WIUM Tristates Public Radio

The Chortle Instruments

Apr 30, 2021

Actor Mary Holland and director Maureen Bharoocha (Golden Arm) listen to clips of unusual musical instruments. The title of this game is a gratuitous pun of a series of young adult fantasy novels.

Heard on Maria Bamford & Richard Kind: Yogurt Is Gold, Baby.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Our next two guests are funny people and creative collaborators. Mary Holland is an actor who starred in the romantic comedy "Happiest Season." Maureen Bharoocha is a director on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" Their new film, "Golden Arm," is about a national women's arm-wrestling championship. It just premiered in theaters and on digital. Mary, Maureen, welcome to ASK ME ANOTHER.

MAUREEN BHAROOCHA: Hi.

MARY HOLLAND: Hi. So excited to be here.

BHAROOCHA: Thanks for having us.

EISENBERG: A pleasure. So the new film called "Golden Arm" - Mary, as the star of this movie - so, you know, what kind of rigorous training did you have to do to prepare...

HOLLAND: Oh, my gosh.

EISENBERG: ...Yourself for the athleticism required?

HOLLAND: I...

BHAROOCHA: Mary got her guns. She had muscles. Mary had like...

JONATHAN COULTON: (Laughter).

HOLLAND: I did pushups with one arm for three months - no.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

HOLLAND: I did - but I did try to - I was like, I want to, like - I got to be able to sell this, so I need to, like, be in shape and...

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

HOLLAND: But also, everybody I arm-wrestled had to lose to me. So I think...

EISENBERG: Right.

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Right.

HOLLAND: I - yeah.

BHAROOCHA: But honestly, when Mary came to set, we - I think we were at, like - me and the DP, Chris, were like, Mary's muscle is, like, legit. Like...

HOLLAND: That's just good lighting.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLLAND: That's just good lighting.

EISENBERG: All right. Would you guys like to play a couple games?

HOLLAND: Yes.

BHAROOCHA: Yeah.

EISENBERG: All right. So this first one, you're going to take turns answering questions. So technically, you will be competing.

BHAROOCHA: OK.

HOLLAND: OK.

BHAROOCHA: All right. Get ready, Mary.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) So we're going to play you a clip of a non-conventional musical instrument, and you have to identify what you're hearing. But don't worry, we have multiple choice...

HOLLAND: Oh, OK.

EISENBERG: ...Answers...

BHAROOCHA: OK. OK.

EISENBERG: ...For you to choose from. OK. So here we go. Maureen, this first one is for you. What is this instrument called?

(SOUNDBITE OF ZEUSAPHONE'S "IN THE HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN KING")

COULTON: That's funky.

BHAROOCHA: I don't know what it is, but I dig whatever it is.

EISENBERG: Yeah, I know. That does remind me of, like, one of my apartments that was too close to a nightclub. OK. Is that...

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Is it - A, the hive synth, a device that pitch shifts the sounds of a live beehive; is it B, a tambour meme, which is a computer-operated instrument that outputs sounds according to what's going viral on the internet; or is it C...

HOLLAND: Oh, my God.

EISENBERG: ...The Zeusaphone, which is a pair of giant Tesla coils that generates sound with the power of lightning?

BHAROOCHA: Whew. I don't think it's a Tesla coil because we do have one of those at the Griffith Observatory that I do enjoy.

EISENBERG: Oh, interesting.

COULTON: Oh.

BHAROOCHA: I'm going to...

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Huh.

HOLLAND: I do enjoy that Tesla coil.

BHAROOCHA: I do enjoy...

COULTON: I do enjoy that Tesla coil.

BHAROOCHA: You push the button - maybe it does sound like that.

HOLLAND: It is fun.

BHAROOCHA: I'm going to say A?

EISENBERG: The beehive?

BHAROOCHA: Yeah, the beehive?

EISENBERG: OK. Maybe it's time for a trip back to the Griffith Observatory.

BHAROOCHA: Oh.

EISENBERG: It is the - yeah - the singing Tesla coil. You're right.

HOLLAND: Wow.

EISENBERG: Trademarked in 2007 as the world's first commercially available musical Tesla coil.

BHAROOCHA: Wow.

HOLLAND: That is...

EISENBERG: Yup.

HOLLAND: That is very exciting. I mean, I feel like that's a really specific genre of music that you could play that instrument...

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Totally.

COULTON: I mean, just from that clip, it doesn't sound like the most expressive instrument in the world.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLLAND: No. It's also not something you put on when you're, like, getting a massage or something.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Yeah, right.

EISENBERG: Or even just, like, getting ready for a date.

HOLLAND: What?

COULTON: It's a little much.

EISENBERG: I mean, unless you're Elon Musk. Maybe that's his motivational music. I don't know.

COULTON: (Laughter) Yes, totally Elon Musk.

HOLLAND: Oh, yeah.

COULTON: All right. Mary, this is for you. What instrument are you hearing in this clip from a Tiny Desk concert?

(SOUNDBITE OF THE MUSIC TAPES' "THE FIRST NOEL")

HOLLAND: I want to say - off the top of my head, it's a bunch of ghosts.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: That's a good guess.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

COULTON: I do have multiple choice, though. Let me give you...

HOLLAND: Oh, that's right.

COULTON: ...The multiple choice.

HOLLAND: That's right. OK.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

COULTON: Is it A, a theremin; B, singing wineglasses; or C, a handsaw?

HOLLAND: OK, listen. I have played with wineglasses.

COULTON: Uh huh.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

HOLLAND: But I feel like the woo-woo-woo-woo-woo-woo-woo (ph) - the, like - that makes me think it's a saw. I haven't played with saws very much, so...

COULTON: But you are correct nonetheless. It is a saw. That's right.

EISENBERG: Nice.

COULTON: This is Julian...

HOLLAND: Wow.

COULTON: ...Koster of the bands Neutral Milk Hotel and The Music Tapes.

BHAROOCHA: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I liked that band.

COULTON: And the saw is a long, flexible handsaw that you play with a bow.

HOLLAND: Yeah.

COULTON: And you control the pitch by bending - how much the saw is bending.

HOLLAND: That is amazing. How do people figure these things out?

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Very fond memories of being, like, the kid at a wedding and just being bored, but at a table with 40 wineglasses...

BHAROOCHA: Oh, yes.

COULTON: ...With varying degrees of liquid in them.

HOLLAND: Yes. Oh, my gosh.

COULTON: That's when you can really rock.

HOLLAND: That's a good way to keep entertained for sure.

EISENBERG: And putting your finger on all of them, and then they take your glass away.

COULTON: Touching...

HOLLAND: Yes.

COULTON: Licking your finger and touching everybody's glass.

EISENBERG: And you're like...

(LAUGHTER)

HOLLAND: That's fun. Everybody loves that at a wedding, especially now.

COULTON: It was another time. It was another time.

EISENBERG: All right, Maureen. This instrument was a big hit on "Spain's Got Talent." What is this that is playing along to "Nessun Dorma"?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BHAROOCHA: Wow.

EISENBERG: All right.

COULTON: Just going to wipe some tears away.

HOLLAND: That gave me chills.

BHAROOCHA: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: OK, here we go. Was it, A, a talking doll whose string is being pulled to create music? Was it, B, a novelty instrument shaped like a musical note with a face at the bottom? Or is it, C, a dentist's drill?

BHAROOCHA: First of all, I never would have guessed any three of those. I was like...

(LAUGHTER)

BHAROOCHA: I'm going to - wow. I'm going to say - I'm just going to go No. 2.

EISENBERG: You are correct. Yeah, this is a handheld synth-shaped-like eighth note with a face at the bottom, and you play it using two hands, controlling the pitch by moving one hand along the stem, while the other one squeezes the face, which opens and closes the mouth to activate the sound.

HOLLAND: Sounds like regular singing.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Yes.

HOLLAND: Just squeeze your...

COULTON: It's been like singing but no body.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: All right, Mary. What is music producer Kurt Schneider using to play "Take On Me" in this clip?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

COULTON: Is it, A, a washing machine; B, a Gameboy; C, a fancy electric toilet?

HOLLAND: Oh, it's a washing machine.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: It is a washing machine.

BHAROOCHA: Yeah.

COULTON: Yeah, it's very clear.

HOLLAND: You can't mistake those dings.

COULTON: Did you recognize the tone? Yeah.

HOLLAND: Yes, the dings are very specific. And then the sort of really aggressive and disturbing, like - chonk, chonk (ph), you know?

(LAUGHTER)

HOLLAND: Like, that kind of - that sound, it's just so specific to doing laundry. So...

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Yeah.

EISENBERG: Yeah. All right, Maureen. This clip is from a performance by a special orchestra in Austria.

BHAROOCHA: All right.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EISENBERG: What are their instruments made from? Are they made from A, vegetables; B, motorcycle parts; or, C, dog toys?

(LAUGHTER)

BHAROOCHA: Wow.

HOLLAND: What's the difference? Am I right?

(LAUGHTER)

BHAROOCHA: I'm going to say - you know, I'm thinking, gourd. I'm going to say vegetable.

EISENBERG: Yes, that's right.

HOLLAND: (Laughter) I'm thinking gourd.

EISENBERG: It's the Vegetable Orchestra. They were founded in 1998 in Vienna, Austria. And they perform, as their name implies, entirely with instruments made from vegetables. And then they serve their audience vegetable soup after most performances made with the leftover (laughter) produce or, I guess, instruments...

BHAROOCHA: Oh, I see.

EISENBERG: ...That may not be as functioning well.

BHAROOCHA: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: All right, this is the last clue. Mary, what are you hearing in this clip?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

COULTON: So is it, A, children playing 3D-printed recorders; B, the sound of wind blowing across a tubular playground slide in the world's first musical playground; or, C, an organ played by ocean waves crashing into it?

HOLLAND: I think it's C.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Yes, C is correct. It is an organ played by ocean waves crashing into it.

HOLLAND: Wow.

COULTON: It's the Zadar Sea Organ in Croatia. And as the waves kind of go in and out, they move air through these, essentially, organ pipes.

HOLLAND: That is so cool.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EISENBERG: All right. Well done. Well done on that...

BHAROOCHA: That was so fun.

EISENBERG: ...On the wild sound game.

HOLLAND: Thank you.

EISENBERG: We'll play another game with Maureen Bharoocha and Mary Holland after the break. And I'll talk to Sierra Teller Ornelas, co-creator and writer of the new Mike Schur sitcom "Rutherford Falls." I'll ask her if Rutherford gets up again.

COULTON: Boo.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) I'm Ophira Eisenberg, and this is ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.