We’re recording our show in Pittsburgh this week — that’s where Jeff Goldblum grew up and got his start as a performer playing piano in local clubs. He went on to become an actor in Hollywood, starring in Jurassic Park, Independence Day, Law & Order … and a 1986 movie called The Fly.
We’ve invited Goldblum to play a game called “Your fly is open.” Three questions about zippers.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where we like to ask people about where they came from and how they ended up here. It’s called Not My Job. Actor Jeff Goldblum got his start as a performer playing piano in the clubs here in Pittsburgh where he grew up and eventually ended up being one of the most celebrated character actors in Hollywood. He joins us now. Jeff Goldblum, welcome to WAIT WAIT …DON’T TELL ME.
JEFF GOLDBLUM: Thank you so much.
GOLDBLUM: It’s my pleasure to be on the show.
SAGAL: So is it true, Jeff, that what we heard that you first started performing as a piano player – which I know you still are – as a teenager here in Pittsburgh? Is that right?
GOLDBLUM: Yeah. I did. It I had a couple of jobs there. I, you know, my parents gave us piano lessons. And then somehow around 15 – even though I knew I wanted to be an actor – I had this idea, and I thought I’d be sneaky or something. I don’t know why I had to do it. I got the Yellow Pages and sequestered myself in some little place in the house and started to call a list of cocktail lounges, and say, hey, I hear you need a piano player there. I thought I’d pull some kind of scam. Most people would say no, we don’t even have a piano. Some people would say yeah, we’ve got in a piano. Come down, we’ll – you know, so I got a couple of jobs that way. How about that?
SAGAL: And have you used that technique later in life? Did you call up Steven Spielberg and say, hey, I think you’re looking for an eccentric mathematician?
GOLDBLUM: Yeah. No, not really. No, I’ve gone straight in my approach now.
SAGAL: So you went up to New York to be an actor at the age of 17. And you were in theater for a long time. And then you broke into movies playing an – our understanding is your first credited role in movies was in the movie “Death Wish” as a Freak Number One.
GOLDBLUM: Freak Number One – that’s correct. Yeah.
SAGAL: So if I remember correctly, “Death Wish” is the movie where Charles Bronson – his family is attacked and horribly hurt. And then he goes on a spree of vengeance. And you were one of the people doing the dirty deed at the beginning of the film.
GOLDBLUM: I was. Me and two other guys – we did bad things to his wife and daughter. Yep.
SAGAL: And I have to ask what casting director would look at you and say that is a horribly, threatening looking person?
GOLDBLUM: Thank you. We auditioned and kind of, you know, did some mime versions – three at a time. Some, you know, awful-looking guys trying to look their awfulist in New York. And they picked me. I don’t know. I’m not sure why.
FAITH SALIE: Jeff, hi. It’s Faith. I have a bit of a confession to make.
GOLDBLUM: Oh, go ahead.
SALIE: I was standing behind you in line – in a security line at JFK a couple years ago.
SALIE: And you were wearing jeans, and you looked really good.
GOLDBLUM: Oh, thank you.
SALIE: And I took a picture, and I tweeted it. And I said Jeff Goldblum looks really good from behind. And I want to know how you feel about being objectified like that?
GOLDBLUM: Fine and dandy – by you.
SALIE: OK good. All right. Phew, thank you.
SAGAL: We were sitting around, and we were trying to describe or figure out if there is a quintessential Jeff Goldblum character. And it does seem, looking back over your career – particularly back to movies like “The Fly,” and “Independence Day” – like, you’re sort of like the sexy brainiac. Right?
GOLDBLUM: Well, I’ve done a variety of things. But, yeah, I know what you mean. I can see how you’d come up that. There’ve been a couple with that sort of strain running through it, maybe, yeah.
TOM BODETT: And also the guy that gets eaten off the toilet in “Jurassic Park.” Right?
SAGAL: That’s not him.
GOLDBLUM: That’s not me. That’s right.
SAGAL: That’s not. That’s the other guy.
BODETT: Oh, that’s right. Oh, thank God, Jeff.
GOLDBLUM: Yeah, I know.
SAGAL: No, he’s the guy in “Jurassic Park” with the remarkable laugh.
GOLDBLUM: You know, I’ll tell you a funny story quickly about that guy who played Marty, his name was, the actor. I met him at the airport as we were going for the first shoot to – the first part of the shoot in Hawaii. And we’d read the script. We hadn’t met Steven Spielberg together or had a read-through. And he said, hey, we’re on the same flight together. Hey, you know, nice to meet you. And this is going to be fun. But I have an idea. I’m going to introduce it to Steven Spielberg that your character, you know, you survive and you kind of heroically get the dinosaur to chase you. And then you’ve got that broken leg. And he eats me off the toilet. I have an idea that would be better for the story – if it was reversed where you get eaten and die early on, and I’m the one who survives.
SAGAL: And he was serious?
GOLDBLUM: He tested that out with me. I said, huh, well, I don’t know. Let’s see how it goes.
SAGAL: Well, Jeff Goldblum, we are delighted to talk to you. And we’ve ask you here to play game that this time we’re calling…
BILL KURTIS, BYLINE: Your Fly Is Open.
GOLDBLUM: Oh, very funny.
SAGAL: You played, as everybody knows, The Fly in the 1986 David Cronenberg movie which is pretty awesome and pretty creepy. But what do you know about the other kind of flies – that is the kind on your pants. We’re going to ask you three questions about zippers. You get two right, you’ll win our prize for one of our listeners – scorekeeper emeritus Carl Kasell’s voice on their voicemail. Bill, who is actor Jeff Goldblum playing for?
KURTIS: Anthony Lycenko of Byron Bay, Australia.
SAGAL: All right. Australia? How did we get somebody from Australia?
SAGAL: OK. Jeff, here we go. Your first questions – for decades, the newfangled zipper vied with the traditional button for pants supremacy. But many say the moment the zipper became preeminent was when what happened? A – President Taft swore by zippers as saying tis the only way my pants may contain my stately girth, B – the zipper won Esquire magazine’s, quote, “battle of the fly” or C – a World War II soldier reported his life was saved when a Nazi bullet ricocheted off his zipper?
GOLDBLUM: I would guess – all very interesting – I would guess the second one.
SAGAL: You’re going to say Esquire magazine had a battle of the fly and the zipper won? You’re right. That’s what happened. It was 1927…
SAGAL: …When Esquire magazine – it was around then – pronounced the zipper clearly superior to buttons when it comes to pants saying it helped prevent, quote, “the possibility of unintentional and embarrassing disarray,” unquote.
SAGAL: That’s what you said in 1927 when somebody’s fly was down – that’s an embarrassing disarray, people would say.
SAGAL: You did that with real confidence, Jeff. Let’s go for the second question. Zippers sometimes, as you can imagine and as we have discussed, can cause trouble and can even cause a scandal as at the recent Sochi Olympics when what happened? A – zippers provided by the Russian government to their team proved shoddy, creating a park-wide shortage of safety pins, B – after Putin came out with his zipper undone while congratulating some winners, his personal valid was sent to prison for 20 years or C – a victorious speed skater unzipped her speed suit on the rink but forgot she wasn’t wearing any underwear?
GOLDBLUM: That’s curious. You know, the safety pin aspect – it makes me doubtful that there was a shortage of safety pins. The Putin thing sounds plausible, but this 20 year business, I don’t like. That sounds cooked up. So what was the third?
SAGAL: The speed skater who unzipped her suit after winning her race and before she remembered that she was not wearing any underwear underneath.
GOLDBLUM: You know, I like that one.
KURTIS: A lot of us did, Jeff.
SAGAL: You’re right. It was C.
SAGAL: Russian speed skater, Olga Graf, won her race and then, as they often do when they’re overheated, she unzipped her suit to cool off. And then she quickly zipped it up when she remembered she wasn’t wearing anything underneath.
GOLDBLUM: That’s right. OK.
SAGAL: Last question – and let’s see if you can go for perfect. I think you’re well on your way. Sometimes zippers are serious business. For example, the Harvard Business Review, that august publication, addressed the subject of flies – pants zippers – in an article titled what? A – how to tell the boss his fly is down, B – the hand that pulls the zipper runs the board room or C – what color is your zipper?
GOLDBLUM: I’m going to eliminate the third one because I don’t know where that would go. I don’t like that one. The first two – the second one sounds like it may have to do with, you know, gender and the serious issues of gender. And so there’s much to say about that, I’m sure. But the first one – remind me of the first one again?
SAGAL: The first one was how to tell the boss his fly is down.
GOLDBLUM: You know what? That also seems too trivial for what I’m guessing this publication is because, you know. Hey, you’re fly is down and – I’m circling the runway. I’m about to make a landing, late as it may be.
GOLDBLUM: I say, what color is your zipper. Let’s go with what color is your zipper.
SAGAL: They answer, sadly, I would much rather you just continue to guess, but we’re running out of time. The answer is how to tell the boss his fly is down.
SAGAL: And the answer is you tell him quietly and in private. Bill, how did Jeff Goldblum do on our quiz?
KURTIS: Well, we call them a winner if they get two out of three, and Jeff, you did.
GOLDBLUM: OK. All right. So that last one was just crazy. That was crazy.
SAGAL: Jeff Goldblum is a well-known pianist and sometimes actor best known for playing the character New Jersey in “The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension.” Jeff Goldblum, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT …DON’T TELL ME.
GOLDBLUM: Thank you.
SAGAL: Take care.
GOLDBLUM: Take care.
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