April 20, 2024


Taste For Business

Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! : NPR


Coming up, office mice, cat queens and rat kings you’ll want to snuggle. I’m Emma Choi, and this is EVERYONE & THEIR MOM.


CHOI: Hi, everyone. I’m Emma Choi. And welcome to EVERYONE & THEIR MOM, a weekly show from Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me. This week we’re discussing a big, tiny problem with comedian and the person I would most like to see play the next Batman. It’s Atsuko Okatsuka. Hi, Atsuko.


CHOI: Hello.

OKATSUKA: Hello. Oh, that would be cool. I want to be the next Batman because that would mean I’m rich…

CHOI: (Laughter).

OKATSUKA: …And have a butler.

CHOI: And you’re going to be just like Ben Affleck.


CHOI: Anyways, I am so excited to talk to you about this story. So the people who work at the FDA, you know, the people who make sure our facilities aren’t overrun with mice, apparently went home in March 2020 and left a bunch of snacks and food behind, which ended up being an all-you-can-eat buffet for the area’s rodents, which is ironic because all of my favorite buffets closed instantly during the pandemic.

OKATSUKA: Humans couldn’t go to buffets, but mice were going to town.

CHOI: Absolutely.


CHOI: And, you know, it’s a real “Ratatouille”-esque twist in that the people who are in charge of, quote, “ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply” got some, like, hands-on experience with pest control.

OKATSUKA: And this is how I learned what the FDA does because…

CHOI: (Laughter).

OKATSUKA: …I was like, that’s what they do? Of course.

CHOI: (Laughter). I mean, how are they going to fix this? Because I kind of feel like they should send in owls to get the mice. And then to get the owls, what preys on owls? Would you get a Bengal tiger to get the owl? And then – I don’t know – something else.

OKATSUKA: So I don’t know where you stand. Most of my days sound like “Snow White,” kind of, like, telling jokes to myself and the trees and – you know, because I’m a stand-up, so I practice. I have to practice my jokes. And so nature comes to me. You know, most of my days, it’s really like, oh, this squirrel came up to me. Or, you know, this bee buzzed in my face for a few minutes and then flew away. Like, truly, my husband says, most of my days sound like “Snow White.” So I actually…

CHOI: (Laughter).

OKATSUKA: You know, I think mice are really cute. I know a ton of mice, I’d be like, sure, that’s a problem. So what would I do? I mean, I’m such a child in an adult’s body, I would call upon a real adult…

CHOI: Yeah.

OKATSUKA: …Someone like my husband, to be like, what do I do?

CHOI: Yeah. I think I’m a real feminist until there’s a mouse in the house, and then I get my boyfriend to chase after it. You know, like, that’s the one time I will, you know, revert to gender roles.

OKATSUKA: Yeah, I think there’s, like, a phone number we call.


CHOI: There is a number to call. And we called it.


CHOI: Just to start off, will you introduce yourself to us?

CAMERON: I’m Cameron, exterminator here in New York City.

CHOI: And I want to be clear – you are our producer Nancy’s actual exterminator, right?

CAMERON: Yep. That’s how we met, yeah.

CHOI: (Laughter) That’s so funny. OK, so just between you and me, on a scale of an IKEA being number one to a 10 being the Times Square subway station, how bad is Nancy’s apartment infested?

CAMERON: She’s definitely below a one.

CHOI: Really? It’s not that bad?

CAMERON: No, it’s not bad at all. I think she technically doesn’t need me. I mean, this is New York City. You’re going to get something. You’re going to get mice. You’re going to get roaches. You’re going to get something.

CHOI: Yeah. I mean, yeah, you’re an exterminator in New York City, a place famous for being disgusting. What’s the most surprising thing that’s happened on the job?

CAMERON: I would say some of the filthiest apartments that I’ve been in in my life. And then they ask you, hey, how can I get rid of the roaches and the mice? Well, you start by cleaning first. Like…

CHOI: (Laughter). It sounds like a lot of your job is just being, like, a therapist and life coach, too.

CAMERON: Yeah, you hear a lot of sob stories. And, like, you walk in. Like, yeah, it’s only like this ’cause I haven’t been able to clean ’cause I’ve been sick.

CHOI: Yeah.

CAMERON: OK, nah, you’re usually like this all the time.

CHOI: (Laughter).

CAMERON: You just started cleaning ’caused I walked in here.

CHOI: Yeah (laughter). That’s funny. This is a weird question, but have you ever seen a rat king before?

CAMERON: A rat king?

CHOI: Do you know what a rat king is?

CAMERON: No. If you’re talking about a huge-ass rat, yeah, I’ve seen a few.

CHOI: A rat king is, like, when a bunch of rats – all their tails get tied up together, and they become one big rat superorganism.

CAMERON: (Laughter) Oh, nah, I ain’t seen no Pokemon fused together.

CHOI: (Laughter).

CAMERON: I haven’t seen a gang of rats come out at one time like I was about to get jumped into a gang.

CHOI: They’re all wearing bandanas.

CAMERON: Yeah, there was, like, one right after the other right after the other one. Like, one would have, like, part of his ear ripped off. The other one would have his tail cut off. I’m like, oh, they really been through some stuff over here.

CHOI: (Laughter) Yeah. Wow. I don’t even know you, but you’re also the bravest man I know. I mean, I feel like you have to be really brave to be an exterminator. Do you consider yourself, like, a brave person?

CAMERON: No, not one bit.

CHOI: Really? Why not?

CAMERON: ‘Cause I try to avoid getting in real contact with them as much as possible.

CHOI: (Laughter).

CAMERON: If I can do the job without having to actually run into a rat (laughter)…

CHOI: Yeah.

CAMERON: …It’s benefitting me.

CHOI: (Laughter). You seem like you love New York. Like, you feel like a caretaker to New York. What else do you get up to in the city?

CAMERON: Oh, I’m a musician. So I’m a rapper.

CHOI: What?

CAMERON: So – yeah.

CHOI: Do you ever take inspiration from your work?

CAMERON: Not exactly inspiration, but along the way, I have met a lot of people that – you know, it’s benefited me. Like, you see – you go in people’s apartments, and you just happen to notice that they got a bunch of music equipment in there. Well, hey, yo, what do you do?

CHOI: Yeah.

CAMERON: Oh, I’m a producer. Oh, word?

CHOI: Yeah.

CAMERON: I’ve met other rappers that I’ve gone to work with and stuff like that.

CHOI: Yeah, that’s cool. I guess, like, no matter how famous you are, you’re still prone to rats. You know, you kind of chose the equalizer job.

CAMERON: Yeah, rats don’t know skill.

CHOI: That’s true. Cameron, do you have, like, a rapper name, or do you just go by your real name?

CAMERON JAY: Oh, yeah, Cameron Jay – that’s my rapper name.

CHOI: Cameron Jay?

JAY: Yeah.

CHOI: I feel like you got to change it to Rat King now.

JAY: No.

CHOI: (Laughter).

JAY: It’s not happening.

CHOI: Thinking about rat kings, Cameron’s never seen one, and he sees a lot of rats. And the idea of a bunch of rats getting their tails tied together and becoming one disgusting organism seems crazy. Are they just an urban legend? We have to know. Dr. Bobby Corrigan is a well-known rodentologist. Bobby, are rat kings real?

BOBBY CORRIGAN: You know, I don’t think they’re real. I’ve never met a fellow scientist that says they’re real either. I’ve dealt with a lot of rats. I’ve slept in barns with rats, and I’ve never seen a rat king where they’re – all the tails are tied together.

CHOI: Are they – do you think that, theoretically, it could happen?

CORRIGAN: Yes. I think where it may have some little bit of science is that, you know, rats might have frozen to death inside a wall someplace in some winter spot. And they get together, and they do hugger-mugger. It’s called huggering-muggering (ph), where they all huddle together to share body warmth. Maybe they died like that, and maybe those tails at that point were entangled. But if they were to get entangled easily like that, they would never survive to the point they are.

CHOI: You said the term hugger-muggering. Is that a scientific term?

CORRIGAN: Well, it’s a behavioral term…


CORRIGAN: …To describe – you know, part of their success, Emma, is – they have two secrets to success. One is they’re not nitpicky about their food. If they have to eat pizza every single night, it’s fine by them. They’re not going to complain or anything, right? So…

CHOI: Right.

CORRIGAN: …They take in whatever they have to take in. I’ve even seen rats in Central Park eating earthworms, you know, because the litter baskets were so clean at that time. So the other secret in addition to that is they get together in these groups, and they can fit into small spaces. You can get a whole family of rats, which is about 12 to 15 rats, into a basketball. You can fit them in one basketball, all of those rats. And to do that, they hugger-mugger into that tight, tight space, and it enables them to survive by not needing a big cave or something.

CHOI: Yeah. I just love the word hugger-muggering.

CORRIGAN: Yeah. Yeah, it is a great term. I use it all the time, is let’s hugger-mugger and talk about things.

CHOI: (Laughter) I love that.


CHOI: Well, you – OK, so that’s something because when I think of a rat, I think, oh, man, I don’t love that. But you love rats. What – can you tell me something that would make me fall in love with rats?

CORRIGAN: Well, actually, the first thing you could do that’s very quick and it wouldn’t take long is get a rat pet. Get a rat pet.


CORRIGAN: And you would see that rats as a species – whether in the wild or whether they’re your pet – they’re very loving. You know, they’re very gregarious. And rats exhibit acts of kindness. Certain rats will go over to other rats with a piece of food. You know, if that rat is, say, an old rat and it can’t move around and compete for the food, rats will bring food to that animal to sustain it – yes, I know – so it’s these kinds of kindness, just like we exhibit when we bring food to friends and families and what have you or whatever we do to help others.

CHOI: Yeah. Do they have little rat thank-you cards that they send back to the rats that help them?

CORRIGAN: Yeah. You know, I would love to see that, you know, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

CHOI: (Laughter) Well, we made a game for you. Are you up for playing a little game?

CORRIGAN: Sure. Let’s go.

CHOI: Awesome. Cool. So you are a rodent lover, and you’re also a rodent controller. So we wanted to play a game we’re calling snuggle, marry, kill. OK?


CHOI: So we’ll tell you a rodent, and you tell us if you want to snuggle it, marry it or kill it. It seems like…


CHOI: …You will never choose kill.

CORRIGAN: Probably not.

CHOI: Great. So that makes sense?


CHOI: Let’s do it. OK, cool. Field mouse – snuggle, marry, kill?

CORRIGAN: I’d snuggle.

CHOI: Snuggle. Possum – snuggle, marry, kill?

CORRIGAN: I would probably marry. I’d marry a possum.

CHOI: Are they just more loyal and trustworthy?

CORRIGAN: Yes. And even though they’re kind of gross-looking to some people and everything, they’re terrific parents and know how to take care of a family.

CHOI: I love that – husband material. Great. OK, the rat from “Ratatouille,” Remy – snuggle, marry, kill?

CORRIGAN: Aw, he’s so cute. How can you not want to snuggle with Ratatouille, you know? You have to snuggle with Ratatouille.

CHOI: It’s Patton Oswalt, baby, let’s do it. Pizza Rat – snuggle, marry, kill.

CORRIGAN: Well, I’m going to give an exception here because it’s stealing food. It’s, you know, running around with some of the foods that we use. It gives an image of, you know, if there’s a pizza around, it’s going to get it. So I’d probably have to maybe think about not tolerating that, maybe even killing that animal, I know. I know.

CHOI: Dr. Corrigan.


CHOI: Are you kidding?

CORRIGAN: I know. But here’s the important point, Emma. We cannot let rats and mice inside our restaurants or anywhere around our food. So the message is we have to stop that. Draw a line right there.

CHOI: But he’s a provider. He’s the bread – he’s a pizza-winner for his family. You don’t – you’re telling me you don’t want to marry someone like that?

CORRIGAN: Well, I do the way you described it, but…

CHOI: (Laughter).

CORRIGAN: …No, no, no, we got to stop that.

CHOI: All right. Thank you so much, Dr. Corrigan. This was – I feel like I’m a new rat lover. I’m going to make an Instagram fan page.

CORRIGAN: Good, good. We’ll make you a junior rodentologist, and as you walk about, you have a new respect for them, I hope.

CHOI: Well, thank you so much for coming on. This was so fun.



CHOI: OK, one thing I love about the situation at the FDA is that they’re moving the workers affected by the mice to temporary desks. And I really hope this means that the mice are going to get their own tiny little office space, you know, like, everything in miniature.

OKATSUKA: A tiny little bureau.

CHOI: Yes.


CHOI: I just love imagining a little office full with little mice and little desks, you know? Like, mice business-casual is so cute.

OKATSUKA: And then their little fingers – do mice have fingers? – their little paws…

CHOI: (Laughter).

OKATSUKA: …Moving really fast on the computer.


CHOI: I can’t stop thinking about the mice dressed in business casual. Could we make this beautiful dream real? Lynzie Rogers is the creator of RuPaw’s Drag Race – that’s RuPaw, not RuPaul – an enormously popular Instagram where she dresses her cat, Laila, up in drag, in clothes that Lynzie made herself. Is that about right, Lynzie?

LYNZIE ROGERS: That is true. Some people say it’s God’s work. I don’t disagree.

CHOI: (Laughter) So you specialize in cats, but we wanted to talk to you about another animal, right? So we’ve been talking about this news story that the FDA’s headquarters was overrun by mice.

ROGERS: (Laughter).

CHOI: We love picturing the mice as, like, little office workers. And I think it’s pretty fair to say that you’re an expert in making clothes for animals. So do you think a line of mouse work clothes could be a thing?

ROGERS: You know, if someone told me as a youth I’d be making cat drag clothes, I would say, no…

CHOI: Yeah.

ROGERS: …Therefore, tiny mouse suits is very probable.

CHOI: Yeah?


CHOI: What are the challenges of making animal clothes in general?

ROGERS: Well, I’d say the biggest challenge is they don’t have shoulders, elbows, hips, like, any defining shape. It’s just making clothes for a tube with stick-y things coming off of it.


CHOI: That’s so funny. So do you have, like, a dress model for Laila?

ROGERS: I have – she has a fit model that is a cat puppet that I use for draping.

CHOI: (Laughter).

ROGERS: That gets the job done. But every new look is a new adventure. So thinking about dressing for a mouse – I don’t even know where I would begin. I once made clothes for a dog.


ROGERS: And that was the opposite. It was so gigantic. So it’d be really fun to make teeny-tiny mouse clothes.

CHOI: It’s only, like, a little bit of material. Do you just, like, find little scraps on the floor and then fashion them into clothes?

ROGERS: It is a lot of scraps. I live in New York, so going to the garment district and begging for a half of a half of a half of a yard is taboo. And then I…

CHOI: (Laughter) Yeah.

ROGERS: …And then they say, which designer? Who do you work for? And then I have to show them the cat. Then they eventually give in.

CHOI: What does she most like to wear?

ROGERS: She’s definitely, like, an avant garde kind of girl. She likes the big, funky numbers.

CHOI: Yeah.

ROGERS: But everything is designed with her comfort in mind, of course. So it’s all high-fashion couture in the front and clips and ties and all of that in the back. I always say, she wears more editorial than ready-to-wear.

CHOI: (Laughter).

ROGERS: She couldn’t go down the street. She couldn’t go down the runway.

CHOI: Yeah, yeah.

ROGERS: But she could be on the cover of Vogue, you know? (Laughter).

CHOI: Yeah. How old is she, exactly?

ROGERS: Laila is 18.

CHOI: What?


CHOI: Oh, my God. Wow.

ROGERS: Sometimes when I wonder if it’s time for her to retire, I – when I dress her up, she’s more active and happier than ever. I’m like, oh, my God, drag keeps you young, girl.

CHOI: (Laughter) OK. Here’s a real question, OK? Do you think Laila could help solve the FDA’s mouse problem?

ROGERS: She has never caught a mouse in her 18 years. One time, she held a ladybug gently under her paw…

CHOI: Aww (laughter).

ROGERS: …And then waited for me to come over, and then I put it out the window. So perhaps she could help them in coaching them into finding other activities or hobbies. So I feel like she could be a great motivational speaker.

CHOI: I totally agree. I imagine, like, a drag cat would be so effective at, like, motivating the mice, being like, you don’t belong in this 9-to-5 office. Like, you need to get out there and follow your dream.

ROGERS: (Laughter) Go off, sis.

CHOI: Yeah (laughter). Is there anything Laila wants to say to the FDA mice?

ROGERS: Laila would say, if you want to be in the office, be in the office, but make sure the office wants you to be in it.

CHOI: Ooh, yeah.

ROGERS: And it’s really about being in safe spaces and just live your best mouse life.

CHOI: That speaks to everyone.

ROGERS: It’s a universal language.

CHOI: It is.

ROGERS: Meow (laughter).

CHOI: Meow.


CHOI: And now the most angelic part of the podcast – the credits. This show was brought to you by Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! This episode was produced by Hayley Fager, Zola Ray, Lillian King, Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis, Nancy Saechao and special thanks this week to Ian Chillag, Miles Doornbos and up-dog (laughter). Our supervising producer is Jennifer Mills and our BBL (ph) acrylic queen is Mike Danforth. My mom is Julie Choi. She didn’t do anything this week, but I just wanted to say hi. Once again, Lorna White – sound – you’re so good at it. Thank you. Thanks to everyone’s favorite exterminator, Cameron Jay.

JAY: Sure. I can play some music for y’all.

CHOI: Check out his Instagram @cameronjaymusik. That’s C-A-M-E-R-O-N-J-A-Y-M-U-S-I-K. Thank you, Lynzie Rogers and her cat Laila for fixing your mouse problem and being so freaking fantastic it made me want to collapse.

ROGERS: I got a little mouse pep in my step now.

CHOI: You have to see her and Laila in action on Instagram at @rupaws_drag_race. That’s R-U-P-A-W-S underscore-drag-underscore-race. Dr. Bobby Corrigan, you made us love rats. How did you do it?

CORRIGAN: I’ve always been a nature nerd. Without a doubt.

CHOI: You were so great. See more of Dr. Corrigan’s work @rodentologist on Twitter. Rodent and -ologist – one word, OK? Go find him. And we love our co-host, comedian and bowl-cut cutie, Atsuko Okatsuka.

OKATSUKA: Which I still rock.

CHOI: Thank you, Atsuko. You can see Atsuko in person at the Netflix is a Joke Fest on April 30 at Dynasty Typewriter. Go to Atsuko Live for tickets. That’s A-T-S-U-K-O-L-I-V-E – dot com. I’m Emma Choi, and you can find me at @waitwaitnpr and popping Zyrtec like it’s jelly beans, baby. OK, I’m done. This is NPR.


JAY: (Rapping) Cameron J. Ran Jay

This is a verse from my single that’s out right now called “Ya Tu Sabe,” and it goes – my verse goes, (rapping) Listen, little mama, got to tell you that you bad, bad. Just looking at you right now, got to have that. Love your little waist, how you mine. Baby, my god. Just trying to be the only song on your iPod. Slow it down…

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