What do you get when take the entire Trivia section and dump it into a blender with brain teasers, a warm British pub atmosphere, family game night, a weekly special guest, host/comedienne Ophira Eisenberg, and the dulcet tones of in-house musician Jonathan Coulton? NPR thought they’d find out.
Ask Me Another is an hour-long radio quiz show co-produced once a week by NPR and WNYCnote where fans face off in various Jeopardy!-style competitions, where the final prize (often involving a custom Rubik’s Cube and various items/favors) that the special guest (Very Important Puzzler) provides isn’t really the end goal.
Some of the many V.I.P.s who have appeared in the show includes:
- Lewis Black: Stand-up comedian and top-notch ranter
- Bruce Campbell & Lucy Lawless: Promoting Ash vs. Evil Dead
- Jeffrey Cranor & Joseph Fink: Creators of Welcome To Nightvale
- David Cross: Who wound up playing against his wife Amber Tamblyn
- Neil Gaiman: Award-winning author of Coraline, The Sandman, and other fantasy fiction
- Elizabeth Gilbert: Bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love
- Jeff Goldblum: Actor known for playing David Levinson in Independence Day
- Ellie Kemper: Costar of The Office (US), star of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
- Bobby Lopez & Kristen Anderson-Lopez: Oscar-winning songwriters for Frozen (2013)
- Ingrid Michaelson: Well-known indie pop singer
- John Cameron Mitchell: Creator of Hedwig and the Angry Inch
- Danny Pudi: The actor who plays Abed Nadir on Community
- Mike Rowe: Host of Dirty Jobs
- Adam Savage: The Fun Personified co-host of MythBusters
- Dan Savage (no relation): Creator of the Savage Love sex advice column and It Gets Better Project website
- Andy Serkis: Voice actor for Gollum of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and Caesar of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
- R. L. Stine: Bestselling author of the Goosebumps children’s series
- Patrick Stewart: Check out his episode to hear him recite the lyrics to "You Shook Me All Night Long" and "Blank Space" (as himself), "Africa" (as Laurence Olivier) and "Wannabe" (as John Gielgud)
- George Takei: "Oh my!"
- They Might Be Giants: "They might be... [Ophira's] favorite band named after a conditional statement".
- Matthew Weiner: Creator of Mad Men
- "Weird Al" Yankovic: Who did vocals on a musical game paying tribute to David Bowie
When the pandemic forced them to discontinue the live shows, the program's format changed to be doing quiz games with pairs of call-in celebrities rather than with actual contestants. Score was rarely kept for these games, and winners were rarely declared. This change was intended to be temporary until they could do live shows again.
However, in June of 2021, the show announced via Twitter that it would air its final episode in September of that year, coming to an end after nine years. It carried on in reruns for a few more months, before their final final show was a rerun of the final episode.
See also Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, NPR's other game show.
- Are You Sure You Want to Do That?: From time to time, Ophira, Jonathan, or the Puzzle Guru John Chineski will hint that a contestant or V.I.P might want to reconsider their answer.
- Bait-and-Switch: Used during a game called Wrong!. The point of the game was that Art Chung asked seemingly easy questions with trick answers, and each wrong answer would result in Jonathan Coulton singing "Wrong!" at the contestants. After establishing this formula for the duration of the game, the final question went down something like this:Art: During what year did the War of 1812 take place?Contestsnt: 1813?Jonathan: Wrong!Ophira: ...That actually did happen in 1812.
- The Bechdel Test: They based a game on their 02/17/17 show on the test. Contestants had a scene from a movie that unexpectedly allows it to pass the Bechdel test described to them and had to name the film. Answers included Die Hard, The Phantom Menace, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
- Bonus Round: At the end of every episode (before the pandemic-induced format switch), the winners of each round face off against each other in the "Ask Me One More: Final Round" until only one is left.
- Canada, Eh?: Ophira Eisenberg is from Canada, and frequently works in self-deprecating jokes about the Great White North.
- Censored for Comedy: The 26 January 2018 show had Mary Wiseman as the week's celebrity guest contestant. Referencing her Star Trek: Discovery character Cadet Sylvia Tilly being the first canon Star Trek character to use the f-word, the game bleeped out a particular word from a quotation and had Wiseman try to guess it.Ophira Eisenberg: "Oh [bleep], wherefore art thou [bleep]?"
- Crossover: Peter Segel, from the fellow NPR show Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me was the guest for the 05.03.14 episode. Ophira has also appeared on Wait, Wait as a guest.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: For the first few months Ophira Eisenberg would drop hints about the identity of the guest throughout the show instead of announcing it at the opening.
- Flat "What": Delivered by guest Puzzle Guru Ebenezer Scrooge (played by Will Hines) during a game of mystery guest:Scrooge: Do you, like - do you make ideas? Do you give - do you suggest ideas to people?
- Funny Answering Machine: An occasional prize, typically when a famous voice actor/comedian is the Very Important Puzzler.
- Gratuitous Italian: Jonathan Coulton, having studied the language while he was still in school, sprinkles it in when the plot calls for it.
- Occam's Razor: During a game where Ophira and Jonathan are given two objects holding the world record for largest of that object, and being asked to figure out which one is larger overall, the two are able to get every question correct simply by guessing which object could realistically be made on a larger scale. This trope is name-dropped by Greg Pliska after their third correct answer in a row.Greg: You two seem to have figured out the Occam's Razor of this game.
- Retool: Midway through 2017, the format of the show was modified. Among the changes:
- The show opens with a very short comedy sketch between Ophira and Jonathan.
- Each episode has only 4 contestants instead of 10.
- Every pair of contestants plays two games instead of one, in a "best two out of three" format. Has been further modified as of late so that the contestant who moves on is simply the contestant with the most points from two games.
- If the contestants are tied in points, a short tiebreaker game is played.
- Ophira is able to spend more time chatting with contestants before each round. Ophira also now makes sure to mention each contestant's buzzer number (signified by the number of bell sounds each one makes).
- The Final Round dropped the "Ask Me One More" moniker and became a best of 15 format between the two winners instead of the spelling bee-style game with five.
- The Very Important Puzzler moniker was dropped in favor of the simpler "Special Guest".
- An additional host game, usually "Mystery Guest", is played before the Final Round.
- As noted above, the show underwent an even larger retool in 2020 for the pandemic. It was intended to be temporary until they could do live shows with actual contestants again, but the show ended before the pandemic restrictions did.
- Self-Deprecation: Ophira, the token Canadian, often takes (and even supplies) potshots about her former home country.
Ophira: Now because this is public radio, and sports are hard, you do not need to know the name of the city the team comes from to get the points.
- Jokes are often made at the expense of their status as a public radio show as well. One such moment happens during the 11.11.16 episode in a game where the answer to each question was a pun on a sports team name.
- Shout-Out: Accidentally played straight by some contestants who unnecessarily use “What is…” when answering a question; this often prompts the response: “This isn’t Jeopardy!” or "Would you like to rephrase your question in the form of an answer?".
- Small Reference Pools: Averted, naturally, given its audience are often people who listen to NPR on a regular basis.
- Take That!: At the end of one game involving reading complaint emails the show had received, Ophira says they love to receive negative feedback and invites listeners to email them complaints... and then gives the email address for Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me.
- Took the Bad Film Seriously: Parodied by Patrick Stewart in a live appearance. Sir Patrick is renowned for his ability to deliver awful dialogue with conviction worthy of a Shakespeare play, and in that episode the clues for one game consisted of Stewart reading snippets of pop song lyrics (e.g. "Wannabe" by The Spice Girls) in Shakespearian style.