Hi Reddit! It's been years since I did one of these, but I hope it's like riding a bike (in that I will be surrounded by bigger kids who chase and bully me for hours).

My new book is called PLANET FUNNY: HOW COMEDY TOOK OVER OUR CULTURE, and it's a history of comedy as well as a nervous look at how we are now so waist-deep in jokes that it's almost oppressive.

If you listen to podcasts, musician John Roderick and I spin tales about historical oddities like White House pets and Milli Vanilli to the future residents of post-apocalyptic Earth in our time capsule podcast OMNIBUS.

Photographic evidence!

EDIT: Thanks for the questions, everyone. I'm a little disappointed we didn't get to talk more about Rampart, but oh well. If you enjoy comedy or super-provocative takes on modern life!!! check out Planet Funny at your library or local independent bookstore or big evil e-retailer. If you enjoy podcasts, subscribe to Omnibus right now! If you enjoy none of those things, please let me know what your hobbies are so I can tailor future projects to you as an individual!

Comments: 2350 • Responses: 66  • Date: 

Klin242681 karma

If you had to do it all over again, would you still answer "What's a hoe?"?

WatsonsBitch3715 karma

As I opened my mouth, I realized "Waaaait a second there is no way the Jeopardy answer here is 'What's a hoe.'" But it was too late.

At some point, I think my Jeopardy run will be entirely forgotten except for this one answer. I will run for president in 2032 as the "What's a hoe?" guy and it will be my "Where's the beef?"

Jaspers47398 karma

The writers knew exactly what they were doing.

WatsonsBitch908 karma

I wondered this for years, and finally cornered one of them at a wrap party to ask. (In general, contestants don't get to talk to the writers, for obvious security reasons.) As he remembered it, nobody thought of the "ho" problem until after it happened.

suaveitguy2167 karma

Do you think the abundance of satire, in particular the Jon Stewart Daily Show, gave people a pressure release that prevented them from taking more proactive measures to address things in the world they don't like? Are people happier with the spectacle of a bad government than they would be with a boring but functional one?

WatsonsBitch4418 karma

In medieval times, this was exactly the theory. The church and nobles would let the peasants have their yearly "feast of fools" or whatever, because they knew they would work more happily afterward. "Wine barrels burst from time to time if we do not open them and let in some air," the Paris School of Theology wrote. Let's let the workers have their little satire, so they don't actually revolt.

It's easier, of course, to fire off a snarky tweet or share an EPIC JOHN OLIVER TAKEDOWN than it is to actually donate or march or call your Congressperson. And there's a 2006 study of Daily Show viewers that found that when Jon Stewart made fun of media and government, he wasn't making his viewers outraged... he was actually making them more cynical and less likely to take part in the democratic process.

tl/dr: Satire is great but it has some down sides when it's our only mode of engaging with current events.

suaveitguy522 karma

2006 study of Daily Show viewers


The Daily Show Effect: "...we find that viewers exhibit more cynicism toward the electoral system and the news media at large. Despite these negative reactions, viewers of The Daily Show reported increased confidence in their ability to understand the complicated world of politics. ... our findings indicate that The Daily Show may have more detrimental effects, driving down support for political institutions and leaders among those already inclined toward nonparticipation."

WatsonsBitch741 karma

There's an even more interesting Colbert Report study by the same authors. They found that Colbert actually made his audience more open to the conservative viewpoints he was pretending to espouse, even when savvy college audiences were tested.

I don't know if anyone understands the mechanism there, but it seems clear that making a point through satirical or ironic means does not have the same effect as making one straightforwardly and unironically.

austinhannah2108 karma

Once I saw you at Muir Woods outside San Francisco but you were with your family so I didn't say anything. Anyway, those trees are pretty fucking big, huh?

WatsonsBitch2342 karma

Trees in general are pretty big, but boy oh boy! Those redwoods are big even by the standards of trees (which again, are quite big).

psychetyson1979 karma

Hi Ken. What are the odds of you joining my trivia team for a night in Seattle? The same villainous team has been been winning for months on end and it would be oh-so-satisfying to see them lose. I’ll buy you a beer, if that sweetens the pot.

WatsonsBitch5010 karma

I did this for my son's ninth-grade bar trivia team last month. (This bar does trivia in the all-ages area, apparently.) They were tired of perpetually losing and brought me in as a ringer.

I tried to warn my son that we might not win just because I was there...but then we ended up winning by a huge margin, so I think he probably learned several terrible life lessons.

danger-cat1043 karma

Why do we have to live in a world where every company's Twitter account needs to be sassy?

WatsonsBitch1475 karma

Twitter, as you might imagine, is a big player in my book about the incredible snark density of modern life. The short answer is that comedy is an arms race. Once one player breaks the glass (a Twitter account, an advertiser, a political candidate) everyone else eventually has to follow suit, or look stodgy and old-fashioned.

I think the rush to comedy was not necessarily organic and inevitable. Powerful organizations realized that humor was a persuasive, valuable commodity, and they co-opted it. The CIA has an ironic Twitter account now where they do memes about drones or whatever.

ZodiacalFury385 karma

This so-called humor arms race would help explain marketing even before corporate snark on Twitter... think about how surreal insurance television commercials are these days, that all with GEICO years ago

WatsonsBitch735 karma

Yup. Until the early 60s, all ad gurus agreed that ads should never be funny. The clever punch line might distract from the product.

The Volkswagen "Lemon" campaign and then later the work of Stan Freberg changed everyone's mind, and now every ad break is a duel of wacky non sequitur comedy sketches that agencies are desperately hoping will go viral.

burrheadjr875 karma

I am very upset over the Watson episode. It is often described that Jeopardy! pitted two champions against the Watson computer, but it isn't like you two were teamed up against Watson, it was a 3 way battle. The 2 of you were spliting the questions that Watson couldn't answer. I am confident that either one of you alone could have beat Watson 1 vs 1. You probably could have beat Watson if it was you and a typical Jeopardy contestant at the 3rd position.

Does that bother you as much as it bother me (probably not given your username), and why not?

WatsonsBitch1634 karma

It's a fair point, but it's innate to Jeopardy: there are always three contestants splitting the material, and they're usually pretty equally matched.

I do like the idea of going back and replacing Brad with someone at the third lectern who's just an idiot. Eric Trump, maybe? Rematch!

DeusPayne808 karma

Since they record jeopardy in runs, and are aired at such a delay, how did it feel when new contestants started to recognize you from the currently aired episodes?

WatsonsBitch1436 karma

Yeah the delay is like three months, so it was unprecedented to have people show up and recognize the sitting champion.

People were...not usually too happy. I started joining the group in the Sony parking garage at the last possible second to avoid the awkward silence and angry stares.

Oudeis16740 karma

What was it like rooming with Brandon Sanderson? Did he help you with your book?

WatsonsBitch1117 karma

Brandon is great! He ran a Greek mythology-themed murder mystery party for us once. I think I was Mercury because I remember making a winged hat out of a foil pie tin.

I think I'd heard that he got a book deal, but I was already knee-deep in my first book when Elantris came out in 2005. His books sell way more than mine do, but mine don't have to have, like, gnomes and magic systems, so it's kind of a tie.

mistborn726 karma

Every novel I write is a contrived and inferior attempt at recapturing the lush fantasy world that was living with you, Ken.

WatsonsBitch175 karma

Hi Brandon! I’m glad you could all be here for this impromptu college reunion.

Stop Googling yourself, you have heavy books to write!

strabbit693 karma

What is FedEx?

Have you spoken to Nancy Zerg since that day?

WatsonsBitch1627 karma

I have seen Nancy twice since she beat me fair and square on Jeopardy! She lives in Ventura and came to a reading I did there a few books back. Then once when she was in Seattle I took her to brunch.

Wait a minute! Thinking back, maybe Nancy should have picked up the tab for brunch. She was the reigning Jeopardy champion in the room, after all.

suaveitguy385 karma

How about Watson?

WatsonsBitch1802 karma

Watson turns 13 in five years and I would like to come to its bar mitzvah.

Jon_Targaryen1961 karma

Don't you mean bot mitzvah?! Oh god, your book is about this isn't it? :)

WatsonsBitch2732 karma

My book actually has a section about how the joke-riffing in Reddit comments sections is often surprisingly funny.

But this joke made me change my mind.

WickedSushi665 karma

If you could be on another game show besides Jeopardy, what would it be and why?

WatsonsBitch2657 karma

When my little sister was born, I was super-excited...not to hold or take care of the baby, but because we were now a five-person family. The perfect size for Family Feud!

We never made it on White Family Feud but I still hope that Black Family Feud will welcome us with open arms someday.

endercoaster160 karma

You think Ken Jennings couldn't just decide to go on any non-Jeopardy gameshow he wanted to?

WatsonsBitch1249 karma

I have a little laminated card that gets me onto any game show set. If I wanted to, I could just show up right before a taping and replace any contestant I wanted to. There are only five cards like this in America and they're signed by the first President Bush.

Samael13589 karma

What surprised you most about your time being on Jeopardy?

WatsonsBitch1790 karma

Playing the show is so different from watching it at home. At home Jeopardy is so chill. You can just spit out occasional answers from the couch and watch three nerds do the same.

But when you are one of the nerds, it's a real crucible. 61 clues in just over 20 minutes means the game moves incredibly fast, almost too fast for the brain to keep up. You're trying to think about so many things at once as you race to read the clue ahead of Trebek and prepare to click.

Like Jeff Bridges says in Tron: "On the other side of the screen, it all looks so easy."

KensRoadkill1064 karma

Hey, Ken! Tom Vanderloo here. Remember when I was beating you on the show for about 35 seconds?

WatsonsBitch1049 karma

I don't but I just looked it up on the "J-Archive" and now I do! (There is a near-complete archive of Jeopardy clues on the Internet, because this is the best era in human history.*) Hi Tom! Sorry about everything.

*In terms of Jeopardy clue availability only.

KensRoadkill523 karma

No need to be sorry. It was fun for me. I hope it was for you, too (at least in the beginning).

WatsonsBitch1097 karma

I still have survivor's guilt over the 149 people whose Jeopardy dreams I shattered.

ba-b0332 karma

Also, it's not about being the first person to know the answer - it's about being the first person to buzz in at the right time! Hugely underestimated that element when I was on the show.

Whitey_Bulger149 karma

Ken has talked about how that's what made Watson impossible to beat - it could read the question in an instant and buzz in faster than anyone else.

THE_some_guy137 karma

It seemed unfair that Watson got the questions in a different and more easily-digestible format. If it had been required to use optical character recognition and/or voice recognition (like the human players essentially did), that would have leveled the playing field a lot.

semi-118 karma

I don't think it would have mattered much, TBH. Jeopardy uses consistent fonts and colors, and has nice contrast. It would be pretty easy to OCR it, and could have additional hardware added to do so as needed until the timing is such that it isn't noticeable.

WatsonsBitch133 karma

Correct, IBM has said they would have been happy to OCR it, but it wasn't really relevant to the question-answering and gameplay skills that Watson was designed to explore.

fat_over_lean122 karma

This is what impresses me so much, you can tell a lot of people press before even coming up with an answer. I'm surprised there aren't more fails.

ba-b0197 karma

If you buzz in too early (before Alex finishes reading the question and a series of lights on the side of the board go on), you're locked out for a quarter of a second... just enough time for the next person to buzz in.

JimDiego102 karma

Ah, lights on the side of the board. I didn't realize that visual cue was there...I just thought people were really good at tuning in to Trebek's vocal rhythms.

WatsonsBitch270 karma

Many people wind up relying on those lights in that they wait for them, and that's usually a pretty good way to get beat.

What you're trying to do is sync your buzz to the lights, so that they happen simultaneously. It's difficult to pick up quickly, which is part of why there's a substantial home-court advantage for the returning champion each night.

Elliotell333460 karma

I remember the episode that you didn't bet an amount for final Jeopardy that put you at an even number - what drove you to maddness?

WatsonsBitch901 karma

I'm the original game show bad boy.

BeatsByLobot407 karma

Hey Ken! I am a huge fan of you and also a big fan of your podcast, Omnibus! Since your podcast is all about obscure topics, what was your favorite obscure topic to see come up at the top of the Jeopardy board?

WatsonsBitch903 karma

I remember once there was a category where you had to match Marvel Comics adjectives with super-heroes. Amazing = Spider-Man. Invincible = Iron Man. This was in the Before Times when most comic book heroes weren't big-budget movie properties and nobody knew who Iron Man was.

I was delighted. It's the one time I remember thinking, "Lol, I'm going to sweep this category." (I did not say that out loud, though in hindsight that would have been pretty funny.)

Ad_Homonym_402 karma

As probably the most prominent centerist-to-liberal Mormon in the world, what should the Mormon church's response to the Trump administration be?

WatsonsBitch1613 karma

The same as everyone else's: help register millions of people to vote for someone else.

I'm not particularly centrist, but I am probably the world's most prominent Trotskyite Mormon. All wealth should be stripped from the hands of the capital class--except game show winners, who got theirs fair and square.

wehappy3331 karma

Hi Ken!!

I have a question that I'm sure you've been asked a million and one times. I have a Jeopardy audition coming up in three weeks, and I'm SUPER excited about it. I also have a day job and a toddler, both of which preclude extensive studying time.

My question: If you could only study 5 things while preparing for a Jeopardy audition, what would they be?

(Not necessarily five categories/topics, although that works as well if there are any topics that you felt like were absolutely essential. I'm looking at studying category titles so that I can become better at word association/pre-guessing possible clues, studying the Pavlovs, etc. I'm also already working on practicing buzzer timing as much as I can.)

FWIW, I tend to be strong in literature, history, and geography. Not so strong in pop culture, music, opera, or Broadway.

WatsonsBitch796 karma

The two most bang-for-your-buck lists to memorize are: 1. Presidents in order (and with their years) 2. World capitals (and their capitals)

I also did cocktails, current Cabinet and Senators, and university towns. Those all came up eventually, but you might have to be there for 74 games.

Brush up on your strong categories; resist the temptation to try to learn 500 things about ballet or college basketball or whatever from scratch.

suaveitguy295 karma

Did you keep any Jeopardy! souvenirs, aside from the cash?

WatsonsBitch1007 karma

There are no lovely parting gifts on Jeopardy! Not even in 2004. I was out of touch and thought there would be a avalanche of Rice-a-Roni, Jules Jurgensen watches, 1000 Flushes Blue, and Service Merchandise gift certificates.

You get a ballpoint pen when you try out and a picture with Trebek (and maybe a tote bag?) when you're on the show. Alex is a good sport.

Even the live studio audience gets better Jeopardy swag than the contestants do. My grandpa won the raffle one day and got a Simpsons Jeopardy board game! It was a pretty exciting day all around for the Jennings family.

vector_ejector65 karma

Whenever I see the sponsors at the end I always figured contestants walked away with pocketfuls of Aspirin or whatever pain-relief gel was being hocked. I guess the money is good compensation, as long as you're quick and smart enough!

Fun fact, Alex Trebek dated my great Aunt back in the 60s. He was driving a Cadillac with red and white leather interior. If I were ever on the show that would be what he asks me about.

WatsonsBitch44 karma

He drives a pickup now. We all start out as Pimp 1960s Trebek and eventually turn into Grandpa 2010s Trebek.

canadevil55 karma

Man, i remember watching your run and probably about a month or two in I remember Alex talking to the other contestants and then going to you and being like "Welp, ¯\(ツ)/¯ I can't think of anything else to talk to you about, have a good game.

WatsonsBitch83 karma

To be fair this is mostly what it's like when I talk to my parents too.

underdabridge288 karma

I hear that Alex Trebek didn't like you, or got tired of you... or something about tension anyway. Can you comment on that? Did you like him? Why do you think he didn't like you? And do you think he came to think of you more fondly after he had to put up with that little shit, Arthur Chu?

WatsonsBitch964 karma

I spent six long months wondering if Alex liked me or not, because he was doing that severe, implacable thing he does. All business. But I am a people-pleaser and wanted Alex to like me, dammit.

After that final show, he came back onstage (which never happens) in his shirtsleeves (!!!) and he was a little choked up (!!!!!!!!) "We're going to miss you around here, Ken." I couldn't believe it: he had liked me all along. Now we go fishing together and he is teaching me to whittle. (He is not teaching me to whittle.)

MrZsasz87117 karma

But do you go fishing?

WatsonsBitch379 karma

The federal laws governing game show security are pretty strict, so Jeopardy contestants aren't allowed to fraternize with anyone who might know the answers...and that includes Alex. It's always fun to see him and catch up, but we are LEGALLY ENJOINED FROM HANGING OUT!!!

Celery_Stick_Figure285 karma

For going on 15 years now, I have applied to appear on Jeopardy! every time the opportunity has been offered to me. Still no appearances and I have never even received an invitation to audition. Am I just a moronic stupidhead who will NEVER get an invitation, or is there some form of bribe/verbal threat/secret handshake that I need to know about to get that coveted invitation?

WatsonsBitch652 karma

The online audition is very hard, don't get down on yourself. I know people who had to try out many, many times before they got on the show (and did very well!)

If you're serious about getting on the show, there are things you can do to up your game. A guy named Michael Dupee wrote a (now out-of-print) study and training guide for Jeopardy that's very good.

Or you can just take the drugs that Bradley Cooper takes in Limitless. Either one.

Chinchillachimcheroo273 karma

You've made some controversial tweets over the years. Do you regret any?

WatsonsBitch811 karma

Yes! The urge to put every mildly funny thought that passes through your head in front of hundreds of thousands of people is so seductive, but it's also weird and narcissistic! It lends itself to bad decisions.

For the most part, when Breitbart people or Star Wars fans have come after me for tweaking the thing they love, I have stood by the tweets. But there have been a few times when a joke that totally made sense in my head looked awful on the screen, and that's on me.

I like to think I'm a little better about it now. I no longer have any illusions that Twitter is good for me in any way.

comradekev263 karma


WatsonsBitch352 karma

Wait I remember this! I think a friend sold his air mattress, which I had slept on one night before a Jeopardy audition or taping or whatever.

Did the air mattress actually have a hole?

Raster0fMandomness259 karma

In your eyes, what constitutes a story worth telling to Trebek (as in pre second half of. round 1)?

WatsonsBitch906 karma

No one knows, because in 35 years of Jeopardy no one has ever told a funny or appealing story to Alex Trebek after the first commercial break.

Orange_Kid246 karma

What's your take on the "Gangsters/Gangstas Paradise" controversy?

WatsonsBitch1049 karma

The Jeopardy rule is: contestant pronunciation doesn't have to be correct, but it has to be a plausible pronunciation of the correct spelling. So I guess the ruling was: "gangster" is not a plausible pronunciation of "gangsta," which seems right to me.

It can seem nit-picky, but Jeopardy has to be consistent about following their rules. Not just for PR reasons but for legal ones: it's still a felony in America to rig a game show, due to the 1950s scandals. Getting a ruling wrong might not just be a lawsuit, it could conceivably get the FBI involved. (Especially in the Trump era, where the government is likely to be pro-Wheel but anti-Jeopardy.)

elDarto234 karma

I love your guest appearances (and frequent wins) on Doug Loves Movies. How did you meet Doug Benson?

WatsonsBitch274 karma

Doug and I were both on the bill at Bumbershoot, a Seattle music festival, one year. He asked me to guest on his movie podcast, which I had never heard at that point. I had a great time as the only non-comedian.

Doug might come off as laid-back and meandering on the show sometimes, but the funny thing is he cares deeply about the movie games and wants them to run right. So he likes guests that are pretty good at the games and take them seriously (except for Samm Levine).

iforgotmylegs196 karma

was there ever a jeopardy question (or "answer" i guess) that you thought was total bullshit, either because you didn't get it right or someone else did get it right and you thought they shouldn't?

WatsonsBitch848 karma

Everyone has probably seen this by now, but I still feel like I was jobbed. Does it hinge on the spelling difference between "ho'" and "hoe"?

The guy on the end who eventually says "rake" came over to me during the break. He was a Lutheran pastor somewhere in the Midwest and was relieved that I had beaten him to the buzzer at first. He was ready to buzz in and say "ho" and his congregation never would have let him forget it. Imagine poor defrocked Al wandering the lakes of Minnesota, muttering "What is a rake?...What is a rake?" over and over.

NeedzRehab190 karma

I'm here early to a live AMA... what do I do with my hands?

Serious question, what are your views, if any, on cryptocurrencies?

WatsonsBitch380 karma

I think Jeopardy will switch to Bitcoin by the end of the summer.

john_dune178 karma

So you ever regret your Reddit account name?

Also, would you host Jeopardy when Alex Trebec retires?

WatsonsBitch531 karma

  1. Yes! The idea of a supercomputer having a prison bitch is extremely problematic in 2018.

  2. Sure, what a great job! Work 4-5 days a month, all the Perry Ellis suits you can stuff in the back of your car. But the show is unlikely to offer the job to a former contestant when there are actually experienced hosts and broadcasters out there. Jeopardy isn't Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, to be given to the nice boy who follows all the rules and makes it to the end.

Will09994163 karma

Hi Ken! Thanks for doing this AMA.

I was browsing Atlas Obscura a while back, and it had an article about how you found the world's largest sub-sub-sub island.

How did you go about finding this, if not by monotonously scrolling through Google Earth? And what other geographical and geological oddities do you find most interesting?

WatsonsBitch279 karma

I actually did not discover it, though Atlas Obscura claims that I did. The Victoria Island lake was mentioned on some rando Geocities page or Usenet board or something, debunking some claim about a better known sub-sub-sub-island. I wish I knew who the originator was, so I could credit them now that I've publicized their discovery.

I did spend quite a bit of time trying to find a bigger sub-sub-sub-island and failing. So has Randall Munroe of xkcd fame, another map geek, though he told me he thinks there might be one out there in the tundra still...somewhere...

ShlomoKenyatta141 karma

Where was your favorite place to eat on BYU campus?

WatsonsBitch487 karma

Trick question, there is no good place to eat on BYU campus. Provo, Utah actually has good restaurants now though! I was there again earlier this year and that Navajo cafe downtown is legit.

L18CP124 karma

What's your favorite meme?

WatsonsBitch366 karma

Blinking-in-disbelief Peter Krause-lookin white guy gif. I have no idea what this meme is called.

Fuzzdump115 karma

Hey Ken, what does John Roderick smell like?

WatsonsBitch234 karma

Coffee, leather, and sensitive guitar licks.

suaveitguy107 karma

Ever meet Herb Stempel, or Charles Van Doren?

WatsonsBitch169 karma

No but both are still alive! It's not too late!

I really want to meet Van Doren but what would I say to him? I'm a pint-sized version of him who didn't cheat, I doubt he would want to hang out at Denny's with me.

cbutzko107 karma

Are you still a Mormon?

WatsonsBitch550 karma

Yes. I'm at your front door right now and I'd like to share a short message about families.

dcannons100 karma

Have you noticed that many of the all time greats on Jeopardy didn't have super successful careers before winning? Does "Jeopardy smart" not translate well into the job world?

  • I think you said you weren't really happy with your work as computer programmer, and I believe Julia was unemployed at the time she was on, and both Brad Rutter, and Austin were bartenders.

WatsonsBitch399 karma

I wrote about this in my first book, Brainiac. There is something about quiz culture that tends to attract a certain sort of aimless Mensa type who always has a lot of ideas and projects, but never an actual job.

Off the top of my head, I wonder if a lot of these very gifted people grew accustomed, from a very young age, to knowing every answer and acing every task with very little effort. At some point, they discover that careers requires decision and intiative and focus. People are going to stop handing you lists of puzzles to solve at some point.

There's also the fact that trivia people tend to be information-omnivorous generalists in a world where careers increasingly require specialization. How do you choose your passion when you're passionate about everything?

trizephyr93 karma

Ken, I remember rooting for you every day on jeopardy when I was in elementary school, and I have never had the chance for a love Ama. What can I do to increase my chances of fulfilling my dreams? I know that a lot of it is just luck, but what can I do to increase my chances of luck happening to me?

WatsonsBitch209 karma

All of my AMAs are love AMAs. We are in love now.

lilbud200092 karma

How long does an episode of Jeopardy take to film?

WatsonsBitch247 karma

They've been making the show for almost 35 years, it's a well-oiled machine. Generally it's "to time," so 30 minutes exactly with realistically timed ad breaks (during which Alex answers audience questions).

The only tape stoppage is before Final Jeopardy, so contestants have longer than the length of an Aleve ad to do their math. (And then in case of emergency, if they need to research an alternate answer or fix a technical glitch.)

TiredNightly86 karma

Hey Ken! Do you think that having access to all media all the time has made humor more reliant on references? Almost becoming more of an "in-crowd" thing?

WatsonsBitch259 karma

Reference humor is a fairly modern invention! I mean, there were topical jokes in comedy back to Aristophanes, but the idea that you could punch up a joke by naming a specific brand or obscure former celeb...that's not a common trick pre-Lenny Bruce or Woody Allen.

It's funny that reference humor is increasing in density and esoteric-ness even while our culture is fragmenting so that there are fewer references we all understand. That's the Dennis Miller thing where the joke reference is purposefully narrow, so that you get a laugh of self-congratulation from the "smart" audience member that can actually follow it.

("The Dennis Miller thing" is also where you get so messed up by 9/11 that you become a terrified, unfunny conservative pundit overnight.)

LeDolceVita59 karma

How long do you spend researching for episodes of Omnibus?

WatsonsBitch98 karma

John and I pride ourselves on not just summarizing the Wikipedia entry, we like to go back to original sources or at least book chapters and/or longform journalism. I usually study up for an hour or two the night before. John is much better at jotting down a few notes between shows and then just diving right in.

FreddyVanZ58 karma

I went to a book signing with Brandon Sanderson and mentioned that you had mentioned HIM in Maphead (which I absolutely ADORED, by the way), he just gave me a grinning, protracted "Ken!" Can I just get a reaction from you about Brandon, for the set (maybe even an anecdote from your time as roomies)? Also, can we expect more geography and map-based humor in this one, or will it deviate from your fascinating fascination with cartography?

WatsonsBitch132 karma

Brandon was years from being published but he still had a stack of thick fantasy manuscripts in the apartment...I assume he was in the middle of several 13-part series. He would follow our roommates around the kitchen reading them the latest chapters from The Chronicles of Kallivianesse (or whatever) while they were making ramen or whatever. I loved everything about this.

The funny thing is, the books were actually good! (Or got good, I guess, once he got all the bad ones out of his system.) Follow your dreams, kids. Annoy your roommates.

milthombre55 karma

What is the last line of software code you wrote?

WatsonsBitch277 karma


InfiniteWar39 karma

What’s the funniest joke you’ve ever heard? What’s the worst? And what’s the darkest? Thanks for your time

WatsonsBitch133 karma

Jokes aren't funny. I'm more into people falling down. Be honest: so are you.

KushNuggies30 karma

Is there any Conspiracy theories you have heavily researched and 100% believe in?

WatsonsBitch158 karma

I think the Jumbotron applause-meters in sports stadiums are fake. Pre-recorded nonsense. Crisis actors.

aged_monkey27 karma

As someone who's pretty funny and has been joking around this thread, do you feel the oppressive nature of comedy in our culture personally?

WatsonsBitch90 karma

I do. I feel like our culture of "riffing," where everybody has learned to master the rhythms of light-hearted jokes, has made me so good at quippy banter that I rarely have to use other conversational muscles.

Last month, for example, my daughter fell and broke her wrist. A lifetime of goofing around had prepared me perfectly to jolly her along through the pain with a series of dad jokes. But when a friend had a kid get in a serious car crash, I was much less comfortable with what to say and how to act. Irony culture had left me less able to cope with the thinner atmosphere.

Zer0Summoner13 karma

Hi Ken, resident of the Greenwood area of north Seattle here.

How do you feel about Durkan capitulating on the head tax issue?

WatsonsBitch33 karma

I probably live not far from you! I am baffled by this new new kowtowing-to-evil-business vibe in "progressive" Seattle.

I have friends who work in homeless policy here who tell me that the city's programs, despite what you hear, are not particularly mismanaged or non-evidence-based...they just can't keep up with the influx.

ChaoticScott6 karma

How did you meet John Roderick and decide to make Omnibus?

WatsonsBitch10 karma

John and I were introduced at a party one year at Bumbershoot, a Seattle music festival. John Hodgman and author Maria Semple were the intermediaries, so it was a star-studded meeting!

I remembered John's academic air and asked him to play a scientist in a promotional video we were shooting for my book Because I Said So! and we really hit it off. We talked about doing a podcast for a while, because John is so good at it, but we never had the right idea. It wasn't until the Stuff You Should Know guys from Atlanta asked us to put together a show last year that we got serious.

We were flying to Atlanta in December to pitch them a show called The Worst (always about the worst ____ in history..."I'm Ken," "And I'm John...and this show is The Worst!") and realized on the plane that neither of us liked the idea at all. So we started over from scratch and figured out Omnibus somewhere over Tennessee.

zoidberg-phd4 karma

Hi Ken, huge fan! I recently signed up to apply to be on jeopardy. I have your 8,888 trivia questions in 365 days, and I love it. Do you have any other book recommendations that you think helped you a lot in your time on jeopardy?

WatsonsBitch2 karma

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy is your best one-stop shopping source for Jeopardy knowledge. See you on the show!

Clumsy_Cadet3 karma

What podcasts are you listening to right now and why is Doughboys your favorite?

WatsonsBitch5 karma

I like the Adam Scott/Scott Aukerman REM podcast, both as an REM super-fan and as someone who can kind of tolerate an hour of good-natured improv.

mkddy2 karma

What should be considered a winning condition for Kennections? Does one need to get all the clues correct AND the solution or if I guess the solution from a few clues does that count?

Not going to lie, when I saw this headline a few days ago I was worried it was you for a split second.

WatsonsBitch2 karma

(I do a fun little trivia puzzle called "Kennections" twice a week for Mental Floss.)

I think getting the final Kennection should be the goal. In a way, it's almost more impressive if you can guess it without answering all five of the trivia questions.

Expert level: go back after you have the Kennection and try to use it to "back-solve" the questions you didn't know. It's fun!


Taramasalata or tzatziki?

WatsonsBitch9 karma

Tazatziki. Taramasalata reminds me too much of this weird Scandinavian fish roe that my Norwegian friend used to put on sandwiches when we were kids. It came out of a toothpaste tube! (Unless I dreamed this. What a weird and specific dream that would be though.)