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Not My Job: We Quiz Comedian Aidy Bryant On '80s Brians


Aidy Bryant was a comedian and improviser here in Chicago. Then she went out to New York City, auditioned for "Saturday Night Live," instantly became a star in that show, and then she went on to be the lead in a new Hulu series, "Shrill."

BILL KURTIS: We experienced her supernatural charm when she joined us on the stage in March of this year, and Peter asked her when she knew she had powers.


SAGAL: Is it true to say, like a lot of very funny people, you've always been funny? You were, like, class clown, a young comedian?

AIDY BRYANT: I'm the - I was always trying to be funny.

SAGAL: Yeah, we...

BRYANT: That's for sure.

SAGAL: That's all of us, I think. Yeah.


SAGAL: You were doing comedy, like, as an improv when you were growing up in Phoenix, right?

BRYANT: Yeah. Yeah.

SAGAL: Right.

BRYANT: I did teen improv, which you know...

SAGAL: Oh, God.

BRYANT: ...You want to see.

SAGAL: Oh, God.


MO ROCCA: Can I ask - what was the name of your improv group in Phoenix?


BRYANT: Oh, my - I've been in so many dumb improv teams I can't even - Drop-In Science (ph), Hunter Family Crest, Virgin Daiquiri - what else?


SAGAL: Keep going.

BRYANT: OK. Baby Wants Candy.


BRYANT: I mean, I used to sit in with Carl and the Passions sometimes. I mean, I've done my time.

SAGAL: Yeah.


SAGAL: Did you come to Chicago specifically to do sketch comedy?

BRYANT: Yeah. Yeah. I knew about Second City and iO, and I wanted to get involved.

SAGAL: Yeah.


SAGAL: And you did, which is kind of amazing.


SAGAL: Right. I mean, because a lot of people come to Chicago to try to make it on the main stage of Second City, and they never do. And you did.

BRYANT: Oh, my goodness. Is this my birthday?

SAGAL: It really is.



SAGAL: It's, like, welcome to the show we're calling Wait Wait... You're Actually All Right.

BRYANT: I need this.


SAGAL: You're fine.

ROCCA: Well, I have to say that when I checked into my hotel room...


ROCCA: ...Today, you were right there.


BRYANT: Well, that's nasty.


ROCCA: She's on the cover of Michigan Avenue Magazine.

BRYANT: Well, I always wait for men in their hotel rooms.


BRYANT: I think that's cool in a #MeToo era, you know?


SAGAL: Well, what was it - I mean, a lot of times, we hear about the people who came out of Chicago and go to "Saturday Night Live" and elsewhere. But what was it like when you were just, like, you know working the streets as a comedy...


FARSAD: Working...

ROCCA: Come on...


ROCCA: First she's in hotel rooms, now she's working the streets.

SAGAL: The streets - I know.

ADAM BURKE: She wasn't busking as an - she wasn't walking down going, hey, can I get a suggestion?

SAGAL: Yeah.

BRYANT: Oh, my gosh.

SAGAL: Just standing at the corner of Michigan and Randolph going, somebody name an occupation.

BRYANT: Absolutely.


SAGAL: So you went off to New York, like a lot of Chicago comedians do, and you audition for "Saturday Night Live" - ditto. But you got cast, which is rarer. People talk about the "Saturday Night Live" audition - that you have to come in with a character.


SAGAL: Did you do that?

BRYANT: I did, yeah. They told us, you know, five minutes, a couple original characters, a couple impressions, so that's kind of what I did.

SAGAL: Yeah. Can you tell us what you did?

BRYANT: I did Adele, and I did Ethel Merman, which was very topical.

SAGAL: Oh, yeah.


ROCCA: Wait - I'm not going to ask you to do it, but what did you do for your Ethel Merman?

BRYANT: I said, this is Ethel Merman on the TV show, "My Dog Ate What?"


BRYANT: And then I sort of screamed in an Ethel Merman voice - like, my dog ate what? And that was what got me to "Saturday Night Live."


ROCCA: That gives me so much - even more respect for the show. I love that.

SAGAL: I understand you recently got married.

BRYANT: I did, yeah.

SAGAL: That's very exciting.

BRYANT: Oh, thank you.


SAGAL: I hope you didn't make the mistake of marrying another comedian.

BRYANT: Yeah, I did.

SAGAL: Oh, damn it.


SAGAL: Yeah. How'd that work out, though?

BRYANT: It's going real bad.

SAGAL: Oh, I'm so sorry.


BRYANT: I don't know how it's going to go.

SAGAL: Oh, I'm so sorry. Did did he propose in a funny way?

BRYANT: I mean, kind of in that, like, he proposed in our home - which I had sort of said, like, I want that. You know, I want to keep it private and in our house.

SAGAL: Oh, had you planned it? Did you say, if and when you propose...

BRYANT: No. I kind of was just - like, you know, more like we would see people, like, get proposed to on a...

SAGAL: Jumbotron.

BRYANT: ...Jumbotron.

SAGAL: Bad, bad, bad.

BRYANT: I would be, like, I can't handle that, FYI (laughter).

SAGAL: Yeah. Make a note here.



BRYANT: And so I kind of came home from work and opened the door. And then, just like a true bat out of hell, like, from the back of our bedroom, he came around and was, like, will you marry me?


SAGAL: Whoa.

BRYANT: And I was, like, whoa, baby.

SAGAL: Really?

BRYANT: Yeah. But it was...

SAGAL: He just rushed you?



SAGAL: Did he think, like, if it was a surprise, and you were flustered, you wouldn't say no?

BRYANT: No. I think he knew that he had a very short time between me entering the door and walking even 10 steps before my bra and anything would come off.


BRYANT: And he wanted to catch me fully dressed and dignified.


SAGAL: I think that's very thoughtful.

ROCCA: That is thoughtful.

BRYANT: Yeah. It's actually sweet.

SAGAL: Yeah.

BRYANT: It's to me the most romantic thing in the world.

SAGAL: Yeah.


SAGAL: Well, that's great. I'm so glad...


SAGAL: ...For everything that's happening for you.

BRYANT: Thank you.

SAGAL: Well, Aidy Bryant, we're delighted to have you here. But we have asked you here today to play a game that this time we are calling...

CHIOKE I'ANSON: Aidy Bryant, Meet The '80s Brians.


BRYANT: Uh-oh.

SAGAL: You're too young to remember, but way back when, we had a decade called the '80s, and it was filled with wondrous and amazing people, all of whom were named Brian. We're going to ask you three questions about '80s Brians. Get two right, you'll win our prize one of our listeners.


ROCCA: Wait, can I ask one thing beforehand?

SAGAL: Yes, please.

ROCCA: Not to put you on the spot, but could you give at least one of the answers in the Ethel Merman voice?



SAGAL: All right. Don't tell us...

SAGAL: Don't tell us...


ROCCA: Be like your husband. Like, just come right at us.


BRYANT: I love that.

SAGAL: Chioke, who is Aidy Bryant playing for?

I'ANSON: Dan Martin of Boston, Mass.

SAGAL: All right. This is for him. First question - composer and producer Brian Eno produced some of the biggest hits of the 1980s. Which of these was among his most popular works? A, the main title theme for "Police Academy 8," "Bribe Me With A Spoon"...


SAGAL: ...B, the startup sound for Windows 95...


ROCCA: Oh, wow.

SAGAL: ...Or the music and lyrics for a Hoover vacuum jingle?


SAGAL: You're going to go for the Hoover vacuum jingle.

BRYANT: I guess.


ROCCA: I don't...

BURKE: That can't be right.

BRYANT: Really?

BURKE: It can't be.


BURKE: I can't imagine that could be the answer.

BRYANT: Well, OK. I - guess what? (Imitating Ethel Merman) B.




SAGAL: You're right. Ethel is right. You're right. You're all right.

BRYANT: I can't believe I had to bring out the Ethel Merman that quickly.

SAGAL: I know. It was. He - Brian Eno was paid $30,000 to write the sound that the Windows 95 started when you've turned it on.

BRYANT: Brilliant.

SAGAL: There you are. All right. Next question - Brian De Palma, director of the 1983 film "Scarface," was forced by the MPAA to make several cuts to get the film down from an X rating to get an R rating. After doing so, what did he do? A, a giant mound of cocaine...


SAGAL: ...B, he put the deleted scenes back in because he figured no one would notice; or C, he sang the vocals in a Hoover vacuum jingle?


BRYANT: I mean, I'm realizing I don't like games.


BRYANT: OK, A. I'm going to say it...

SAGAL: You're going to...

BRYANT: ...Because I think it's the most fun.

SAGAL: He did the giant mound of - no, I'm afraid it was actually B. He just put all the cut scenes back in the movie.

BRYANT: Of course.

SAGAL: Last question - if you get this right, you win. The last question is about Brian Johnson. He was the lead singer of AC/DC, one of the great bands of the 1980s. On the same day he auditioned to be the lead singer of AC/DC on a day in 1980, just a few hours earlier, what was he doing? A, he was doing AC repair at DC Comics...


SAGAL: ...B, he was doing dirty deeds, and he was doing them dirt cheap...


SAGAL: ...Or C, he was singing the vocals in a Hoover vacuum jingle?


BRYANT: I mean, if it's not C, I've got to be blasted to the moon.


SAGAL: So you're going to go with C?


SAGAL: Does Ethel agree?

BRYANT: (Imitating Ethel Merman) Yes.


SAGAL: Then yes, it was, in fact, C.


BRYANT: Oh, yes. Yes.


BRYANT: Thank God.

SAGAL: Literally the day he successfully auditioned to be the lead singer of AC/DC, Brian Johnson went to a commercial studio, and he recorded this jingle for Hoover vacuums.


BRIAN JOHNSON: (Singing) Right to the edge. Changing a bag is easy as A-B-C. When you have power compact from Hoover, it's a beautiful mover.


ROCCA: Yeah.

SAGAL: There you go.


BURKE: That's amazing.

FARSAD: Oh, my God.

BRYANT: That is hilarious.


SAGAL: I know.

BURKE: That sounds like something you would do on a "Saturday Night Live" audition.

SAGAL: Right.

BURKE: This is...

SAGAL: And here's the lead singer of AC/DC doing a vacuum commercial.

BRYANT: Absolutely.

SAGAL: Yeah. Chioke, how did Aidy Bryant do on our quiz?

I'ANSON: Aidy is very funny, and she got 2 out of 3 right, making her a winner.

ROCCA: It's all...

SAGAL: Congratulations.


BRYANT: Thank you. Thank you.

SAGAL: Aidy Bryant is the star of "Shrill" on Hulu. You can also see her on "Saturday Night Live."

Aidy Bryant, thank you so much for being with us.


BRYANT: My pleasure.

SAGAL: What a pleasure to meet you.

BRYANT: Thank you.

SAGAL: Aidy Bryant, everybody.


SAGAL: Coming up, a man who did the impossible - he made politicians seem charming and funny - and a politician who doesn't need any help in that department. That's in a minute on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.