The constant flow of celebrity scandals, blockbuster films and reality TV shows these days can seem overwhelming — and in some cases, quite trivial. So leave it to comedian Julie Klausner to make pop culture relevant. As the media ambassador for Vulture.com, the entertainment site for New York magazine, Klausner recaps shows like The Real Housewives reality series, makes weekly videos on pop culture topics, and appears on TV to discuss what's taboo and what's worth following. She also writes for Funny or Die's Billy On The Street, a wild, unpredictable online game show. And on her weekly comedy podcast, How Was Your Week, Klausner muses about life in New York City, occasionally sings a few songs and talks about the entertainment business with the likes of Joan Rivers and Fred Armisen, to name a few.
Klausner sat down with host Ophira Eisenberg to chat about why The Real Housewives is appointment television. Klausner knows that many people think the characters don't represent women in a positive light, but she's discovered the show's merit. "I think that the values it holds up are women being loyal to each other, women being 'girls' girls,' as opposed to talking behind about people's back. ... It's about females, friendship and the social dynamics of female relationships."
While Klausner diligently keeps track of the latest trends and hottest shows, she has a soft spot in her heart for the beloved '60s band The Monkees. So in an Ask Me Another Challenge, we quiz Klausner on quirky trivia only a superfan would know, from episode plots of The Monkees television show to a hip-hop cover of one of their singles.
In the video below, Klausner challenges comedian Rob Delaney to some classic board games, like Clue and Hungry Hungry Hippos.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:
Welcome back to ASK ME ANOTHER, NPR's hour of trivia, puzzles, and word games. I'm Ophira Eisenberg and joining me is comedian, podcaster, and author of the very funny memoir, "I Don't Care About Your Band," Julie Klausner.
JULIE KLAUSNER: Hi.
EISENBERG: Hello. Julie, you do so many things, you are everywhere. You podcast...
KLAUSNER: I do so much and yet so little day to day. Yes.
EISENBERG: And you are the media ambassador is the official title for Vulture.com which is an entertainment/pop culture website for New York Magazine.
EISENBERG: What does a media ambassador do? I love the title. It's very — yeah.
KLAUSNER: It's a great - it's a cool title. I make weekly videos for them, like pop culture videos, and then also I go on television when they need somebody to represent Vulture. So I get to be a talking head, which is pretty exciting. I love pop culture. I don't love everything. I'm not one of those people that sort of has to, whether they work at, like, TV Guide or EW and you kind of have to recap all the shows.
Like, I don't care about "The Voice." I don't really care about - there are a lot of scripted shows I could take or leave. But the stuff that I'm passionate about, I'm really passionate about.
EISENBERG: OK. So what's some of that stuff?
KLAUSNER: Oh, "Real Housewives" I really love. I really love "Real Housewives." It's like the, you know, comedy stuff that's, like, intentionally funny. Like I love "Nathan for You," that Comedy Central show. It's just brilliant. My friend Bill Eichner has a show called "Billy on the Street" that I write for and even if I didn't write for it, I'd still love it.
EISENBERG: That's good. I will admit that I have never watched an episode of "Real Housewives."
EISENBERG: Well, I don't know. Obviously, everyone loves "Real Housewives." All my friends love it and I just don't watch it and I - since you know - you are the savant. You are the "Real House - what is so great about it? Why should people watch?
KLAUSNER: There's a lot that's great about it, but mostly it has to do with seeing women who are over 20 one television, which is really exciting.
EISENBERG: That's true. Yeah.
KLAUSNER: It's really exciting to see women that are, like, perimenopausal and are not - it's kind of the first time we've seen women who've passed a certain age on television, a really long time in this culture. Beyond that, as far as what's fascinating about it, I mean, I really believe that this is the new soap opera but it comes from - it comes from a more - like a place of veracity.
Which is to say that, like, women who watch these shows can see themselves in it, but they see themselves to this Telemundo style degree. So someone will do something and you'll be like, oh, my god. I can't believe that. In a way that you're personally relating or you feel like you have stakes, even though you'd never do it to that extent. A lot of people think that they're bad for women and I really don't think that's true at all.
I actually think that the values it holds up are women being loyal to each other, women being girls' girls as opposed to talking behind people's back.
EISENBERG: So it's about friendship, basically.
KLAUSNER: Yes. It is. It's about female friendship and the social dynamics of female relationships. And I just can't get enough of it.
EISENBERG: And you also do a very popular podcast How Was Your Week?
EISENBERG: Yeah, it's good.
KLAUSNER: I like that.
EISENBERG: And that is a labor of love?
EISENBERG: Like, why did you decide - you do all these things. Writing - you're writing on television, on stage. Why a podcast? What do you...
KLAUSNER: It's so fun. I mean, nothing's more fun than talking to yourself, right?
KLAUSNER: I mean, you talk to yourself in your apartment. To be completely honest, Patton Oswalt, like, dared me to do it on Twitter. He said very publicly why doesn't Julie Klausner have a podcast? And that was kind of humiliating so I sort of took him up on his offer. And I'd already been thinking at the time like, oh, what would it be? And I like having conversations with people.
So it was something that I thought was a challenge and throughout the week, I, like, I kind of grab things that I think I want to talk about.
KLAUSNER: So I keep, like, an email draft throughout the week and I'll just, like, put, like, oh, I want to talk about that. Like, I got my eye irrigated last week.
KLAUSNER: Yeah. It was - you're going to have to download the podcast for that one.
EISENBERG: Yeah, I hear you. OK.
KLAUSNER: But, yeah. The first half-hour is just sort of like a monologue and then I do two interviews.
EISENBERG: And you also do a live version of that.
KLAUSNER: I do. Yeah.
EISENBERG: And when you - and so you have your fans. So when you're doing a podcast, obviously you interact with your fans through social media and what have you, and then when they all come to see you, are you ever surprised by a certain demographic that you're hitting? Or a certain kind of person that you're like, wow, that's...
KLAUSNER: No. They're all very sexually attractive.
KLAUSNER: They're all, you know, just beautiful inside and out. And I'm always excited to see them. Honestly - straight men. I'm always shocked when straight men like me. Yeah. No, I'm serious. Not like, like me like me. I mean, I know I have amazing breasts.
KLAUSNER: But I mean, like, whenever my humor reaches them and they appreciate me I'm always kind of flattered.
EISENBERG: Totally. I totally understand.
KLAUSNER: Because I sort of feel like...
EISENBERG: It's exciting.
KLAUSNER: ...you know, this is changing for female comics but, like, you're used to being appreciated consistently by fellow women and gay men so whenever straight guys come around you're like, yes.1
EISENBERG: Totally. All right. Well, I can tell that you are the kind of woman who is up for any kind of challenge.
KLAUSNER: I mean, clearly.
EISENBERG: So I'm going to assume that you are ready for the ASK ME ANOTHER variety.
EISENBERG: So I'll ask you, are you ready to have a Julie Klausner experience of ASK ME ANOTHER trivia?
KLAUSNER: I think I - yes.
EISENBERG: Very good. Big round of applause for our VIP Julie Klausner, everybody.
EISENBERG: Julie, you told us that you were a fan of the band The Monkees.
KLAUSNER: Yes. Very much so.
EISENBERG: Good. Who could blame you, of course?
KLAUSNER: Only a fool.
EISENBERG: They had their own television show in the '60s, exciting hit songs like "I'm a Believer" and "The Last Train to Clarksville." In 1967, the Monkee outsold the Beatles and the Rolling Stones put together. Ridiculous. So we're going to see how well you know your Monkees. And if you get enough questions right, Sarah Lutz of Philadelphia is going to win a prize.
EISENBERG: Yeah. Sarah's going to win an ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's cube. Stakes are high. We have Jonathan Coulton here. He's going to help me out with this game. And Art Chung, our puzzle guru is here. Jonathan Coulton, why don't you give Julie her first question?
JONATHAN COULTON: "The Monkees" TV show was funny, quirky, and a little out there story-wise. Which of the following was not the plot to a "Monkees" episode? A, a mad scientist pays The Monkees $200 to teach his monster rock n' roll, then tries to put their musical talents into his monster's brain. B...
KLAUSNER: That was definitely - that was with Richard Kiel. That's definitely a storyline.
KLAUSNER: What's the next one?
COULTON: You don't have to...
EISENBERG: What's the next one?
COULTON: You don't have to decide now.
KLAUSNER: But I know it's not that one.
COULTON: B, The Monkees are kidnapped by an Asian triad after Peter takes a fortune cookie containing the secret formula for a Doomsday bug.
KLAUSNER: Keep going.
COULTON: C, mermaids convince The Monkees to go to Atlantis to win a battle of the bands against dolphins.
KLAUSNER: Jonathan Coulton.
KLAUSNER: Come on, come on. The mermaid one is not true.
COULTON: You're right. You're right.
KLAUSNER: Not a real episode.
COULTON: And you are right to be disgusted with me.
EISENBERG: Too easy already.
KLAUSNER: Come on.
EISENBERG: Too easy.
KLAUSNER: Come on. Come on.
COULTON: When The Monkees started out, their songs were written by professional songwriters, famously Neil Diamond. Identify this song that was written by the husband and wife team Gerry Goffen and Carole King about living in suburban west Orange, New Jersey.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PLEASANT VALLEY SUNDAY")
COULTON: (singing) See Mrs. Grace, she's proud...
KLAUSNER: "Pleasant Valley Sunday."
COULTON: Yeah. OK.
EISENBERG: This one's tough.
KLAUSNER: OK. I'm ready.
EISENBERG: The Monkees broke up in 1970.
EISENBERG: I like that you're verifying our facts. That's awesome.
EISENBERG: But they never went away, with frequent reunion tours and even a comeback in the late '80s. Mike Nesmith was often a no-show, however, maybe because he didn't need the money. Because his mother invented a common office supply product.
EISENBERG: That is correct.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Whoa!
EISENBERG: There I thought I was being clever. Nope.
KLAUSNER: No, you're good.
COULTON: In 1988 the rap group Run DMC covered The Monkees' song "Mary, Mary," written by Michael Nesmith but instead of asking Mary, Mary, where are you going to, they changed it to what question?
KLAUSNER: Why are you bugging?
COULTON: That's right.
EISENBERG: Davy Jones was such a huge star in the '60s that an English singer who was born David...
KLAUSNER: David Bowie.
EISENBERG: This is the best round of all time, by the way. And if you didn't know that answer immediately, the question was Davy Jones was such a huge star in the 1960s that an English singer who was born David Robert Jones felt like he had to take a stage name to avoid confusion. What did this famous musician ch-ch-ch-change his name to? Although I love thinking of David Bowie as Davy Jones. It's one of my favorite things.
KLAUSNER: Well, they're both sort of androgynous in that, like, lesbian with a Joyce Dewitt hair kind of like way. They both would look amazing in high waisted pants, like a blouse.
COULTON: OK. Just feels foolish to keep going, but we will. All right. Here is a musical clue. Complete the lyrics if you can.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)
COULTON: (singing) I could hide 'neath the wing of the bluebird as she sings. Six o'clock alarm would never ring. But six rings and I rise, wipe the sleep out of my eyes. The shaving razor's cold and it stings. Cheer up, sleepy Jean. Oh, what can it mean to a daydream believer and a...
KLAUSNER: (singing) Homecoming Quee-e-e-en.
COULTON: Oh, a lovely voice as well.
KLAUSNER: Do you know who wrote that song? A guy named John Stewart. Not the same Jon Stewart that you all love.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEER)
KLAUSNER: Oh, how did I know that an NPR crowd would watch "The Daily Show"?
EISENBERG: I know. Usually no crossover audience at all.
EISENBERG: Well, I'm not sure how you did. Let's find out.
EISENBERG: Art Chung?
ART CHUNG: Tallying it up, I think Julie won.
EISENBERG: Yeah, I think she got every question right - often before the question was finished.
EISENBERG: That means Sarah Lutz in Philadelphia wins a prize.
KLAUSNER: Yay, Sarah.
EISENBERG: Thank you so much, Julie. How about a huge round of applause for our VIP Julie Klausner?
EISENBERG: We also have a Rubik's cube for you, Julie.
KLAUSNER: Oh, thank you.
EISENBERG: This is an NPR ASK ME ANOTHER special edition Rubik's cube.
KLAUSNER: Amazing. Thank you so much.
(APPLAUSE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.