Tony Shalhoub is a normal guy who's become famous playing eccentric people. He was the obsessed Italian chef in Big Night, the alien pawnshop owner in the Men in Black movies, and, of course, the obsessive compulsive detective on the TV series Monk. Now, Tony has gone back to Broadway in Lend Me a Tenor.
In true "Not My Job" fashion: because Tony has played a Monk, we're going to ask him three questions about nuns.
Originally broadcast March 6, 2010
CARL KASELL: Here's another visit from a celebrity guest you wanted to hear again. In March of 2010, along with Luke Burbank, Kyrie O'Connor and Paula Poundstone, we were visited by actor Tony Shalhoub, most well known for playing the detective Monk.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
Tony Shalhoub, welcome to WAIT WAIT.
TONY SHALHOUB: Thank you so much.
SAGAL: It's so great to have you.
SHALHOUB: Well I've long been a fan of the show. So, it's a pleasure.
SAGAL: Well, I'm a big fan of yours. Check my characterization. I've seen a lot of your movies and TV shows over the years. I cannot think of when you once played a normal person.
SAGAL: Is this true or am I not being fair?
SHALHOUB: I think you're right. I don't remember normalcy in my career.
SAGAL: Did you get that - because I know how Hollywood works, did you get pegged early? I need somebody kind of wild-eyed and indeterminately ethic. Get me Shalhoub.
SHALHOUB: Yeah, somebody who worries a lot.
SHALHOUB: Yes. Yes. Whenever I do get those roles that seem normal, I just - I don't know, something overtakes me and I kind of try to turn them into something not so normal. So it's partly my fault.
PAULA POUNDSTONE: So the initial character is kind of Mike Brady standard issue?
SHALHOUB: Exactly. That's what Adrian Monk was, actually, to start with.
SAGAL: Really? And you showed up and started twitching.
SHALHOUB: I said I think this guy twitches and then they, you know, built a series around it.
SAGAL: But I mean the concept, I'm assuming that when they came to you with a part they were like well this is this guy and he has all these skills but he's also kind of obsessive compulsive and very weird in all these ways. I mean, and did that - you were like, "That's what I want to do."
SHALHOUB: Well, I am always looking for something that's slightly, you know, off-center. And that particular role was, you know, it's such a pleasure because I got to do, you know, sort of doing comedic things back to back with more serious poignant things. And it's kind of an actor's dream really.
SAGAL: But by being a success in a TV series, you always run the risk of being identified with that role. So do you have people coming up to you and going, "Oh, I'll shake your hand. No, I won't, because I know how you feel."
SHALHOUB: Yeah, I've heard that about 6,000 times. Yeah.
SAGAL: I can imagine.
LUKE BURBANK: Today.
SAGAL: Does it get tired? Were you worried about that as you continued during the series that you were being known for this one role?
SHALHOUB: Well, you know that's always - it's always kind of a risk, an inherent risk, when you're an actor, even if it's a movie role. Sometimes people just get pegged as that one thing. But maybe when I was younger, typecasting might have been a problem. Now, it's any kind of casting is good, you know.
SAGAL: Yeah. Basically, typecasting...
SHALHOUB: I'll take anything.
SAGAL: You'll do stunt doubling.
POUNDSTONE: It could...
SHALHOUB: I'll take fly casting at this point.
POUNDSTONE: It could have been a lot worse. People could have seen you and gone like, "dyn-o-mite."
SHALHOUB: That's right.
SAGAL: Oh yes.
SHALHOUB: That's right.
SAGAL: You could have a catch phrase.
POUNDSTONE: Yeah, exactly.
SAGAL: You starred in "Big Night," one of my favorite movies. For those who haven't seen it, it's about two brothers from Italy who try to open an Italian restaurant in New Jersey and it doesn't go well. And it's about the last night of its operation where they serve the most amazing meal ever served on film.
SHALHOUB: Oh, Peter, I really don't think there's anybody who hasn't seen that.
SAGAL: That's true.
SAGAL: Was that meal real? Did you get to eat it?
SHALHOUB: Yes. Well a lot of the things were real. We did actually make them over, you know, the course of the making of the film. Of course, you know while you're filming and doing multiple takes, you know food tends to - it tends to get a little undesirable. But...
SAGAL: It wouldn't stop me in the case of that meal.
SHALHOUB: No. But I've gotten a lot of free Italian meals in restaurants from people...
KYRIE O'CONNOR: Really?
SHALHOUB: ...people who like that. I consider it my backend on the movie.
SHALHOUB: Kind of, yeah.
SAGAL: Just endless free pasta specials.
SAGAL: Which is weird because you are not, in fact, Italian.
SHALHOUB: I'm not?
SHALHOUB: Oh, oh...
SAGAL: No. Yes.
SHALHOUB: You're right. No, I'm actually Lebanese.
SAGAL: You're Lebanese from Green Bay, Wisconsin.
SHALHOUB: Which is kind of like being Italian, I don't know,
SAGAL: I know. It's like you probably had to stand in for - you played all of the ethnic characters in the school plays, I'm sure, in Green Bay.
SHALHOUB: I actually played the black characters in the plays in Green Bay.
O'CONNOR: Oh god.
SHALHOUB: Yeah, you think I'm kidding but I'm not kidding.
SAGAL: No, I'm not. I've been to Green Bay. You were totally not kidding.
SAGAL: We have one last question for you. When we have a guest on, of course, we sit down to do a lot of research to learn all the things about them, and instead we just play video games all day, and then right before the show, go to Wikipedia.
SAGAL: And your Wikipedia mentions a connection between you and somebody named Dan Shalhoub.
SHALHOUB: Well, Dan would be my brother.
SAGAL: Dan is your brother.
SHALHOUB: That's correct.
SAGAL: And according to Wikipedia, Dan Shalhoub, your brother, has a particular claim to fame.
SHALHOUB: Yes, he does.
SAGAL: Can you tell us what that is?
SHALHOUB: Well, he is the inventor of the Sha-Poopie.
SAGAL: The Sha-Poopie?
SHALHOUB: Which is a thing that all dog owners who live in urban areas should have. It's not just a pooper-scooper, it's better than that. It actually kind of - well, how can I put this?
SAGAL: I just want to see you navigate this on the radio.
SHALHOUB: Yes, thank you. It actually is a device that catches the poop before it hits the ground.
SAGAL: So this is your brother?
SHALHOUB: This is my - the brother that's closest to me in age.
SAGAL: Right. And what is it like living in his giant shadow?
SAGAL: I mean, he is the inventor of the Sha-Poopie.
SHALHOUB: It's not easy. It's a battle of egos actually.
SAGAL: I understand.
O'CONNOR: Now, no, wait, wait, we have to back up here because I have two dogs and I need to know this. I live in an urban area. Now, do you have to position this thing?
SAGAL: Oh my god.
SHALHOUB: No, your dog does that. Yes, of course, you have to position it.
O'CONNOR: I have to position...
SHALHOUB: But it...
SHALHOUB: But, you know, it wasn't always going to be called the Sha-Poopie. There were many, many pitches for names for this product.
SAGAL: Oh tell us them all.
SHALHOUB: I don't even want to begin to go there because I know your show is classy.
SAGAL: It is.
SHALHOUB: And these names aren't.
SAGAL: It was.
SHALHOUB: I'll just start with...
SAGAL: It was.
SHALHOUB: Well, OK, this thing...
POUNDSTONE: It wasn't.
SHALHOUB: See, the thing is, it has a telescoping handle. You see, so you can extend it.
SAGAL: Of course it does.
SHALHOUB: It's very small and compact to carry it. So one of - we were going to call it "The Long Arm of the Log."
SHALHOUB: That's enough.
POUNDSTONE: I love this whole family.
SAGAL: This never happens to Garrison Keillor. I don't know why.
SAGAL: Well, Tony Shalhoub, we were delighted to have you here.
SAGAL: But we have asked you here to play a game we're calling...
KASELL: Sure, you solve crimes, but did you ever fly? I think not.
SAGAL: Tony Shalhoub, you played a monk, so we're going to ask you about nuns.
SHALHOUB: OK, that makes no sense.
SAGAL: That's how we do.
SAGAL: Answer two questions about nuns, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice for their home answering machine. Carl, who is actor Tony Shalhoub playing for?
KASELL: Tony is playing for Nancy Martin of Venice, California.
SAGAL: Ready to do this?
SHALHOUB: Does Nancy have a dog?
SAGAL: For her sake and the sake of her family, I hope she's not even listening.
POUNDSTONE: Fancy Nancy's plastic basket.
POUNDSTONE: It doesn't really rhyme.
SAGAL: No. First question, Tony, first question, some nuns in Italy got in trouble with the law last year. What did they do? A: they got pulled over going 112 miles per hour in a Ford Fiesta, in a hurry to go see the pope? B: they made so much noise at a late night kaffee klatch, the police were called by neighbors? Or C: they were busted for growing hallucinogen mushrooms?
SHALHOUB: OK, well, I went to a Catholic school, you know, when I was a kid. And knowing the nuns, I'm going to have to go with C, hallucinogenic.
SAGAL: Wait a minute, knowing nuns as you do, you thought they were growing this?
SHALHOUB: That's right.
SAGAL: That's the sort of thing the nuns might be doing?
SHALHOUB: Well, they're very spiritually oriented, you understand.
SAGAL: They certainly are. So your choice is hallucinogenic mushrooms. No, actually, it was A. It was speeding.
POUNDSTONE: Oh wow.
SAGAL: Quoting the nun behind the wheel, "The police were shocked to find three nuns of a certain age in the Fiesta, but we were afraid of getting there late to see the pope." She was fined more than $500 and lost her license.
POUNDSTONE: Oh my.
SAGAL: It's all right, she could still fly though. She's a nun.
SHALHOUB: Oh my god.
SAGAL: Two more chances here, two more chances. In 2008, an Italian priest was criticized for trying to bring attention to nuns by doing what? A: holding a nun beauty pageant? B: convincing Italian paparazzi to follow around nuns because, "they're celebrities in the eyes of God?" Or C: creating a Nun of the Month club?
SHALHOUB: Oh my god, no pun intended.
BURBANK: Yeah, really.
SHALHOUB: All right, you know what, I'm going to go out on a limb here. I'm going to go for the beauty pageant.
SAGAL: And you're right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: Well done.
POUNDSTONE: Oh wow.
SAGAL: The priest said that the nun beauty pageant was only intended to show their "interior beauty," but the controversy caused it to be cancelled anyway.
SAGAL: All right, this is great. You have one more to go. If you get this right, you win. The sisters of the St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist convent in Independence, Missouri helped out their community in an expected way last year. What did they do? A: they raised money for a community center by selling a Ladies of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist Convent calendar?
SAGAL: B: wearing habits and flip flops, they chased down a robbery suspect, leading to his arrest? Or C: they provided the hit Dunk-a-Nun booth at the Independence County Fair?
SHALHOUB: I'm going to have to go with the Dunk-a-Nun booth.
SAGAL: Dunk-a-Nun. There sits a nun. You throw a baseball at the target, the nun is dunked.
SAGAL: I'm afraid it was they chased down the robber.
POUNDSTONE: In flip flops?
SAGAL: In flip flops. The nuns looked out their window and saw a man hurrying by with a shotgun and boxing gloves. And they figured he was up to no good.
SAGAL: And they chased him down and got a description and sent it to the police and he was arrested for robbery. Carl, how did Tony Shalhoub do on our quiz?
KASELL: Well, Tony needed at least two correct answers to win for Nancy Martin, but he had just one.
SAGAL: Oh, I'm sorry, Tony.
BURBANK: The Sha-Poopie will have to do.
BURBANK: Send her one.
SHALHOUB: I'm going to send her one.
SAGAL: Send her a Sha-Poopie and never speak to me about it again.
SHALHOUB: Well I'm very, very sorry that I, you know, couldn't win this invaluable prize for your listener.
SAGAL: That's all right. Well, I think no on will ever remember it a moment from now.
SAGAL: Tony Shalhoub.
SHALHOUB: Remember what, Peter?
SAGAL: Exactly. There you go. Tony Shalhoub is an Emmy Award-winning star of TV's "Monk," seen on the USA channel. Tony Shalhoub, what a pleasure to have you with us. Thank you so much.
SHALHOUB: Thank you so much.
SHALHOUB: Thanks to all of you.
SAGAL: Bye-bye, Tony, take care.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.