Ask Me Another
11:07 am
Thu January 30, 2014

Bad To The Future

Babe Ruth's famous "called shot" is an example of a freakily accurate prediction. But what about those that don't work out quite as well? In this game, house musician Jonathan Coulton asks our contestants about some historical predictions gone spectacularly wrong.

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Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Let's meet our next two contestants, Eric Brownell and Tim Rank.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Both visiting us. Eric, you're visiting from Virginia?

ERIC BROWNELL: Yes. Just outside of D.C.

EISENBERG: And you work at the Folger Shakespearean Library.

BROWNELL: Yeah, the Folger Shakespeare Library.

EISENBERG: And are you truly a Shakes - is that just a job or are you really...

BROWNELL: I was not a Shakespeare person when I started.

EISENBERG: OK. Do you have a favorite play?

BROWNELL: I like the Henry plays, actually.

EISENBERG: Oh.

BROWNELL: The Henry IV, yeah especially.

EISENBERG: All right.

BROWNELL: All the Falstaff stuff is great.

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah?

BROWNELL: Yeah.

EISENBERG: Kind of dark?

BROWNELL: No. Quite the opposite. Yeah, it's - or I mean it gets dark at the end, but...

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: They all get kind of dark at the end.

BROWNELL: ...I suppose. It does not end well for Falstaff.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: No it doesn't.

BROWNELL: No.

JONATHAN COULTON: No spoilers, please.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Awesome.

And Tim, you're visiting us from Minneapolis.

TIM RANT: That's true.

EISENBERG: Now we have something in common, kind of. You - I'm the youngest of six, but you are the youngest of nine.

RANT: That is also true.

EISENBERG: Oh, my god. I can't - we, we need to talk. We have to - maybe we should go to therapy together.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Were you - a lot of competition in your family?

RANT: A lot of competition. Mm-hmm.

EISENBERG: Did you guys - was it any trivia game? Was there a lot of game play?

RANT: Really, every game is pretty aggressive, pretty cutthroat.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: All right. So you're ready for this is what you're saying.

RANT: I hope so.

EISENBERG: OK. Well, this game is called Bad to the Future. And yes, this is a game for Jonathan Coulton.

COULTON: Indeed. Well, let's be honest, we all love to predict the future, but in reality, we're pretty bad at it. What we are good at however, is laughing at stupid predictions people made in the past.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Take that old dumb dead people.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: So contestants, in this round I'm going to ask you questions. I meant it too, I don't care.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: They're dead, what are they going to do? So contestants, in this round I'm going to ask you questions about past predictions for the future that have proven to be very, very bad. Are you ready?

BROWNELL: Yes.

RANT: Yes.

COULTON: Here we go. In 1927, H.M. Warner, one of the founders of Warner Brothers, wondered, who the hell wants to hear actors do what?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Tim.

RANT: Speak.

COULTON: That's right.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: "Die Her Five," got to agree would've been better.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: As a silent film. Yeah.

EISENBERG: Silent film.

COULTON: Almost anything would've made it better.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication, was Western Union's initial take on what?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Eric.

BROWNELL: The telegram.

COULTON: No. I'm sorry. Not the telegram. Tim?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Tim?

RANT: The telegraph.

COULTON: No, not the telegram, not the telegraph.

RANT: Telephone?

COULTON: Yes. But it's too late. You've both gotten that wrong.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Telephone is correct. A famous quote by President Grover Cleveland claims that sensible and responsible women do not want to do what?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Tim.

RANT: Wear pants?

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: That's right. That was Grover Cleveland's no pants on women platform. That is incorrect. Eric?

BROWNELL: Vote?

COULTON: Vote is the answer we were looking for. That's right.

EISENBERG: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: And they certainly weren't going to vote for Grover Cleveland, obviously.

RANT: Or for pants, for that matter.

EISENBERG: Or for pants.

COULTON: Or for pants. No thanks.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

COULTON: Women to Grover Cleveland, no thanks.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Soon as I get on pants I'm going to vote. You'll see.

(LAUGHTER)

RANT: I was told if I didn't know the answer just say pants.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: It's a good word.

COULTON: It's a good strategy.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

COULTON: It's obviously worked out well for you.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: John Lennon said The Beatles were bigger than Jesus. But what '90s English rock band said they were going to be bigger than God?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Eric.

BROWNELL: Oasis?

COULTON: Oasis is right.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: In a move that would make even CNN cringe, what infamous three-word headline appeared atop the front page of the Chicago Tribune on November 3rd, 1948?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Tim.

RANT: Dewey defeats Truman.

COULTON: Yes. And yet, he did not.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: In 1900, "Ladies Homes Journal" predicted that by the year 2000, there would be no more mosquitoes or flies, cars would be cheaper than horses, and what language would be the worlds most popular after English?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Eric.

BROWNELL: Latin.

ART CHUNG: Latin.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: That would've been a very bad prediction, for sure.

EISENBERG: That's a good idea.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Tim, do you have an idea?

RANT: German.

COULTON: Not German. No, I'm sorry. Anybody know?

AUDIENCE: Esperanto.

COULTON: Oh, I wish it was Esperanto. No.

EISENBERG: No. Esperanto. I know "Ladies Home Journal," we're all making it into some like intellectual high-minded, global.

COULTON: Russian. I have no idea why.

EISENBERG: Russian.

COULTON: Just seem like a good bet at the time, I guess.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: They were like, what if we only talked about Vodka and hockey, what a dream world the future would be.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: All right. This is your last clue. Steve Jobs once said that inventor Dean Kamen's Project Ginger was so groundbreaking architects would redesign cities around it. When it was finally introduced in 2001, it was not a working hoverboard, but what other transportation device?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Tim.

RANT: Segway?

COULTON: The Segway.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: Art, how did they do?

CHUNG: I predict we'll see Tim later on in the show.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Congratulations, Tim. You'll be moving on to our final round.

(APPLAUSE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.