Sounds Like Teen Spirit

Nov 17, 2017
Originally published on April 6, 2018 10:47 am

Finally, a game that combines the glitz of bromocriptine with the glamour of phosphocreatine! We rewrote Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" to be about other things that end with "teen."

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JONATHAN COULTON: This is NPR's ASK ME ANOTHER, I'm Jonathan Coulton here with puzzle guru Art Chung. Now here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.



Thank you, Jonathan. We are here with contestants Kathryn and Leah. And during the break, we all changed into flannels, ripped jeans and combat boots for our next music parody game. Just kidding, the '90s are back. We're kind of already wearing that. Let's check in with our contestants. Kathryn, you are obsessed with the song "Ice, Ice, Baby."

KATHRYN MILLER: Yes. That is true.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) OK, why? Why that song?

MILLER: I don't know. When I was in high school, I was in a pageant, and I danced to that song for my talent. And then one of my good friends and I, we actually won a talent show and was flown to the Philippines based on that song.

EISENBERG: You won a talent show singing that song?

MILLER: Yeah. Our office, they put together this talent show. And they wanted to make sure all the offices across the world got to know each other. So we competed here in New York and won. And they flew us to the Philippines to put on a show.

EISENBERG: Are you singing and dancing, or you...

MILLER: Yeah, we rewrote lyrics to the song to the tune of "Ice, Ice, Baby." And then we performed it.

EISENBERG: To be about?

MILLER: Our work, so.


MILLER: Yeah, it had to be - I think it was themed. We had to do - I don't know. We rewrote it to what we do as attorneys at our company.

EISENBERG: Can you give me one line just so I can...

MILLER: You know, I thought of it on the way here. And I don't remember besides, stop, collaborate and listen. I know we started that.

EISENBERG: Stop, collaborate and listen?


MILLER: That's how it starts.

EISENBERG: That's pretty good. I like that already. Leah, when you are not performing official rabbi duties and you're just hanging out with your friends, are you hanging with other rabbis or atheists?

LEAH BERKOWITZ: (Laughter) Actually, all of my friends up in Poughkeepsie are priests and ministers. And I have...


BERKOWITZ: I have one priest with me tonight.



COULTON: Is that the person who keeps going, woo, very loudly in the back?

BERKOWITZ: Yes, it is.

EISENBERG: That's good. I like it. Do you argue about faith?

BERKOWITZ: We usually just talk about what's going on in our congregations...


BERKOWITZ: ...Because that's - those are the only people who would believe what's going on.


EISENBERG: OK. So you do that and go on outings or hang out?

BERKOWITZ: Yes. Actually, for our friend Heather's 40th birthday, we went - Heather and I went skydiving.

EISENBERG: OK, sorry, sounded like you all went skydiving.

BERKOWITZ: Oh, no, just the two of us. The priest didn't want to come.


EISENBERG: Really? The priest did not want to take a leap of faith?


BERKOWITZ: It was just the minister and the rabbi. She ruined the joke.


EISENBERG: OK, let's go to your next game. Kathryn, when you think of being a teen, what smell comes to mind?

MILLER: Noxzema face wash.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Yes. Oh, I remember that. That smell was amazing. Yes. Good answer. Leah, when you think of being a teen, what smell comes to mind?

BERKOWITZ: Binaca mouth spray.

EISENBERG: Whoa. OK, what - I can't even think of what that is. But it's a mouth spray. What did you use it for?

BERKOWITZ: I didn't use it. The boys in our school were obsessed with it, so they were...

COULTON: It's minty.

BERKOWITZ: ...Constantly going like ch-ch (ph).

EISENBERG: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I remember it.

COULTON: You got to keep your mouth minty fresh just in case a girl kisses you.


COULTON: Doesn't ever happen, but...

EISENBERG: Just in case.

COULTON: ...Just in case.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) So your next game is a music parody game called Sounds Like Teen Spirit. Leah, you won the last game. So you win this, and you're in the final round. Kathryn, you need to win this or we'll make you join our improv team called Nirvan-haha (ph).


EISENBERG: So here we are now. Jonathan, entertain us.

COULTON: All right, I will. We rewrote Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" to make it about words that end with the sound teen, as in routine or nicotine. So just ring in an answer. Here we go. (Singing) Ms. Antoinette, she lost her head because her people had no bread. They could eat cake. But instead, to this contraption she was led.



BERKOWITZ: Guillotine?

COULTON: Guillotine is correct.


COULTON: (Singing) They don't want to risk infection. It's for everyone's protection. This new virus is contagious. They confined us. It's outrageous.


ART CHUNG: Well, yeah, I'll give you a hint. If you're very contagious, the doctors might put you in this.



BERKOWITZ: Quarantine.

COULTON: Quarantine is right.



COULTON: (Singing) Malted powder, chocolate flavor, add to milk, taste to savor, yum.



BERKOWITZ: Ovaltine.

COULTON: Ovaltine, you got it.


EISENBERG: We checked. They still make it. Just so you know, they still make it.

COULTON: They still make it?


COULTON: OK. Here we go. (Singing) These crackers made from floury dough, I fill my mouth with them and blow. My whistle fails. And though I try, I can't make noise. My mouth's too dry.


COULTON: Kathryn?

MILLER: Saltine.

COULTON: Saltine, that's right.


COULTON: (Singing) Comes in flavors made for chewing. Got no sugar. Nothing doing. What's your dentist so afraid of? Sounds like what your teeth are made of.


COULTON: It's a thing you chew, and it's sugarless.


COULTON: Kathryn?

MILLER: Dentin?

COULTON: Dentin is right.


EISENBERG: I know you both were trying to get Trident in there. But you're like, teen-dent (ph). How does this work?

COULTON: Teen-dent.

EISENBERG: Teen-dent.


COULTON: (Singing) It's about a haunted Plymouth. Stephen King book, gruesome finish, ew (ph).



BERKOWITZ: Christine.

COULTON: Christine is right.


EISENBERG: I was so scared of Plymouths after that movie.

COULTON: That was a very creepy, creepy movie.

EISENBERG: They all are. I mean, thanks to Stephen King, I was scared of - what? - like - hotels, twins, cars, clowns...

COULTON: Vampires.

EISENBERG: Vampires, telekinesis.

COULTON: Yeah, yeah. Here we go. (Singing) You take some fries and cheese curd to come up with this foreign word. Then add some gravy, just a speck. They like to eat it in Quebec.




COULTON: Poutine. You got it.


COULTON: This is your last clue. (Singing) It's in orange things. Helps your vision. Make a healthy food decision. Eat some spinach. You can bear it. Sweet potatoes or a carrot. Vitamin A, Vitamin A, Vitamin A.


COULTON: Kathryn?

MILLER: Carotene?

COULTON: Carotene or beta carotene. That is correct.


COULTON: Art Chung, how'd they do?

CHUNG: Well done, Leah. You won both games, and you're moving on to the final round.

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