Last-minute plan: Ask Roulette Second-Anniversary Show
Looking for something free to do tonight? Indulge your curiosity at a special birthday edition of Ask Roulette
Thu Jan 16 2014
Photograph: Stephen Nessen/Ask Roulette
What have you always wanted to know about someone you don’t know? At Ask Roulette, audience members answer questions from strangers before posing queries of their own. The conversation series and podcast celebrates its second birthday tonight at 7pm at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe. Since its a big one, host (and WNYC producer) Jody Avirgan has recruited some special guests to help celebrate, including Jad Abumrad (Radiolab), Roger Bennett (Grantland and Men in Blazers), Shani O. Hilton (Buzzfeed) and "house band" Eli Bolin (Sesame Street). For a taste of what to expect, here are Avirgan’s favorite questions from 2013 (you can listen to more on the most recent podcast, available below or through Soundcloud and iTunes).
“Are your best days ahead of you or behind you?”
This is just a brilliant question—it’s pointed, but also broad enough that it could lead to all sorts of answers, depending on who gets it. It was asked by a woman named April
of a stranger named Asthmus, and his answer was just perfect: “It’s funny you ask. My best days are right around the corner.” Love it.
“You discover that, through a mix-up at the hospital, your perfectly healthy
one-year-old is not actually yours. Do you return your child in exchange for the real one?”
This falls into the old standby category of “Would you…?,” but I don’t think you can read too much into someone’s answer. I truly don’t know what the most ethically responsible or less heartbreaking thing to do would be. Dave Weigel of Slate did, though; without hesitation he said he’d return the kid.
“Who was your worst neighbor ever?”
Everyone has a good neighbor story. This got asked twice this year, once of [writer] Caissie St. Onge and once of [comedian] Kevin Allison, and both times led to stories I’ll never forget. Caissie lives in the suburbs and told a story about the over-eager-but-creepy man who she shares a yard with. Kevin told a story about a straight-up creepy old lady in his first NYC apartment building (the upshot was that “it was the opposite of the plot of Psycho”).
“What’s the weirdest dream you’ve ever had?”
We get a number of questions about dreams, and they always lead to great moments. It’s sort of a nice blank canvas of a question, since it lets the person answering decide whether they want to talk about something weird, tell a story or get personal; one of the few times I’ve cried at Ask Roulette is when someone told a story about dreams she’d been having about her dead mother. This year, comedian Chris Gethard told a story about a recurring dream he had as a child where his mom would turn into the Wicked Witch of the West. Out of pure coincidence, the person who asked him that question had had the same exact dream when she was a child.
“What percentage of the historical population of blue whales is alive today?”
We’ve gotten all types of questions at Ask Roulette—silly, personal, weird, offensive—but this, from our D.C. show, was the very first time a plain old fact-based question had been asked. It totally caught me off guard, and actually led to a hilarious exchange. The answer is 1 percent, by the way.
“What’s the most valuable thing you’ve wrecked?”
I’ve asked this a few times at Ask Roulette (sometimes I throw in a few choice questions), and it has led to stories of totaled cars, broken relationships and one unlucky couch.
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