Folk singer Loudon Wainwright III has just released his 22nd studio album, called Haven’t Got the Blues (Yet). We’ve invited him to answer three questions about other notable thirds: King Richard III, Albert Gore III and psychologist Russell D. Clark III.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where we invite on interesting people and try to hold their interest. It’s called Not My Job. Ask a bunch of random people who Loudon Wainwright III is and you get a bunch of different answers. It’s like, he’s a folk singer, he’s an actor, he’s Rufus Wainwright’s dad, and this is Comcast customer service, why are you asking me about this man?
SAGAL: Well, he just released his 22nd studio album. It’s called “Haven’t Got The Blues (Yet). Loudon Wainwright, welcome to WAIT WAIT …DON’T TELL ME.
LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III: Thank you.
SAGAL: So this is amazing. It’s your 22nd album?
WAINWRIGHT: Actually, it’s my 26th.
SAGAL: So you’ve been doing this for a long time. When did you put out your first record?
SAGAL: So has the subject of your songs changed? They seem to have changed.
WAINWRIGHT: Well, yes. I mean, I – initially I wrote a lot about bad relationships, love relationships. And now I write a lot about death and decay.
SAGAL: On this album, which I listened to and enjoyed, you got a lot of interesting things musically. You got a band playing with you. You sing a song walking your dog.
SAGAL: And picking up after it.
SAGAL: You have a song about finding a parking space.
WAINWRIGHT: That’s a big deal here in New York.
SAGAL: Oh, I know. Have you ever said to yourself, nah, that’s too boring. I can’t write about that?
WAINWRIGHT: Not yet.
SAGAL: No, I see. Now it’s – one of the things that is really interesting about you is you’ve written songs about your family, your children. You have three children – Rufus, Lucy and Martha, all of whom are musicians now themselves, right?
WAINWRIGHT: And I have a fourth daughter who plays the guitar, so watch out.
WAINWRIGHT: She’s in college now.
SAGAL: So you’ve written songs about them starting when they were babies.
SAGAL: And they’ve now written songs about you, some of which are not very nice. Does this ever get weird?
WAINWRIGHT: Well, you’ve got to – if you dish it out, you got to take it, Peter.
SAGAL: I understand it.
WAINWRIGHT: If only they were less talented, it would be a lot less painful.
SAGAL: I understand. Has there ever been a moment where you’ve had to like listen to one of your kids’ songs and you know it’s about you and you’re like, damn that’s a great song. This stings.
WAINWRIGHT: My daughter Martha wrote a song – and I can’t say this on the radio.
SAGAL: Yeah, I believe of the title of the song, there are, I think, what? Nine syllables and we can say two of them.
WAINWRIGHT: Well, yeah, when I heard it I thought, boy, that’s interesting. That must be about that very not nice boyfriend. And then later I – actually, Martha was opening a show for me and she told the audience that the song was about me.
WAINWRIGHT: So we had a lovely time in their dressing room afterward.
SAGAL: Really? So she’s written this song, which is a very hostile song with a hostile title, and you thought, oh, it’s about some awful boyfriend that she’s had. Good for her for getting that hostility out. She’s opening for you, so you’re going to come out on stage and sing your own songs, and she says, oh by the way, this is a song about my no-good father and she launches into it.
WAINWRIGHT: Yep. These kids today, I’ll tell you.
SAGAL: Yeah, I know.
SAGAL: You’ve got this show, it’s called “Surviving Twin.”
SAGAL: And it’s a show about your father. Could you explain it? I find it really interesting.
WAINWRIGHT: Well, it’s not about my father as much as it – my dad was a journalist. He wrote for LIFE Magazine in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. He had a column called “The View From Here,” and he wrote about pretty much anything he wanted to. And he passed away in 1988, but a few years ago I reread all his columns. And I’ve been working on the show for a couple of years, as you say, called “Surviving Twin,” in which I connect and combine some of my songs with the writing of my father Loudon Wainwright Jr.
SAGAL: So I watched part of the show and – on video – and you sort of start reciting his columns from memory. How weird was that speaking as your father?
WAINWRIGHT: Well, it didn’t feel weird at all. It felt wonderful, actually. I – you know, when these columns came out, I was a rebellious young guy and was annoyed by having a famous father.
WAINWRIGHT: But when I reread them all a few years ago, I really appreciated the work. And I love kind of sharing his work with my audience. It’s a kind of posthumous collaboration.
SAGAL: Yeah. Well, that’s one way of doing it, I guess. So you are obviously Loudon Wainwright III, son of Loudon Wainwright Jr., presumably son of the original Loudon Wainwright. Why did you not name your son Loudon Wainwright IV?
WAINWRIGHT: Oh, gosh. You know, three strikes and you’re out.
WAINWRIGHT: When we told my grandmother that her first great-grandchild was going to be called Rufus and not Loudon IV, she said Rufus? That’s a dog’s name.
WAINWRIGHT: And, of course, she’s right.
SAGAL: Yeah. Does your son Rufus, who, of course, is an extremely accomplished singer-songwriter and composer himself, does he ever express a desire that it would’ve been nice to be Loudon IV?
WAINWRIGHT: Not at all. Not at all.
SAGAL: Really? No, not at all. Hey, we came across something reading up about you this time that we hadn’t come across before, which was that you were David Letterman’s original sidekick?
WAINWRIGHT: I was, I was. When the Letterman show was on initially, it wasn’t on late at night. It was on in the afternoon.
WAINWRIGHT: And I was the – the first week I was the musical sidekick. You know, I played songs and sat on the couch. And then, you know, they decided this isn’t working, let’s get Paul Shaffer.
WAINWRIGHT: And the rest is history.
SAGAL: Really? I mean, you were the original Paul Shaffer? I mean, how did that go?
WAINWRIGHT: Well, it went pretty good. I mean – but apparently not good enough.
SAGAL: Did you not laugh sufficiently at David’s jokes? ‘Cause that’s one of Paul’s…
WAINWRIGHT: No, I’m a good – I can do that phony laughter thing.
WAINWRIGHT: Sure. (Laughter).
WAINWRIGHT: You know.
FAITH SALIE: God, you sound like our audience, Loudon.
SAGAL: Yeah, I know.
WAINWRIGHT: Damn phonies out there in Chicago.
SAGAL: Well, Loudon Wainwright, we are delighted to talk to you. We’ve asked you here this time to play a game we’re calling…
BILL KURTIS, BYLINE: We thought you said Loudon Wainwright the turd.
SAGAL: You are famously a third, as we’ve been discussing. The grandson of the original Loudon Wainwright, son of Loudon Wainwright Jr. So we thought we’d ask you about other notable thirds. Get two questions right, you’ll win our prize for one of our listeners – Carl Kasell’s voice on their home answering machine or voicemail.
SAGAL: Bill, who is Loudon Wainwright III playing for?
KURTIS: Diane Bennett of Los Angeles, California.
SAGAL: All right. Ready to play?
SAGAL: Let’s start with one of the most famous thirds, that would be Richard III, king of England. Recent discoveries have shown what surprising thing about the hunchbacked tyrant? A, before becoming King, he really wanted to pursue a career as a professional lute player; B, he was actually quite good-looking; or C, he didn’t have the Princes in the Tower killed, he merely misplaced them?
WAINWRIGHT: Wow. What was B again?
SAGAL: B was he was actually quite good looking.
WAINWRIGHT: Oh, that’s the answer.
SAGAL: You’re right, that is the answer.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: You may remember…
WAINWRIGHT: I knew that.
SAGAL: You knew that?
SAGAL: You know, we’ve seen him in Shakespeare, he’s hunchbacked, he’s monstrous. But they found his remains recently under a parking lot, and they reconstructed his face from his skull and he looks good. He looks sort of like Christian Bale wearing a funny hat in the reconstruction.
SAGAL: Not bad. Very good. All right, next question. Al Gore’s son is, of course, Albert Gore III. And he has, according to the L.A. Times, done his part for the environment, as his father has. What did Al Gore III do? A, he produced and distributed all-emoticon version of his father’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth;” B, he got busted a hundred miles per hour going in Prius, showing you can be reckless, stupid and still green; Or C, has started a clothing line called Earth Tones, in which all the fabrics are made from actual soil?
WAINWRIGHT: Oy. Well, I’m going to take a chance and say C.
SAGAL: You’re going to go for the Earth Tones?
SAGAL: No, it was B, the Prius. This happened a few years ago. And the L.A. Times said quite seriously that his, you know, publicized speeding bust altered the image of wimpy hybrid cars.
All right, this is very exciting. This means you can get – if you get one more right, you win. Here we go.
SAGAL: Last question – the psychologist Russell D. Clark III was responsible for a study which proved which of these astounding findings? A, the other side of the pillow isn’t actually cooler – it’s on average two degrees warmer; B, when a random woman approaches a man and says, would like to have sex? The man will usually say yes; C, only 1 percent of people who claim online to LOL are actually L-ing O L.
WAINWRIGHT: Oh, gosh.
WAINWRIGHT: Yeah, it is tricky. I’m going to have to hazard a guess and say B.
SAGAL: You are right, sir.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: Who knew?
WAINWRIGHT: I’m a winner.
SAGAL: The psychologist – he asked female collaborators to go up to men on a college campus and say, hello, you look very attractive. Would you like to go to bed with me? And he hired men to go up to women and do the same thing. And surprisingly, almost all the men said sure, and almost all the women said no.
MIKE BIRBIGLIA: Now, what part of that is surprising?
SAGAL: I don’t know, but – Bill, how did Loudon Wainwright do on our quiz?
KURTIS: He is a winner. He got two out of three and hopefully we gave him the content for his number 27 album.
WAINWRIGHT: All right. Thank you.
SAGAL: Loudon Wainwright III’s new album is “Haven’t Got The Blues (Yet)” – yet, I tell you. It’s coming out soon. Loudon Wainwright, thank you so much for joining us again.
WAINWRIGHT: A pleasure. Nice to be there.
SAGAL: Nice to talk to. Bye-bye.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) There’s a new dance craze sweeping the land. First you get out of bed then you attempt to stand. You get out of bed, you get to your feet, you got to just stand there, you can’t retreat. Now here comes the hard part, there’s bad news, you got to bend over and put on your shoes.
SAGAL: In just a minute, Bill eats a pie of lies in the Listener Limerick Challenge. Called 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to join us on the air.
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