A lot of people leave their hometowns and never come back. But comedian and game show host Drew Carey, proud son of Cleveland, made a special trip back home to play Wait Wait's Not My Job quiz.
We've invited him to play a game called "Cincinnati! City of Light! City of Magic!" Carey's a Cleveland guy, born and bred, so we'll ask him three questions about another great Ohio city.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now, the game where we invite famous people on to answer questions about obscure things. A lot of guys leave their hometowns and never come back. Comedian and game show host and generally good guy Drew Carey, proud son of Cleveland, came back just to appear on our show. Man, he must love this place. Drew, welcome back to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!.
DREW CAREY: Yeah, good to be here, man. I never miss a chance to come back to Cleveland because I love to get together with everybody and complain about the weather and the Indians and the weather and the Cavs and the weather and the Browns.
CAREY: The weather.
SAGAL: You just come here to weep collectively.
CAREY: Yeah, very much.
SAGAL: But you love this place. You grew up here, right?
CAREY: Yeah, yeah. No, I love it here. I still have a house here, actually.
SAGAL: So you grew up in a neighborhood called Old Brooklyn, I read.
CAREY: Yeah, Old Brooklyn area, yeah.
SAGAL: What was it like? Was it not the bad old days in Cleveland? The burning river days and...
CAREY: There are no bad old days in Cleveland.
MO ROCCA: Why is it called Cleveland?
CAREY: That's the name of the guy, Moses Cleveland, who founded it. He was an architect and he came out here and he, like, measured the city, he founded it and then he left.
SAGAL: I'm not staying here.
CAREY: True story, yeah.
SAGAL: I can tell the sports teams will never succeed, I shall leave.
CAREY: It depends on how you define...
SAGAL: You started it.
CAREY: It depends on how you define success, you know.
SAGAL: Define success in a Cleveland-centric way.
CAREY: Define success in a Cleveland-centric way, OK. Hey, the Browns are going to be 8-8 this year.
CAREY: How about this? I think the Cavs are going to have a really good draft.
CAREY: And then you walk around happy for a couple of days, because you've got a prospect, or you know what I mean.
ROCCA: Are there beaches in Cleveland?
CAREY: Yeah. Are there beaches in Cleveland? There's beaches, per se.
SAGAL: There's a place where the land meets the water.
SAGAL: There is sometimes sand.
CAREY: Sand, yeah. Yeah, you don't want to go - unless you love pink eye.
KYRIE O'CONNOR: And who doesn't?
CAREY: If you like pink eye, hop right in, man.
ROCCA: It's pretty.
SAGAL: I once read that Calvin Trillin said that he grew up in Kansas City and he had his townhouse in New York and he tried to make his home like Kansas City, New York. Have you ever like - do you try to make a little Cleveland for yourself in LA? And if so, how?
CAREY: Oh yeah, I don't clean my water before I drink it.
SAGAL: There you go.
CAREY: I make sure I get the dirtiest water possible to swim in, in my pool. I never clean my pool.
SAGAL: Sometimes set it on fire.
CAREY: Yeah, I have a little mini-factory in the side of my house to dump sludge into my pool.
SAGAL: I've noticed, they're not laughing anymore, man.
SAGAL: They thought you love them and now look.
ALONZO BODDEN: I know. All this is coming from the guy who loves Cleveland.
SAGAL: I know.
CAREY: I do. I love Cleveland. We can joke amongst ourselves.
SAGAL: We can do that. You got your start in standup here in Cleveland.
CAREY: Yeah, I sure did, yeah.
SAGAL: So were you just like doing amateur night at the local clubs? What were you doing?
CAREY: Yeah, yeah. Well, yeah, I did amateur nights. They had an ad in the paper. They were looking for local comics, so I auditioned. And they hired me to emcee. And the first week, it was a Wednesday through Saturday. And Wednesday I did ten minutes. Thursday, they cut me down to five minutes. And on Friday, they said just introduce the other comics.
CAREY: By the time the weekend came, I was just like "hi, welcome to the club."
SAGAL: It's great though, you were working less for the same money. So it was terrific, right?
CAREY: Well, I didn't get any money. I got like drinks, so it didn't matter anyway.
ROCCA: What do people from Cleveland think of people from Cincinnati? Are they like Bloods and Crips or what are they?
CAREY: Don't get me started, man.
ROCCA: Oh really?
CAREY: Yeah. Well, like remember when Sam White, he used to come to the Cincinnati Bengals and somebody through a snowball during a game. They were throwing snowballs. And he said "you're not in Cleveland, dammit, you're in Cincinnati."
ROCCA: So shape up, you're in Cincinnati.
CAREY: Yeah, to remind them like we're a better city than Cleveland. And then my joke at the time was hey, you're not in the playoffs, dammit, you're in Cincinnati.
SAGAL: Can you remember any of your early material, when you were telling jokes around town here? It's hard, I know.
CAREY: I'd rather not. We're trying to do a comedy show here.
SAGAL: I understand.
SAGAL: Is it true that you were discovered in part because of "Star Search"?
CAREY: Yeah, I was on "Star Search." Well, I was on "Star Search," and that helped me get an audition for the "Tonight Show." And then it didn't matter anyway because after I auditioned for the "Tonight Show" and I got it, and then I was in LA and I was sitting at a friend of mine's house, and the guy that books the "Tonight Show" knew I was there.
And he called me to do the show but I was gone, and this was before cell phones, and nobody could get a hold of me all day, because I was out and about. And so I missed doing the "Tonight Show." So all that fell down and fell through the cracks. And then I had to go back out on the road. It took me three years of road work to get another audition to do the "Tonight Show" and get back.
SAGAL: Oh wow. You think your life would have been different if you had been there and you had gotten that first call?
CAREY: Yeah, it would have been not as good.
CAREY: Yeah, I wasn't as funny when I first got the call to do it. And I wasn't as good and I couldn't have even have headlined then. I just happened to be - I had so many minutes that were funny and I had a look. So I think that's why he liked me. But I'm glad I did all that road work, because by the time I did get it, I was a really strong headliner and I could take advantage of everything.
SAGAL: So if you had taken that call, maybe you would have ended up in some sort of sad job like hosting a game show.
SAGAL: So you and I share a moment...
CAREY: On the radio.
SAGAL: Oh god.
SAGAL: Nothing worse. The first time you were on the show, you had been doing "The Price is Right" just for a little while and you were loving it.
SAGAL: You said nothing you like more to do than give other people's money away.
CAREY: I love it. CBS' money, not my money.
SAGAL: Yeah. It's been many years. You still love it?
CAREY: I love it. It's one of the best jobs I've ever had. I'm telling you if you ever - I used to belong to a Pentecostal church, an Assembly of God church when I was kid. Not anymore.
CAREY: But that's the closest atmosphere that you could ever get to having like a "come to Jesus" like Holy Roller is the audience of "Price of Right," because they're all like there's this love embrace. They're rooting for strangers to do well. They're all hugging and high fiving and they just met in line and they just "oh, you're the greatest guy."
It's like, and then I'm sure it's like summer camp when it's over. They're like "oh call me" and they never call each other.
CAREY: I have a couple of funny "Price is Right" stories.
SAGAL: By all means.
CAREY: Well, the best one was we had a whole audience full of pregnant women on the show. And it was a baby shower show, we were stunting the show. So we had a baby shower show and giving away stuff like strollers, really expensive strollers and stuff, and minivans instead of regular cars. So it was an audience full of pregnant women and I want to say something nice at the end of the show.
So, I said "Hey, I know everybody's pregnant. So I just want to say from the bottom of my heart, I hope you have a happy, healthy baby and I hope your pregnancy goes well. By the way, don't forget to get your pets spayed or neutered."
CAREY: And as I was saying it, I was like, oh.
CAREY: But it just kind of came out.
SAGAL: Somewhere Bob Barker laughed and laughed.
CAREY: Yeah. I promised him I'd say it every show, so I had to say it.
SAGAL: Well, Drew Carey, we have invited you here to play a game this time we're calling.
CARL KASELL: Cincinnati.
KASELL: City of Light. City of Magic.
CAREY: I have no idea.
SAGAL: You remember the theme of the game, stuff you don't know about.
CAREY: I love Cincinnati.
SAGAL: Why not ask you about the other city, Cincinnati.
CAREY: I love Cincinnati, I love Cincinnati, I love Cincinnati.
SAGAL: Get two out of three right you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice on their home voicemail or answering machine, whatever they got. Carl, who is Drew Carey playing for?
KASELL: Drew is playing for Teresa Swach of Euclid, Ohio.
SAGAL: There you are.
SAGAL: You ready to do this?
CAREY: Yeah, you might as well ask me questions about Euclid.
SAGAL: You know they call Boston, Beantown. They call New York, The Big Apple.
CAREY: Yeah. Yeah.
SAGAL: Cincinnati, very early on its history got its own nickname. Was it A: Slagheap City?
SAGAL: B: Porkopolis? C: Florence on the Ohio?
ROCCA: I love that one.
CAREY: Oh god, Porkopolips.
SAGAL: Actually, no, it's actually Porkopolis is the name.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: But you're right. The Porkopolips is when we're all killed by the...
SAGAL: Oh no, bacon from the skies.
SAGAL: No, the city, in its early days, was a big hog packing center. They used to be...
CAREY: Oh, they still are.
SAGAL: There you are.
ROCCA: The Ohio civil war is going to break out.
SAGAL: Your next question, the Cincinnati Reds baseball team had a problem in the 50s in that Red was a term meaning communist. Communist was not popular.
SAGAL: So the team responded how? A: With the Slogan: We were Red Before Those Godless Commies?
SAGAL: B: They changed the team name to The Redlegs? Or C: They started each game with one player hitting a guy playing Joe Stalin with a bat?
ROCCA: Oh my god. That's very creative.
SAGAL: Thus to demonstrate their loyalty.
CAREY: Cincinnati Redlegs.
SAGAL: You're right?
SAGAL: You think that's it, the Cincinnati Redlegs.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
CAREY: That's easy, being a baseball fan.
SAGAL: That's true. The Cincinnati Redlegs, twice in the 50s.
SAGAL: All right, let's see if you can go for perfect. Here's your last question. There are many legends of and about Cincinnati. One of the ones that persisted for years was which of these? A: That the city was built on an ancient Indian burial ground, and the ghosts forever cursed the Bengals?
SAGAL: B: That once, a village populated entirely by midgets existed north of town? Or C: That the entire city was built on a spaceship, and will one day take off, like on the cover of that Boston album?
ROCCA: It's very scientology.
CAREY: So they were either a bunch of midgets that lived north of Cincinnati.
SAGAL: Yeah, there's legends about Cincinnati that people whisper around their campfires.
CAREY: Right. Or that the whole city was a spaceship.
CAREY: That would take off.
CAREY: Or that it?
SAGAL: Was built on an Indian burial ground, thus explaining the Bengals.
CAREY: Built on an Indian burial ground. Oh man. I have to say the Indian burial ground.
SAGAL: That would explain a lot if it were true.
SAGAL: Everybody likes it. Sadly, it was midgets. It was the midget land.
SAGAL: It's true. For many, many years, it was believed that just north of town there was a place where only midgets lived. They called it Munchkinland.
SAGAL: The high school kids would all come up to see the people. But no, it turns out it was just a home that from the road looked like it had tiny windows and doors, and so they...
CAREY: Well that's Cincinnati for you, huh?
SAGAL: No midgets at all. Carl, how did Drew Carey do on our quiz?
KASELL: Drew had two correct answers, Peter. That's good enough to win for Teresa Swach.
SAGAL: Well done.
CAREY: Yay, Teresa.
SAGAL: Drew Carey is a comedian and the host of "The Price is Right" and a son of Cleveland. Drew Carey, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!.
CAREY: Thanks everybody.
SAGAL: Drew Carey.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.