Whether you are a die-hard NPR fan who proudly totes around a reusable “This American Life” terry-cloth bag and worships the words of Steve Inskeep, or have flipped on the station once or twice, chances are you have heard of Saturday morning shows such as “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” and “Car Talk.”
In fact, the most listened to NPR show in the St. Louis area comes from this Saturday morning lineup, and goes by the name of “Ask Me Another.” The program follows a game-show format similar to “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” — asking contestants multiple rounds of questions until a final faceoff determines the winner. “Ask Me Another,” however, delves into topics of the obscure and bizarre, with comedian Ophira Eisenberg as host and Jonathan Coulton playing guitar as the one-man house band. The show is as much a comedy show as it is a game. Past categories have included “Remember Me?” with questions about movie characters afflicted by amnesia, and “Our Delicious Bodies,” about foods containing the names of human body parts.
“Ask Me Another” recently visited St. Louis, recording a hilarious show at the Pageant in the Delmar Loop and using St. Louisans as contestants, including author Curtis Sittenfeld, (“Sisterland” and “Prep”). The night started off with a rousing rendition of “All We Want to Do is Eat Your Brains” (a song following the plights of a hungry zombie, led and written by Coulton), setting a bizarre and outrageously fun atmosphere for the evening. Probably the most interesting part of the night, however, was the chance to meet and talk to the hilarious and unbelievably kind standup comedian and host of the show, Eisenberg.
“Standup comedy can be a volunteer career for many many years because it is very hard to make money, and even when you do it is a very small amount,” said Eisenberg, who spent years working day jobs while pursuing her comedy career.
Eisenberg has recently come out with a book, “Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy.” She has also been featured on NPR’s “The Moth Radio Hour” multiple times, (once telling a story entitled “Jewish Santa”) and has written for Heeb magazine’s, “Sex, Drugs, and Gefilte Fish.” Needless to say, Eisenberg is Jewish.
“I put the Jewish stuff in my act here and there, but try to keep it pretty light,” Eisenberg said, “I don’t know if it’s particularly Jewish humor, or just my voice and I happen to be Jewish.”
Whether or not she considers herself a predominantly Jewish comedian Eisenberg is part of another movement of people on the rise in the male-dominated comic industry: women.
“I’m just happy it’s so much better,” Eisenberg said, referring to the modern openness to women in comedy, “but even to this day, there is probably not a single female comic who has not been told that they are great despite the fact that they are a woman.”
Regardless of societal pressures, Eisenberg continues to thrive in the world of comedy and revolutionarily break new boundaries. Her new book delves into the obsolete taboo of the serial one-night stand, bringing it to the forefront of the conversation.
But the real question of the hour, what was on everyone’s minds that evening was plain and simple: Did Eisenberg have what it takes to win her very own “Ask Me Another”?
“Absolutely not,” said Eisenberg, “My audition was not to answer the questions, my audition was to read the lines and tell them the answers; I am in awe of the people who are good at this”