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History of Libraries

Apr 16, 2021
Originally published on April 16, 2021 4:17 pm

Timothy Simons (Veep, The Pole) and Theodore Bressman (The Pole) are quizzed on their library knowledge. Can they Dewey Decimate this quiz?

Heard on Yo-Yo Ma: Civic Duty

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Our next two contestants are amazing. Timothy Simons starred as Jonah Ryan on "Veep," and he stars in the sci-fi animated comedy "The Pole," which is about a scandal involving St. Nick himself. The series is created and produced by Theodore Bressman. Tim, Teddy, welcome to ASK ME ANOTHER.

TIMOTHY SIMONS: Pleasure to be here. Thanks for having us.



EISENBERG: Excellent. So I just want to dive right in because, you know, as I'm looking at what you both have been up to over the course of a time where there has not been a lot going on, I got to just commend you - kind of been doing a lot in this pause of a life. Well done.

SIMONS: I will say, like, I am very lucky in the sense that, like, I have been pretty busy work wise, but - and I also have been running a home school.

EISENBERG: Yeah. How's that going?

SIMONS: Terrible.


SIMONS: I mean, it's awful. It's awful. Nothing - one thing that I've learned is that your kids will speak to you in a way that they would never speak to another adult human because they ultimately know - they don't know specifically that it's illegal for me to just leave them somewhere.


SIMONS: But they know in their hearts that I love them too much to ever get rid of them. But they know that a babysitter or a teacher doesn't.


BRESSMAN: I will say this, though. The one time that I, like, was Zooming with Tim and saw his child out of nowhere, his son walked into the room, hugged him, said, I love you, and then left.

JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: Oh, that sounds terrible, Tim.

SIMONS: Well, look. Teddy saw the one moment in the last 384 days that was (inaudible).

EISENBERG: (Laughter).


SIMONS: He was doing it for show.



EISENBERG: OK. So the current animated series that you have going together, just to describe it for everybody, it's like a scandal involving Santa Claus. I would say that it's adult content, right? This is don't watch the trailer with your kids around necessarily. There's some language and mature ideas. It feels to be like two very funny friends created this together out of, like, an ongoing inside joke.

BRESSMAN: Well, this was a pilot that me and my friend - this dude Matt Bass wrote a while ago. And, like, one of the things that we really thought about is like there's obviously such a massive amount of Christmas content. What we're interested in is taking a view of the North Pole like the other 364 days out of the year. We really wanted it to, like, not air remotely near Christmas and like really just, like, be about the political machine of toy production.


BRESSMAN: And then that quickly, like, gave us this idea to build like a metaphorical corollary to like the current divide in America. We felt like the naughty list in particular is sort of like - could be like mined as a very stringent, like, by the book, unfair evaluation without context of child behavior. So that kind of like got us going. And then we just got deep down this rabbit hole of, like, '90s partisan politics. That's what the show is.


BRESSMAN: And it's short form, so it's completely insane. But I would definitely watch it. It's...


EISENBERG: All right. Let's chat some more, but let's play a game, guys. All right. we have a game for you that's multiple choices. This first one is multiple choice. It's called The History Of Libraries.



SIMONS: Very sexy. Very sexy game.

EISENBERG: I know. Tim, what makes the Haskell Free Library Unique? Is it, A, that it's located on the Vermont-Quebec border, so part of it's in the United States and part of it is in Canada? Is it B, at night, it turns into a speakeasy called The Stacks? Or is it C, that instead of charging late fees, they pay you for returning books early?

SIMONS: I grew up in Maine. And there is a very weird fascination, like the sort of playground stories that you hear about kids whose backyards are in Canada but the front - their front door's in the United States. So just just going off that, I'm going to go with A, that part of it is in Canada, and part of it is in the United States, because that would be like a very Vermont thing.

EISENBERG: You are correct.


EISENBERG: But my question is, while in the library, can they - Americans and Canadians, can they fall in love?

COULTON: (Laughter).


COULTON: Here's one for you, Teddy. Up until 2016, how would librarians at the 42nd Street location of the New York Public Library find the book you wanted? This is up until 2016. A, they'd say, hey, I'm reading over here, and ignore your request. B, junior librarians would spend their first year running up and down flights of stairs filling requests. Or C, a system of pneumatic tubes and Ferris wheel-like conveyor belts?

BRESSMAN: Whoa. I do - I have a vision in my head of someone like tugging the ear of one of those lions outside and then that, like, starting this process. So I'm going to go with C.

COULTON: You are correct. I mean, you were correct in that it's C. I don't think the lion's ear is involved in any way, but yeah, they have...

BRESSMAN: It doesn't - the book doesn't come out of the lion's ear.

EISENBERG: Oh, that would be amazing.

COULTON: Only in a cool movie about a library heist.

EISENBERG: OK. Tim, the Library of Congress is the largest active library in the world and home to one of the smallest books. It's called "Old King Cole." How small is this book? Is it A, the size of a No. 2 pencil eraser? Is it B, about the size of a period at the end of a sentence? Or is it C, the size of an entree at a very expensive restaurant?

SIMONS: I'm going with A.

EISENBERG: Yeah, you're incorrect.


EISENBERG: The answer is B. The answer is B.


COULTON: All right, Teddy, how do some libraries in Portugal protect their books from pests? A, all visitors must wear hairnets, booties and gloves to avoid bringing in pests from outside. B, the libraries are home to bat colonies that come out at night to eat any bugs or pests. Or C, they built their pests their own mini library, where they can eat as many books as they want.

BRESSMAN: (Laughter) I think I got to go B. I mean, that B seemed like the realistic choice there.

COULTON: Yeah, you're right. You're absolutely right. And there actually are actually two libraries from the 18th century that keep a colony of bats behind the stacks. And they were released in the night to protect the books from pests.

BRESSMAN: I actually confused my answer. I was meaning to answer A there.

COULTON: Oh, wow.

BRESSMAN: (Laughter) I thought that the hairnet one was the realistic one.

COULTON: No, that is incorrect.

BRESSMAN: I'm so - all right. Cool. Well, that's great. Yeah. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.