Novelist Tom Robbins Plays Not My Job

Apr 21, 2012
Originally published on April 21, 2012 12:03 pm

Author of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Skinny Legs and All, and most recently B is for Beer, joins us to talk about Seattle, taking LSD and answer questions about the other Mr. T. Robbins. (Rebroadcast from June 5, 2010)

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CARL KASELL: From NPR and WBEZ-Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!, the NPR News quiz. I'm Carl Kasell, and here again is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.



Thank you, Carl. Thank you so much. This week, we are putting the lie to the stereotype that authors are shy, retiring types with ink stains on their shabby cardigans.

KASELL: Watch what you say about my cardigan, pal.


KASELL: Those are not buttons, those are chick magnets.


SAGAL: When we went to Seattle in June of 2010, we wanted to talk to somebody who epitomized the Pacific Northwest flannel-clad, hedonist lifestyle.

KASELL: Who better than Tom Robbins, whose novels inspired a generation and the message that sex can help you live forever?

SAGAL: You read his books, Carl?

KASELL: I lived them, Peter.



KASELL: I am 210-years-old.


SAGAL: I started by asking Tom Robbins when he started writing.

TOM ROBBINS: I've actually been writing since I was 5-years-old.

SAGAL: Since you were 5?

ROBBINS: There are stories still in existence that I wrote when I was 5. However, I did not get published until I was 7.


SAGAL: Well, every writer does have to have his years of struggle.


ROBBINS: I went to a large consolidated school in Appalachia. Grades 1 through 12 were all in the same three-story building. And I wrote the story when I was in the second grade and I took it up to the third floor to the school newspaper office that was written and edited by juniors and seniors.

SAGAL: Yeah.

ROBBINS: And I slapped the story down on the desk and I said, "Print this."

SAGAL: And they did?

ROBBINS: And they did. And I thought, well that was easy.


ROBBINS: Maybe I could do this for a living.

SAGAL: We have a question from one of our twitterers. They sent this in to twitter/waitwait. Apparently, you have a love of mayonnaise?


ROBBINS: Yeah. I eat so much mayonnaise they were going to send me to the Mayo Clinic.


SAGAL: There are a lot of puns in your books, as a matter of fact. But is this true, are you in fact a genuine mayo enthusiast, or are you putting us on?

ROBBINS: No, I am indeed. I think it's the food of the gods.


ROBBINS: In fact, once, and this is a true story, having nothing else to mix the gin with, I put the...

SAGAL: Oh no.

ROBBINS: ...mayonnaise and gin in a blender and created a new drink that my friends and I called the Gin Greasy, I think we called that.

SAGAL: The Gin Greasy.

ROBBINS: Yeah. And it was actually - first we mixed it with - there were only two things in the refrigerator.

SAGAL: What were you drinking before you got to that idea?


ROBBINS: In the refrigerator was blueberry pancake syrup and mayonnaise.

SAGAL: Oh lord.

ROBBINS: So we didn't want to drink the gin straight.

SAGAL: Yeah.

ROBBINS: And we tried it first with the blueberry pancake syrup and it was awful. It was terrible.

SAGAL: Oh wow.

ROBBINS: So then we mixed it with the mayonnaise and it was actually pretty good.


PAULA POUNDSTONE: Yes, on the heels of having it with blueberry syrup.

LUKE BURBANK: And ether.

SAGAL: Yeah.


SAGAL: I wanted to ask you about your latest book, "B is for Beer". This is a children's book about beer.



SAGAL: Why? I'm all for this. But why did you think children needed a book about beer?

ROBBINS: Well children are exposed to beer all the time. Every time they watch any sporting event on TV, they see beer commercials.

SAGAL: Sure.

ROBBINS: But aside from that, and aside from beer's historical and philosophical background, don't you think that children really need to know why their daddy keeps a second refrigerator out in the garage?



ROBBINS: And why he's out there late on a school night, with his shirt off, listening to Aerosmith records.



SAGAL: Tom Robbins, we are delighted to have you with us. And we've asked you here today to play a game that this time we're calling?

KASELL: Unleash the power within.

SAGAL: I am sure this happens to you a lot. You're walking down the street and someone comes up to you and says, please, Mr. Robbins, help me find my greatest potential for success right now. And you say, oh I'm sorry, that's Tony Robbins.


SAGAL: Well, we are going to ask you about the other Mr. T. Robbins. Get two questions right and you'll win a prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice on their home answering machine. Carl, who is Tom Robbins playing for?

KASELL: Peter, Tom is playing for Joshua Thompson from Cupertino, California.

SAGAL: All right. Here's your first question. Tony Robbins, as we know, is a big self-help mogul. He puts on seminars and shows. You can go to his private island in Fiji and learn from him.

But for a handful of big wigs he does provide something unique, for a fee of one million dollars. Is it A: he'll give you his home phone number for a year. You can call him whenever you want. B: he'll appear in your family photos with you.


SAGAL: Or C: while motivating you, he will simultaneously get in touch with your rivals and enemies and de-motivate them.


ROBBINS: Well considering the context, I'll say A.

SAGAL: You're going to say A, that he'll give you his home phone number. You can call him up whenever you want his help. You are right.



SAGAL: That's it. One million dollars per year gets you Tony Robbins' home phone number.


SAGAL: All right, second question. Tony Robbins has given advice to many world leaders, including Bill Clinton and, he claims, which person who doesn't seem likely to need this motivational advice. Was it A: Mother Theresa? B: North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il? Or C: teen heartthrob Justin Bieber?


SAGAL: One of these has consulted, according to Tony Robbins, Tony Robbins.

ROBBINS: Well, Mother Theresa just sounds too good to be true. So I'll go with the Korean.

SAGAL: You're going to go with the Korean. That North Korean Kim Jong-Il, head of the hermit kingdom has...


SAGAL: I'd love it if that were true. That'd be great. But in fact, it was Mother Theresa. Tony Robbins says that he consulted with Mother Theresa.

And Tony Robbins says, "I asked Mother Theresa, tell me something, what really gives you ecstasy in life? And she said, what gives me ecstasy, Tony, is to see a person die with a smile on their face. And I thought, whoa, you know, not number one on my list."


SAGAL: All right, this is the last question. You get this right, you win. As you may know, Tony Robbins not only teaches success, he exemplifies it. How did he describe his "perfect day" once to CNN? A: "If I had a perfect day, I'd know there was nothing more I could do to improve myself, and thus I would ascend to heaven".

B: "A day in which some guy digging in a ditch in Bangalore says to himself, Tony Robbins believes I can do better than this." Or C: "Make love to my lady. Work out. Have a great breakfast. And then, you know, go ride the Harley, go play polo, that type of thing." Which of these did he say was his perfect day?

ROBBINS: Let's try C.

SAGAL: You're going to try C?


SAGAL: "Make love to my lady. Work out. Have a great breakfast. And then, you know, go ride the Harley, go play polo, that type of thing."


SAGAL: Yes, that's what he said.



ROBBINS: All right.

SAGAL: Tony Robbins makes over $30 million a year making other people successful, and he likes to spend it on his expensive toys like helicopters and polo ponies. Carl, how did Tom Robbins do on our quiz?

KASELL: Well Tom came through at the end, Peter, he had two correct answers and so he wins for Joshua Thompson.

SAGAL: Well done.


SAGAL: Tom Robbins is the author of "Still Life with Woodpeckers," "Skinny Legs and All," "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues," and a whole bunch of other books you should just go read immediately. Tom Robbins, thank you so much for being with us.


SAGAL: What a pleasure.

ROBBINS: Thank you.

SAGAL: Seattle's own, Tom Robbins. Thank you, sir.

ROBBINS: Thank you for having me.

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