Not My Job: We Quiz Candice Bergen Of 'Murphy Brown' On Murphy's Law | WYPR

Not My Job: We Quiz Candice Bergen Of 'Murphy Brown' On Murphy's Law

Dec 8, 2018
Originally published on December 8, 2018 12:37 pm

Thirty years after it first debuted in 1988, the sit-com Murphy Brown is back — and Candice Bergen is still in the title role. Bergen played Murphy Brown for a decade in the 1980s and '90s ... but how much does she know about Murphy's law? Three questions about the universal rule that anything can go wrong will go wrong.

Click the audio link above to hear how she does.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

And now the game where we ask interesting people about things that simply don't interest them.

CANDICE BERGEN: (Laughter).

SAGAL: It's called Not My Job. Candice Bergen grew up as Hollywood royalty, the child of the famous ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, one of the most popular entertainers of his time. Unlike most children of royalty, though, she actually has talent.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: She was a movie star in the '60s, '70s and '80s and then in the '90s became the star of the seminal sitcom "Murphy Brown," which is back 20 years later - so is Candice Bergen in the title role.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Candice Bergen, welcome to WAIT WAIT.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: First of all, congratulations on your Golden Globe nomination...

BERGEN: Thank you.

SAGAL: ...As Murphy Brown.

BERGEN: Thank you very much.

SAGAL: That must be very gratifying - to play a role and then come back 20 years later and nail it again and get, like, nominations and acclaim.

BERGEN: Well, it's - yes, it's very gratifying. But we've had a great time doing this show.

SAGAL: And when you sat down to talk about bringing it back 20 years later, what sort of conversations did you have? What kind of changes?

BERGEN: We - actually, the show would never have been brought back if the election had turned out the way we wanted.

SAGAL: Really?

(LAUGHTER)

BERGEN: If Hillary Clinton were president, we would never have brought the show back.

SAGAL: Really?

BERGEN: Yeah.

SAGAL: So what do you know? Donald Trump created a job.

BERGEN: That's right.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So I'm taking it Murphy Brown is not very happy with the current president.

BERGEN: Oh, well, we've had - really, the man is a gift.

(LAUGHTER)

BERGEN: Every day is a gift.

SAGAL: It really is.

(LAUGHTER)

PETER GROSZ: That's such a positive way...

FAITH SALIE: Yes.

GROSZ: ...To look at what's going on.

SAGAL: Yeah, I know.

(LAUGHTER)

BERGEN: Yeah.

SAGAL: I don't know how many people who are fans of you now know this, but you were, in fact, an extraordinarily famous child because your father was one of the most famous Americans alive, right? Edgar Bergen.

BERGEN: I don't think he was that famous. But he was...

PAULA POUNDSTONE: I think he was pretty famous.

BERGEN: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Now, your father - again, for those who don't know - was the world's most famous and successful ventriloquist. He had a dummy, Charlie McCarthy. And...

BERGEN: He was also a famous ventriloquist on radio.

SAGAL: Yes.

SALIE: Which?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And I have to say, I have - and I mean no offense - I've seen archival film of your father doing his act. And just like people say I have a face for radio, he was a ventriloquist for radio.

BERGEN: Exactly.

(LAUGHTER)

POUNDSTONE: Did you grow up really in the - in your early years thinking that you were Charlie McCarthy's sister?

BERGEN: Oh, yes. I was always called Charlie McCarthy's sister, and - but he was far more than a brother. He was like a head of state at our house.

(LAUGHTER)

BERGEN: And he had a room next to mine. And every now and then, my father would bring him out, and we would just kind of sit. And once - I mean, I remember once we would have - in the breakfast room, he would put Charlie on one knee and me on the other. And he - when he would squeeze my neck, it meant that I should move my mouth. And he...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: He would put you on a knee and treat you as if you were another ventriloquist dummy.

BERGEN: That's correct.

POUNDSTONE: Yeah.

SAGAL: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

GROSZ: Charlie must have been so jealous.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Skipping ahead a bit...

BERGEN: Yes.

SAGAL: In the '90s, you starred in "Murphy Brown," which, as much as any other sort of sitcom or TV show, exemplified the '90s. It was, like, the - a dominant show. And, of course, it became quite political when Dan Quayle famously went after not you, but your character. Did he know that it was a fictional character?

(LAUGHTER)

BERGEN: I don't think Dan Quayle had ever seen the show.

SAGAL: Oh, really?

BERGEN: But he was savvy. His handlers had taken the line about Murphy out of his speech, and he reinserted it into the speech, and that's all anybody talked about...

SAGAL: I remember.

BERGEN: ...For the entire six months of the campaign. It was on the front page of every paper. It was in every political cartoon, every editorial. It just didn't let up.

SAGAL: Right.

SALIE: Don't those seem like beautiful, simpler times?

SAGAL: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You won, in the original run, five Emmys.

BERGEN: Yeah.

SAGAL: ...For lead actress in a comedy.

BERGEN: Yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: And I was going to say, that's almost unfair to the competition. But, apparently, you realized that yourself. And is this true that you'd said, please don't nominate me anymore? You turned it down.

BERGEN: I didn't say please don't. I just didn't submit myself for nomination. I didn't, like, go in and say, please don't nominate me.

SAGAL: Oh, no. No, don't do this. No. Please.

(LAUGHTER)

SALIE: And did you take your five Emmys home and then bludgeon Charlie McCarthy with them?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Oh, that's an interesting question.

SALIE: Where is he?

SAGAL: Where is Charlie McCarthy?

BERGEN: He's in the Smithsonian.

POUNDSTONE: Yeah, it's in the Smithsonian, absolutely.

SAGAL: Yeah. As Faith said, you ever bring your Emmys down there and go, hey, Charlie?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You may have gotten the inheritance, but I got these little babies.

(LAUGHTER)

GROSZ: One day, I'm going to break out of this glass, and I swear to God...

(LAUGHTER)

GROSZ: ...I'm going to steal those Emmys.

SALIE: Candice, when you were on "The Muppet Show..."

BERGEN: Yeah.

SALIE: ...What was that like? Was that, like, a trippy nostalgia to go back to talking with puppets, or what?

POUNDSTONE: Yeah. Those were your cousins.

(LAUGHTER)

BERGEN: Let's just say it was a medium I was very comfortable...

POUNDSTONE: Yeah.

BERGEN: ...In.

POUNDSTONE: Pinocchio - or grandpa, as you call him...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, Candice Bergen, we could talk to you all day about...

POUNDSTONE: All right.

SAGAL: But we have invited you here to play a game we're calling...

BILL KURTIS: Murphy Brown, meet Murphy's Law.

SAGAL: Murphy's law, of course, as I'm sure you know, is the law of the universe that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. We're going to ask you three questions about examples of Murphy's Law in effect. If you get two right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - the voice of their choice on their voicemail. Bill, who is Candice Bergen playing for?

KURTIS: Dylan Watton of Queens, N.Y.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Here - you ready to do this?

BERGEN: Sure.

SAGAL: OK. First question - McDonald's commissioned an internal corporate web page once to help its employees eat better. But they had to take it down after what inevitably happened? A, the employees all gained an average of 20 pounds over six months...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...B, it illustrated the concept of poor nutrition with a picture of a McDonald's meal...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Or C, it encouraged people to go out and eat at Burger King.

(LAUGHTER)

BERGEN: I would say that because they gained 20 to 25 pounds.

SAGAL: You think that McDonald's gave its employees nutrition advice, and they all followed it, and they all ballooned like the Hindenburg.

BERGEN: Well, isn't that what happens?

SAGAL: Not in this case. What happened was...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: They - the web page they commissioned to illustrate good eating habits used a picture of a McDonald's cheeseburger and french fries to illustrate what you should not eat.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So the McDonald's corporation quickly took it down. All right. You still have two more chances - not a problem here.

Bill Hillmann was gored by a bull in Spain - bad enough. But it happened shortly after he did what? A, was arrested for 27 different incidents of cow tipping...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...B, wrote a book called "How To Survive The Bulls Of Pamplona..."

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Or C, put on his new bright red cape.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE: B.

BERGEN: B.

POUNDSTONE: Yeah.

BERGEN: B.

(CROSSTALK)

BERGEN: Yes, I'll go with the audience.

SAGAL: You're right.

SALIE: Yeah.

SAGAL: They're right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: Everybody's right. That's what happened. He didn't read his own book. All right. Last one - if you get this right, you win. A big game hunter in Zimbabwe was killed last year when what happened? A, a zebra caught sight of his zebra-print bikini briefs and thought he was a rival male...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...B, one of his fellow hunters mistook him for a, quote, "balding lion..."

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Or C, he shot an elephant, and the elephant fell on him.

BERGEN: I guess the elephant fell on him.

SAGAL: That's what happened.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SALIE: Yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: It's tragic. But at least we know one of them died happy.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Bill, how did Candice Bergen do on our quiz?

KURTIS: She won. Congratulations.

SAGAL: Congratulations.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Somewhere in the Smithsonian Institution, a wooden dummy just went, damn.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Candice Bergen stars as Murphy Brown on the show "Murphy Brown," back after a short hiatus. It airs Thursday nights on CBS. She was just nominated for a Golden Globe for the part. Candice Bergen...

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: ...Thank you so much. Candice Bergen, ladies and gentlemen.

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