do you want to give a couple more details about that?

FREA MEHTA: The most patriotic moment of my life.


MEHTA: Yeah. I was there with a school group and I was like 15. And someone had pointed out that there were sensors embedded in the glass. They might have just been lights but I was convinced. You know, "National Treasure" had come out.

So I turned my head to look at them and sort of bend down. And I misjudged the distance so I just - face first into this really important document. The security guards were like baffled. They'd probably never seen something like that before. Usually they go for the hands, not the nose but yeah.

EISENBERG: Right. Got a close look.

MEHTA: Right, right.

EISENBERG: We've got a music parody for you called Things With Wings. This game is inspired by two things associated with phoenix. Number one, the mythical bird that rose from the ashes. And number two, the 1980s band Mr. Mister. Jonathan Coulton, tell us more.

COULTON: Well, we rewrote Mr. Mister's hit song "Broken Wings" to be about things with wings. Just buzz in and guess what I'm singing about. And keep in mind the word wings has many definitions, he said mysteriously.

EISENBERG: Heads up, Always pads will never be an answer, OK?


EISENBERG: Shoshana, you won the last game so you win this and you go right to the final round. Frea, you need to win this or you'll have to change your name to Mrs. Missis.


COULTON: Here we go. (Singing) Baby, don't understand why folks just want to talk about my first band, oh. Big hits like "Silly Love Songs" for one and also "Band On The Run," "Live And Let Die," that was I.


COULTON: Shoshana.

SIMONES: Paul McCartney.

COULTON: You got it.


COULTON: (Singing) Take this pee-filled cup. Think it's a kidney stone, so I've got pain to spare. Dr. Grey, stop hooking up. I know McDreamy's cute but I came here for care, oh.


COULTON: Shoshana.

SIMONES: "Grey's Anatomy."

COULTON: "Grey's Anatomy." You were looking for the name of the...

ART CHUNG: Well, what part...

SIMONES: They changed it to Sloan Grey Memorial. I watch too much of this show if I even got that part.

COULTON: Yeah. There's too many, I can't - you can't even pick one.

CHUNG: We'll give that to you. We're looking for either Seattle Grace or Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital.




SIMONES: Thanks.

COULTON: (Laughter) She's like, that's what I said.


COULTON: (Singing) Baby, don't look at me. I'm a great old one, so it'll make you crazy. Baby, as you have read, you will worship me and my octopus-like head like Lovecraft said.



MEHTA: It's either Cthulhu or Medusa.


COULTON: You have to give me one answer, I'm afraid.

MEHTA: I mean, Cthulhu.

COULTON: Yes, that's correct - Cthulu.


COULTON: (Singing) So take a bedrock flight, ride in this hollow log strapped upon my back. Technically it isn't right to call me dinosaur so tell those movie hacks, yeah, yeah.



MEHTA: A pterodactyl.

COULTON: That's right, pterodactyl or technically pterosaur. Technically not a dinosaur.

EISENBERG: And why is that again?

COULTON: It's boring reasons.



COULTON: OK. (Singing) Lindy (ph), he took a chance. He flew me all by himself from New York to France. Red eye flight, up all night.



MEHTA: This could go horribly wrong. Enola Gay? Yeah, see? Horribly wrong.


COULTON: No, I'm sorry. That's incorrect. Do you know the answer Shoshana?

SIMONES: The Spirit of St. Louis?

COULTON: Yeah, you got it.


MEHTA: How many famous planes.

SIMONES: The only airplane name I know.

COULTON: It's the only name of an airplane you could think of, yeah. Charles Lindbergh's plane. This is your last clue. (Singing) Take these snow-white wings. If you want to fly, just take a ride on me. Where I touch ground, my hooves make springs. I am the coolest horse in Greek mythology.



MEHTA: Pegasus.

COULTON: Oh, yeah, Pegasus.


COULTON: Art Chung, how did they do?

CHUNG: Well, it's a tie so hands on your buzzers. Enterprise, Discovery and Atlantis where this type of NASA spacecraft.


CHUNG: Frea.

MEHTA: Space shuttle.

CHUNG: That is correct.


CHUNG: Congratulations, Frea, you've tied it up one game apiece. We're going to a quick game three. I'm going to give you a category, and you'll go back and forth naming things that fall in that category. The first contestant to mess up will be eliminated. Here's your category. Name the 10 countries that start with the letter N, as in Nancy, in English.


CHUNG: Shoshana.

SIMONES: Nigeria.

CHUNG: Nigeria is correct. Frea.

MEHTA: Oh, Netherlands.

CHUNG: Netherlands is correct. Shoshana.


CHUNG: Correct. Frea.

MEHTA: New Zealand.

CHUNG: Correct. Shoshana.

SIMONES: Northern Ireland. Contentious.


CHUNG: I'm sorry, that is not technically a country. The other countries were in Namibia, Nauru, Niger, North Korea and Norway. Shoshana, I'm sorry we have to say goodbye. Frea, you're headed to the final round. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.