Singer Erykah Badu Plays Not My Job
This week, Wait Wait comes to you from the AT&T Performing Arts Center in the Dallas Arts District. Turns out, singer Erykah Badu was a student at the high school for the performing arts directly across the street. We're guessing she used to gaze across the street and say to herself: "Someday I'm going to be in a theater that's not yet built, performing on a public radio news quiz." And today, that dream comes true.
We've invited Badu to play a game called "Tall, courtly newscaster with deep, resonant voice and comforting manner seeks same." Valentine's Day is coming up, and if you don't have a date — don't worry. There's help for everybody out there. Everybody. Buzzfeed has posted a list of 50 dating sites for very specific types of people. Badu will answer three questions about the wide world of super-specialized dating.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now, the game where we ask people who have done amazing things with their lives and talent to completely waste their lives and talent just for a few minutes.
ERYKAH BADU: Sure.
SAGAL: When singer Erykah Badu was a student at the high school for the performing arts directly across the street from this theater here in Dallas...
SAGAL: We are certain that she used to gaze across the street and say to herself, "Some day, I'm going to be in a theater that won't be built for some decades, performing in a public radio news quiz." Happy to say her dream has come true. Erykah Badu, welcome to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!
BADU: Thank you so much.
SAGAL: Now, the story I have been telling is true, that you attended high school across the street.
BADU: I did, from 1985 to 1989.
SAGAL: Right, and this was a high school for the performing arts.
BADU: It still is.
SAGAL: You weren't Erykah Badu then, you were Erykah Wright was...
BADU: I was. I am.
SAGAL: You are, you still are, but how did you come across the name Badu for your performance?
BADU: When I used to do cabaret in Deep Ellum here in Dallas.
BADU: A rich history of blues in the city, I used to sing jazz cabaret and my scat would be...
(SOUNDBITE OF SINGING)
BADU: Badu, badu, badu, badu.
And it stuck.
SAGAL: Wow. That isn't the only name that you've performed under though, right?
SAGAL: What are the other names you've performed under?
BADU: Erykah Badu, Fat Belly Bella, She-Ill, Manuela Maria Mexico sometimes...
PAULA POUNDSTONE: Are you on the lam?
SAGAL: And what's your favorite?
BADU: She Ill.
TOM BODETT: But she'll get better.
BADU: She-Ill. It's like she's dope.
BADU: She's fresh.
BADU: She's cool.
SAGAL: I haven't understood a word you've said.
SAGAL: I am a white Jewish boy from central New Jersey. I am not hip to this Texas stuff you're speaking of.
BADU: It's OK; I'll be patient with you.
SAGAL: OK, I understand. So it's good, you're fresh, you're cool, you're down, you're hip.
SAGAL: You're groovy, as I understand the kids say.
BODETT: That's excruciating, Peter.
BADU: Mostly ill.
SAGAL: Yeah. So your music is not what I would think of, being an ignorant person not from here, as Texas music. I hear some soul, I hear some blues, I hear some hip-hop.
SAGAL: But you have done a lot of others things as well as sing. Like, for example, we know that you, like, dabbled in comedy, or you still do, right?
BADU: I do. I'm doing it now.
SAGAL: You're doing comedy?
BADU: Right now.
SAGAL: You're like, right now.
BADU: I'm dabbling.
SAGAL: You're dabbling. You used to work for the comedian Steve Harvey, right?
BADU: I did. I was his - I started out as a waitress at his club. He had a club here some years ago called Steve Harvey's Comedy House. And then I went from being a waitress to reception and then ticket booth. Then I kind of snuck my way backstage and I made up a role so I could keep going on stage doing stuff.
BADU: And he just kind of gave in at one point and he allowed me to write and share ideas with him.
SAGAL: Right. So you were writing jokes for Steve Harvey.
BADU: Well it's really one joke that he used. You know, all the other stuff, I don't know what happened to it.
BADU: I think that stuff went to Chris Rock.
SAGAL: I understand.
BADU: But there was one joke that we wrote, where we had these cue cards and we would write this really long word and put it up on an easel and have the audience try to pronounce the word.
BADU: And what we explained is that this word is actually a phrase that black people use that you wouldn't understand.
BADU: And if you understand it, you win a prize.
BADU: Yeah. One of the was ou-from-way-from, oufromwayfrom.
SAGAL: I wouldn't win that prize.
BADU: And if they didn't get it right, then I would get a chance to put it in a sentence.
SAGAL: Can you put that in a sentence?
BADU: Get ou' from way from around them cars.
SAGAL: That's pretty good. So you've made some great videos in your time. And there's one video for your song "Window Seat," kind of controversial. Can you describe it for those who have not seen it?
BADU: "Window Seat."
BADU: Well, I pull up to Dealey Plaza at a parking meter and I get out and I have some clothes on. And I put some in a meter, and as I get closer and closer to the spot where JF Kennedy was assassinated - God rest his soul - I was nude by that time.
SAGAL: You just take - yeah, I've watched it a couple of times.
SAGAL: Well, a couple dozen, a couple - because I wanted to prepare for this interview. And...
POUNDSTONE: Did anybody say get out from away from that grassy knoll?
BADU: Yeah, they said a lot of stuff.
SAGAL: Yeah. You got in trouble as much for, I guess, being naked in public or for some sort of perceived disrespect but also because you didn't ask anybody if you could do this right? You just showed up and did it.
BADU: Well, in my video as I walked slow - and I was petrified.
SAGAL: I can imagine.
BADU: Yeah, because I felt like I was overweight at the time.
BADU: But that's the only reason.
SAGAL: Really, otherwise...
SAGAL: I'm really not - oh man, I'd love to do that, I'm just not in sudden public nudity shape right now. Let me...
BADU: It was a guerilla style video. We shot guerilla style. You know, that means there's one camera. There's, you know, one direction. We walk and after I'm totally nude, we run.
SAGAL: So in the video, you get out of your car, you walk over, you talk off your clothes, you get naked, you lie down on the spot where - you collapse...
SAGAL: ...as if you've been shot on the spot where Kennedy was spot. And then when you finished it, you just got up and ran?
BADU: I did. I would have gotten away quicker, but the minivan pulled up on the wrong side of the street. So I had to actually run around the...
SAGAL: So you're running...
SAGAL: So actually you had to do a lap. You had to do a lap around Dealey Plaza naked?
SAGAL: I love this. You have children and you told the story about how you wanted to let your kids know what you were going to do before you did it.
BADU: I did. And I just wanted their, you know, support and love, because, you know, their mom's a celebrity and there could be a chance that they could be asked questions or teased or anything. And my son, who's the oldest told me, if people ask me anything I'll just say my mother was having fun.
SAGAL: That's great.
BADU: My mom's a good guy. She's a good guy. My youngest daughter said, "I want a cookie."
SAGAL: There you go. Well, Erykah Badu, it is a pleasure to talk to you. And we have asked you here to play a game that this time we're calling...
CARL KASELL: Tall, courtly newscaster with deep, resonant voice and comforting manner seeks same.
SAGAL: It is Valentine's Day next week, and if you don't have a date, don't worry, there's help for everybody out there, and I mean everybody. Buzzfeed just posted a list of 50 dating sites.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
SAGAL: For very specific types of people. We're going to ask you three questions about the wide world of specialized dating.
SAGAL: Get two out of three right, you'll win a prize for one of our listeners. Carl, who is Erykah Badu playing for?
KASELL: Erykah is playing for Ginger Lehrfeld of Dallas, Texas.
SAGAL: There you go, a local.
SAGAL: Which of these - first, you ready to do this?
BADU: I'm ready.
SAGAL: Here we go. Which of these is a real dating site for someone who wants to make sure their partner shares their favorite enthusiasm. Is it A: Morris Dance Lover Lovers dot org? B: Farmers Only dot com? Or C: Be My Little Pony dot com?
BADU: I think Farmers Only.
SAGAL: Farmers Only?
SAGAL: You're right, Farmers Only dot com.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: Now, you might think to yourself, farmers only, that sounds dry. But no, Farmers Only dot com has its own jingle. Listen to this.
(SOUNDBITE OF FARMERS ONLY JINGLE)
SAGAL: There you go.
SAGAL: Farmers, you know what to do. All right, that was very good. Next question: there was one site that struck us as admirable for its honesty in its presentation. What is it?
SAGAL: Was it A: Someone to listen, which hooks up the self-involved with the shy?
SAGAL: B: The Ugly Bug Ball, for ugly people. Or C: the dating site of really, really, really old people, called Carbon Dating dot com?
BADU: I like that.
SAGAL: You do? I do, too, I have to tell you.
BADU: What's the second one?
SAGAL: The second one was the Ugly Bug Ball for ugly people.
BADU: I'd go there.
SAGAL: All right, you're going with the Ugly Bug Ball. You're right, of course, the Ugly Bug Ball.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: Is the site. It's slogan: real dating for real people.
SAGAL: So don't you laugh. Here we go. You're doing really well here, Erykah.
BADU: I am.
SAGAL: There's a website, of course, for cat fanciers who want to date other cat fanciers.
SAGAL: You know there'd be one.
SAGAL: But what is it called? Is it called A: Purrsonals?
SAGAL: B: Fur Always? Or C: The Cat House?
BADU: Cat lovers site.
SAGAL: Cat lovers site.
SAGAL: Of course it was, Purrsonals.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: Carl, how did Erykah Badu do on our quiz?
KASELL: Well, she was purrfect.
SAGAL: Oh, I knew she was.
KASELL: She had three correct answers, so she wins for Ginger Lehrfeld. Congratulations.
BADU: Congratulations, Ginger. Thanks.
SAGAL: Erykah Badu's latest album is "New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh." She's performing in concert on her birthday February 26th at the House of Blues here in Dallas.
SAGAL: Erykah Badu, what a pleasure. Thank you so much for joining us.
BADU: Thank you so much.
SAGAL: Erykah Badu, ladies and gentlemen.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.