Hello, My Name Is Mo
IE: So, you’re in town taping for “Wait . . . Wait . . .Don’t Tell Me!”?
Mo Rocca: We tape today; it airs over the weekend. I come about once a month. It seems unfair you’re in Chicago because Chicago has so much . . . Chicago, itself is so much of an attraction, but this is an Illinois magazine. It seems like you should spread the wealth and be in another part of Illinois.
IE: We tried, but they chased us back to Chicago.
MR: You didn’t play in Peoria?
IE: No. We wanted to get as far as Macombe.
MR: That’s interesting, and I’ve been in that town that you’re talking about. I’m from D.C., I’m from Maryland, which is actually kind of boring. Even more boring than D.C. I shouldn’t trash my home state, but I’ve never had much affection for the border states in the Civil War, the border states that kept their slaves but maintained military neutrality. They wanted it both ways â€“ I just don’t respect that. I almost respect the Confederate States more than the border states.
IE: But wasn’t it a diplomatic masterstroke?
MR: I suppose. You spend too long in the middle of the road you get run over.
IE: How often are you here?
MR: I come about once a month. There are three panelists on each week. Peter [Sagal], the host, and Carl [Kasell] are always on. There’s a loose rotation among the panelists. I think there’s 12 of us; I haven’t kept track, but three a week. It averages out to about once a month, at least for me.
IE: So you’re usually on the road?
MR: I travel a lot. I’m going to the Super Bowl for “Jay Leno” and I’m going to go to the State Of The Union for him also. Then I’ll speak at colleges. I’m trying to give something back to the kids; pay it forward, if you will. That’s how civic-minded I am. The children are our future.
IE: They are.
MR: Though they get no credit for coming to hear me speak. I get around.
IE: Does the show have to travel? Couldn’t you just make it up and say “Today we’re broadcasting from a pencil eraser”?
MR: We could do that, because of course, like a lot of news-based comedy shows, we’re not really bound by truth or integrity. So we could do that, but we all have to be in one place and Chicago seemed like a compromise.
IE: Where do you usually tape?
MR: In Chicago.
MR: The show almost always tapes in Chicago. Occasionally a member station will guest-host the show. So the show might in one week tape at Berkely, or I’ve done it in Akron or Charlotte.
IE: How was I not aware of this?
MR: But the home base is the Chase Auditorium on Dearborn and Madison. You might have been a little hazy on that. The show is based here.
IE: [The publicisit] was like, ‘Mo Rocca’s going to be in town.’ And I said, ‘O.K. Make sure Barack Obama’s here, too, so they can have a sit-down.’
MR: Barack Obama has got to stop smoking. Because when people find out how much he smokes, a lot of people are going to be upset.
IE: Is that a reference to him being smoking hot in that bathing-suit picture?
MR: Listen. Barack Obama is no Matt Lauer.
MR: In fact, that should be a requirement that all the Democratic and Republican candidates should have to go shirtless. Although, probably, I don’t think Hillary [Clinton] would agree to that. He’s a smoker. He smokes a lot of cigarettes.
MR: I’m not even from Illinois!
IE: Well he’s never photographed that way.
MR: Listen. I’m gonna break this story on “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.” It’s true.
IE: There was that hubbub about they banned all that smoking in the chamber.
MR: The House, the House Chamber [Obama is a Senator]. A ha! A ha!
IE: The only comments were from Republicans who smoked, like John Boehner.
MR: I don’t want to be nit-picky and since you’re in control of this interview so, please don’t take this the wrong way, but it is John Boehner [pronounced bay-nr; IE pronounced it bow-ner]. I just think “John Bow-ner” sounds like a porn name.
IE: We’ve had Dick Cheney and Colin Powell, so that should be O.K.
MR: Oh my God, that would be horrible if there was somebody named “Dick Boner.”
IE: I’m sure there is.
MR: It’s Dick Bay-ner.
IE: You’re cast with some pretty intelligent folk. Who’s the smartest of your bunch?
MR: I would say that the smartest is, I think that Roy Blount is the wisest. I think that Paula Poundstone is the cleverest. I think that Adam Felber is the wittiest. I think that Amy Dickinson is the most insightful. I think that Sue Ellicott is the most British. I think that P.J. O’Rourke is the most legendary — I hope you’re not ranking these. I think Charlie Pierce is the most riotous.
IE: He’s pictured with a hockey stick on the Web site.
MR: He is from Boston. I think that Roxanne Roberts is the lustiest.
IE: And what are you?
MR: I am, oh gosh, I think I’m whimsical. No! I think I’m kittenish.
MR: I gave Amy Dickinson a lame one. I called her “insightful.”
IE: You did.
MR: I think Amy Dickinson is the most beguiling.
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