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Not My Job: Freestyle Skier David Wise Gets Quizzed On Normcore

BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis, and here is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in Chicago, Peter Sagal.


Thank you so much, Bill.


SAGAL: Thank you. So we've been giving thanks for the people who've been willing to come on our show, and one of the guests we're most thankful for this past year was David Wise, the gold medal-winning Olympic freestyle skier - and not only because he flew across the country to join us on stage at Tanglewood in Western Massachusetts.

KURTIS: It was also because he let us try on his medals backstage. Peter asked him how he got them.


SAGAL: Now, I want to start by asking about your gold medal in Pyeongchang. Now, you get to make free runs in competition, and I don't know the technical term, but in the first two runs, you kind of blew it, right?


SAGAL: Yeah.

WISE: Well, technically, my ski blew it.

SAGAL: Yeah. Your ski actually had popped off.

WISE: Yeah. Both of my first two runs, ski popped up.

SAGAL: How did that feel? What was that like?

WISE: Yeah. It was a mix of some of the most intense competition pressure I've ever felt in my life and also kind of comical because here I am. My job - the one thing that I'm not supposed to do is blow it at the Olympics...

SAGAL: Right.

WISE: ...Right?

WISE: You put four years of effort into this, thousands of hours of training. And as long as you just don't blow it at the Olympics, everything's going to be fine. And I was just, like, wow. Maybe this is the day I blow it at the Olympics.


WISE: And that actually helped me. Like, thinking about it from that perspective kind of helped me lighten the pressure on my shoulders a little bit and just feel like, hey, look. First of all, for my third run, we cranked the bindings down as tight as they go, so my legs were going to come off before the skis did.


WISE: So I was, like, all right. I've got one more shot at this. I'm going to let it rip.

SAGAL: Yeah.

WISE: And, fortunately, the skis stayed on. I made it to the bottom. And here we are.

SAGAL: As it were, it was an almost perfect run, and you actually...


SAGAL: ...Walked away with it.

ALONZO BODDEN: And the other thing - after the first time they came off - like, I'm not an expert skier, but I'd be, like, let's make those tighter.


MO ROCCA: Yeah, I know. Yeah, that's...

WISE: The inside intel for that is that...

SAGAL: Yes. Yeah.

WISE: Actually, it was three different runs on three different pairs of skis. So a lot of people ask me, why didn't you just change skis? And I'm, like, guys...

SAGAL: (Laughter).

WISE: Give me a little more credit than that. Like, yeah. The binding came off on the first one. I didn't just put those skis back on my feet and try again.

SAGAL: Yeah.

WISE: Oh, well, shoot.

SAGAL: (Laughter) Hey.

WISE: I don't know why that came off. Let me just...

SAGAL: Let's just try it again.

WISE: ...Try it again.


WISE: No. I...


WISE: I was prepared.

SAGAL: One of the things that I thought watching both you guys and the skiing and the snowboarding - you're flying up in the air. Is there a moment where you just have to get over how scary that is early on? Or is that, like, when you find out who's going to go on and who's not when they're, like...

WISE: That's kind of the difference between people who are pretty good at skiing halfpipe and people who are really good at skiing halfpipe. And I'm going to downgrade myself in anybody's eyes. It's mostly the stupid people who do...

SAGAL: Really?

WISE: ...Really well on halfpipe.


WISE: Because you just let it rip.

SAGAL: Right.

WISE: You're, like, oh, well. That was really scary. But I'm going to do it again.

SAGAL: Yeah.


WISE: This is extremely dangerous, but I'm having so much fun.

SAGAL: Is it as dangerous - I mean, it looks easy, of course. You make it look easy. That's your job. It also looks dangerous. Is it dangerous?

WISE: Yeah. I mean, I joke about it, but it's pretty calculated. Yes, it's dangerous. Yes, I'm taking a risk. But aren't all good things in life worth a little bit of risk, you know? Like...


WISE: So...

ROCCA: Why is it called a halfpipe? Seriously, why is it called halfpipe?

SAGAL: You don't know?

WISE: Do you want to think about that a little...


ROCCA: Is it because the whole - is it...

BODDEN: It sounds like Mo...

WISE: You put two of them together, it might be a whole pipe.


ROCCA: But - oh, it's like a giant pipe.


ROCCA: I always thought that the halfpipe referred to what you're on, what you're attached to. The pipe is - refers to the whole thing, so a whole pipe would be insane.

SAGAL: Yeah.


WISE: Yeah.

SAGAL: You could do cool tricks, but we wouldn't be able to see them because they would be inside a pipe.


ROCCA: Yeah. But...

SALIE: So if you - when you do freestyle, is it, like, hey, I'm just going to improvise?

ROCCA: Freestyle.

SALIE: Or do you always know what you're going to do before you do a run?

WISE: Yeah. We're pretty aware of what we're going to do ahead of time.

SALIE: So it's more like a little contained.

WISE: Yeah.


SAGAL: So, Alonzo, why don't you just go forward and ask him if he does it on snow? We're at that level.


ROCCA: You know, I'm just - I think I know. Are you doing the thing, like...

WISE: This is really falling apart fast (laughter).

ROCCA: Are you doing the thing where they said, like, they - like, he buttered that biscuit? Like, I remember it was really cool.


SAGAL: I so want you, Mo, to work as a ski commentator at the next Olympics.


BODDEN: David, when they told you you were coming to NPR, you didn't think it would go this way...

SAGAL: No, you didn't.

WISE: I did not.


WISE: I did not know it was going to go this way.

SAGAL: Well, we have surprised you. But we have more surprises in store because, David Wise, we've invited you here to play a game we're calling...

KURTIS: Bland is the New Black.

SAGAL: So, as we have established, you're a champion freestyle skier. But what do you know about being free of style? We're going to ask you three questions about normcore. That is the brief fashion trend of just a few years ago when the hip thing to do was to be as boring as possible. Answer two questions about normcore, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - the voice of anyone they like on their voicemail. Bill, who is David Wise playing for?

KURTIS: Jack Uhas of Williamstown, Mass.

SAGAL: Not far from here.


SAGAL: Does this ring any bells - normcore? You ever come across this?

WISE: I have - this is...

SAGAL: Yeah. This was...

WISE: ...New to me.

SAGAL: ...A thing - happened around 2014. All right.

WISE: I missed it.

SAGAL: Here we go. Like all great fashion trends, normcore has a kind of stylistic god - somebody whose dress exemplifies everything it is meant to express to be a norm person. Which of these is normcore's icon? A, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia...


SAGAL: ...B, Jerry Seinfeld; or C, anyone working at any Best Buy?


WISE: I think it's definitely C.

SAGAL: Best Buy - like...

WISE: Best Buy.

SAGAL: ...One of those guys - Geek Squad Best Buy guys?

WISE: Yeah.

SAGAL: No. It was actually Jerry Seinfeld. Jerry Seinfeld was held forth - it's, like, this is normcore. This is normal. OK, David. Here's your next question. In the midst of the trend, Car and Driver magazine listed their five most normcore cars. What were they? A, nothing - normcore people take buses...


SAGAL: B, the five cars were a P.T. Cruiser, a Dodge Neon, a Honda Civic, a Chevy Impala and literally your father's Oldsmobile; or C, five Toyota Camrys?


WISE: I'm going to have to go with B.

SAGAL: You're going to go with B?

WISE: All of those...

SAGAL: P.T. Cruiser, Dodge Neon, Honda Civic...

WISE: ...Are very normal.

SAGAL: ...And, literally, your father's Oldsmobile?




ROCCA: Gosh, I...

WISE: Wrong audience.

SAGAL: They don't like it.

WISE: Sorry.

SAGAL: No, they don't like that one.

SALIE: I was thinking it was B, but what do I know?

SAGAL: They want you to pick C. What do you say?

WISE: I say that's probably very accurate.

SAGAL: You - they are. They're exactly right. It was five Toyota Camrys...


SAGAL: ...Five different Camry models. If you want normal, you can't do better than a Camry. So here we go. This is coming down to the third try, just like you're used to.


SAGAL: So some fashion people described an offshoot of normcore for mature women who had earned the freedom to ignore the dictates of fashion. What was that fashion trend called? A, Norma-core...


SAGAL: ...B, sagwear...


SAGAL: ...Or C, menocore - style for...


SAGAL: ...Post-menopausal woman?

WISE: I'm going to go with A.

SAGAL: You're going to go with A.


WISE: I'm going to go on a strong A.

ROCCA: Oh, no.

SAGAL: It was C.

ROCCA: Oh, my God.


WISE: Jack, I've really let you down.

SAGAL: I know.

SALIE: Oh, my gosh.

SAGAL: Menocore - the implication is, once you hit menopause, you no longer have to care about, you know, appealing to other people.



SALIE: This is so wrong.


WISE: I think they might start throwing...

SAGAL: I did not make this up, ladies and gentlemen.


SAGAL: I am bringing you the news.

WISE: He's just the messenger, folks.

SAGAL: Bill, how did David Wise do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Well, David, you got a bronze. But...


KURTIS: But know that...

SAGAL: Yeah.

KURTIS: God is still pleased.

SAGAL: I think so.

SALIE: Yeah.


SAGAL: David Wise is a two-time Olympic gold medal winner. His new children's book, "Very Bear And The Butterfly," is available now. And you can see David with his family doing some remarkable things and saying some wise things at mrdavidwise.com.

David Wise, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.


SAGAL: David Wise, everybody.