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Not My Job: We Quiz Actor, Filmmaker Isabella Rossellini On Taco Bell(a)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Today's program was taped before an audience of no one.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. It's summertime, and the Bill-in' (ph) is easy. I'm Bill Kurtis. And here's your host whose wife is still angry at him for dumping sand in the kitchen to make a quarantine beach, Peter Sagal.

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

Thank you, Bill.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE SOUND EFFECT)

SAGAL: So every year, summer seems to be over a little quicker, the days getting shorter long before you're ready to see it all go. Fortunately, we've now solved that problem by making every single day exactly like every other one forever.

KURTIS: The good news is you can wear white long after Labor Day now because time has no meaning.

SAGAL: But we're doing our best to enjoy what we are told is summer, and we're doing it the traditional way - by lazing around and thinking about all the fun things we did back when we were at work.

KURTIS: For example, we got to talk to actress and model Isabella Rossellini, who went from international sex symbol to sex expert - at least, when it comes to ducks.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

ISABELLA ROSSELLINI: Oh, thanks so much.

SAGAL: Well, now, I did want to talk to you, before we get to your work, a little bit about your parents. I don't know how many people know this, but your mother was - Ingrid Bergman was perhaps the greatest movie star of her age - "Casablanca" and "Gaslight." And your father, Roberto Rossellini, great Italian film director. And how old were you when you realized that your family was not like other people's families?

ROSSELLINI: (Laughter) Well, you know, it took me a while. I didn't understand - you know, I think when you're a child, your family is your family. So I remember that when I went to school, I asked - maybe about 7 or 8 years old - I asked my student to - is my mother - how famous is she? Like Joan Crawford - is she the same as Greta Garbo? I needed a kind of thermometer that other people can give me because for me, I couldn't gauge how famous they were.

SAGAL: You decided to become an actor yourself. Was that something that you resisted because it was your family business or something you embraced?

ROSSELLINI: I did resist it for a long time because I thought that I couldn't be as good as my parents or that I was always going to be compared to them. So I first became a model. Then, in my 30s, I decided to move into acting - which was something that was always offered to me, but I always declined it.

SAGAL: That's all well and good. Modeling - whatever. Acting - fine. Let's talk about animal sex...

(LAUGHTER)

ROSSELLINI: OK.

SAGAL: ...Because this is what I'm interested in. You did...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Let me rephrase that.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: That is an academic subject which I find fascinating.

(LAUGHTER)

ROSSELLINI: It is fascinating. It's very funny (laughter).

SAGAL: I guess it was the mid-2000s...

ROSSELLINI: And that's why I made - I started making funny films about how different animals mate and reproduce.

SAGAL: But - if people have never seen these films, they're called - "Green Porno" is the name...

ROSSELLINI: Yes.

SAGAL: ...Of the series of films. And in it - they're not just lectures. You actually depict the animal. You have these costumes and these sets in which you'll do a piece about, say, the mating habits of ducks.

ROSSELLINI: Yes.

SAGAL: And you, Isabella Rossellini, are a duck.

(LAUGHTER)

ROSSELLINI: I have to tell you that ducks are very special. We always think that courtship is what you need for the female to say yes or no. But ducks have a different method. They evolved a very labyrinthic vagina. A lot of ducks jump on them, and they all try to make love to them. So they have evolved a vagina with several canals they can control, so if they're penetrated by a duck they didn't want to be the father of their babies, they send them to a dead end.

(LAUGHTER)

ROSSELLINI: But if they're penetrated by the duck they like, then that (unintelligible) the right canals that leads it to the eggs, so it has babies.

(LAUGHTER)

MAZ JOBRANI: That's why Daffy Duck didn't have any kids.

SAGAL: I know.

ROSSELLINI: (Laughter).

SAGAL: So I - like, there are films about bugs and snails in which Ms. Rossellini depicts all of them, and they're amazing. But how in the world did you get interested in that stuff? That seems like such a...

ROSSELLINI: I always was interested in animal behavior in general. And then to Sundance, they have a television channel, and they have several other institution. I mean, the most known is the film festival...

SAGAL: Yeah.

ROSSELLINI: ...But they like to work on experimental filmmaking. And they contacted me saying they wanted to create a series of short film on the environmental subject because they knew I was a filmmaker and actress, and I knew about biology, and I had a master degree. And at first, I said, well, I don't know. Nothing comes to mind. And then, like a flash in my head, they had a lot of program called green - you know, "Green Transportation," "Green Housing," green whatever. And I said, oh, "Green Porno."

(LAUGHTER)

ROSSELLINI: And I made a series of 40 short films. You know, they all start with me saying, oh, if I were a fly - and then I transform myself into a fly. Of course, having been a model for many years, I know how to do costumes.

SAGAL: Right. Of course.

ROSSELLINI: It's amazing the way that you can reproduce.

JOBRANI: How do snakes do it?

ROSSELLINI: Oh, snakes - you know, they have a double penis.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, I'm so glad you asked, Maz.

ROSSELLINI: (Unintelligible, Laughter).

SAGAL: You went...

FAITH SALIE: Do the penises compete, or do they work as a team?

(LAUGHTER)

ROSSELLINI: No. Generally - you know, so surprisingly, they only use one at the time.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Yeah.

JOBRANI: Is it penises or penii (ph)?

JOSH GONDELMAN: Caucuses.

JOBRANI: Caucuses, OK.

(LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Well, Isabella Rossellini, we could talk to you about that all day.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: But we do have some...

ROSSELLINI: I'm sure.

SAGAL: We do...

ROSSELLINI: Sex is a fascinating subject.

SAGAL: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And I just want to say - and, Isabella, this is for our audience here in Chicago - there is a little boy sitting right there...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Right where I can see him...

ROSSELLINI: It's OK.

SAGAL: ...Which has made this whole conversation...

ROSSELLINI: I mean, it's nature.

SAGAL: ...So comfortable for me.

ROSSELLINI: It's nature. We haven't said anything...

SAGAL: Well, you either...

ROSSELLINI: ...Dirty. Nature is nature.

SAGAL: That's true. You either made things really difficult for him and his parents when they leave...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Or you've saved them a conversation, so...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Either way...

GONDELMAN: Now, look. It's time to have the talk about the snake and the snake.

SAGAL: Exactly.

(LAUGHTER)

GONDELMAN: When two snakes love each other very much...

(LAUGHTER)

GONDELMAN: Am I helping?

SAGAL: You are. You are.

ROSSELLINI: (Laughter).

SAGAL: Well, Isabella Rossellini, we are so delighted to talk to you. But we've asked you here to play a game we're calling...

KURTIS: Make a Run for the Border.

SAGAL: Your name is Isabella. So we're going to ask you three questions about Taco Bell-a.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Answer three questions about the popular fast food franchise Taco Bell, get two right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners. Bill, who is Isabella Rossellini playing for?

KURTIS: Charlie Alvey of Evansville, Ind.

SAGAL: So here's your first question. People who love Taco Bell truly love Taco Bell, as proved by which of these real-life cases? A, in 2016, a Florida man woke up from a seven-week coma, and the first words he said were, quote, "I want Taco Bell..."

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...B, a woman turned herself permanently orange trying to create the bright orange powder from Doritos Tacos Locos; or C, a woman in Florida named her three children crunch wrap, crunch wrap supreme and an extra crunch wrap supreme.

(LAUGHTER)

GONDELMAN: Well, now you know who the favorite is.

ROSSELLINI: The coma.

SAGAL: The coma.

ROSSELLINI: I like this one.

SAGAL: You're right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

ROSSELLINI: Oh, look at that.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Guy was in a coma.

ROSSELLINI: So lucky.

SAGAL: Guy was in a coma for seven weeks, completely insensate. One day, his brother's sitting there. He opens his eyes and says, I want Taco Bell. And let me tell you something, ladies and gentlemen - he got it.

(LAUGHTER)

ROSSELLINI: Good for him.

GONDELMAN: In Florida, that is a medical treat.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: All right. Here's your next question. As you may know, Taco Bell has a reputation for being the food of choice for drunk or stoned people. That was a reputation that was confirmed when which of these happened? A, in 2011, a man in Florida was so drunk he showed police a Taco Bell taco, thinking it was his driver's license...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...B, Taco Bell reports that 1 in 4 customers take out their money to pay and say, isn't it weird? This is just paper and you give me food for it...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Or C, Taco Bell Inc. has created its own special branded cannabis line called Live Mas Baked (ph).

(LAUGHTER)

ROSSELLINI: No. The one that he's surprised about the paper - that money is paper, and you just give paper, and you get food. I can understand that is a surreal moment.

(LAUGHTER)

ROSSELLINI: It doesn't make any rational sense (unintelligible).

SAGAL: No. And I love that you chose it. The answer, of course, was A, the man in Florida who was so drunk he showed the taco.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: All right. You still can win it all, Isabella. Here we go - your last question. It seems like Taco Bell can do no wrong. But in 2017, they tested one product that never caught on with their customers. What was it? A, the caviar chalupa; B, the nacho suppositorio (ph)...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Or C, the Kit Kat quesadilla.

ROSSELLINI: What about the Kit Kat?

SAGAL: What about the Kit Kat?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

KURTIS: That's it.

SAGAL: That's the answer.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: It was a dessert item, of course. And it did not succeed. Bill, how did Isabella Rossellini do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Isabella, you won because 2 out of 3 right is a win.

SAGAL: Congratulations.

ROSSELLINI: That's wonderful.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Isabella, what an absolute pleasure to talk to you. Thank you so much for joining us...

ROSSELLINI: Thank you.

SAGAL: ...On WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

ROSSELLINI: Thank you so much. Thank you...

SAGAL: What a joy.

ROSSELLINI: ...For having me.

SAGAL: Thank you so much.

KURTIS: Thank you.

ROSSELLINI: Goodbye, everybody.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET'S DO IT (LET'S FALL IN LOVE)")

ELLA FITZGERALD: (Singing) Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it. Let's do it. Let's fall in love. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.