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Not My Job: Three Questions About Bass (The Fish) For Lance Bass (The Singer)

BILL KURTIS, BYLINE: In 2015, we went to Orlando, Fla., which of course is famous for one thing and one thing only – growing boy bands in tanks of nutrients.



We talked to Lance Bass. He was a member, of course, of ‘Nsync. And we asked him about what it was like growing up being groomed from an infant for nothing but stardom.


LANCE BASS: (Laughter). I wish it was that easy. No, I was a very gawky-looking teenager, so I was not cute. No, I was living in Mississippi, and I knew Justin through a vocal coach that when they were looking for a bass singer for the group...

SAGAL: Hold on. Wait a minute. Justin, Justin. Have you guys ever heard of anybody named Justin associated with this?

BASS: Yeah. He's trying to make it big. One day - one day he'll...


SAGAL: Let him dream. I don't know if he'll ever hit any higher than he did with you, but go on.

BASS: I know, it's sad to watch. It really, really is.


BASS: It was nuts because, you know, when we first started, you know, a year after we were together in Orlando, we got signed to Munich, Germany. So we're actually a German band.

SAGAL: What? Wait a minute. You are a German band?

BASS: We are a German band, ja.


BASS: Yeah. And, you know, the Beatles got their start in Germany too.

SAGAL: I guess so, yeah.

BASS: You know, the first two years were so surreal to us because, you know, we were - it felt like you were the Beatles. I mean, there were thousands of people just chasing you everywhere. And then we come back to Orlando, and you couldn't even get arrested at the mall.


SAGAL: Of course after the band broke up, you came out with a really surprising kind of revelation for people who had followed you that you wanted to be an astronaut.


SAGAL: And you actually - you actually - I mean, this was not like a lark when you signed up for the - I guess they call it the Space Tourist Program in Russia. You learned Russian, right?

BASS: Yeah, I did. (Speaking Russian).

SAGAL: 'Cause the idea was you can't just be a tourist on one of these space trips. You have to be ready to fly the spacecraft, do the emergency procedures in case something goes wrong, right?

BASS: Oh, yeah. I mean, it's not a tourist thing at all. I mean, you're a legit cosmonaut, and you're in charge of a lot of things. I mean, I was in charge of all of our oxygen on board, you know. So, you know, I could at any moment kill everyone on board.


SAGAL: So you had been a part of this hugely successful musical act that involved a lot of synchronization and teamwork. Did those skills as a boy band member help you as a cosmonaut?


BASS: It's - actually, it really did help me a lot. Just the discipline that we had to have to be in a group like that and the training that we had to go through to be able to perform like that and sing live. And yeah, it kept me very grounded.

SAGAL: As it were.


BASS: Yeah.

SAGAL: You guys - and I hadn't remembered this until I looked it up - you guys did the Super Bowl halftime show. Did you watch it this year with that amazing technological stuff that they Katy Perry had, and you were like, hell, we didn't need any giant lion puppet?


SAGAL: We just went out there and the special effect was our talent. Am I right, honey?

BASS: Hey, we had a blast. I mean, the Super Bowl halftime show is the ultimate for any performer. And I was living a dream.

SAGAL: Oh, my gosh.

BASS: But I would've loved to have had Left Shark there too.

SAGAL: Left Shark. I think next year's Super Bowl is just going to be Left Shark doing a solo acoustic show.

BASS: Oh, yeah.

SAGAL: And it's going to be 50 minutes of...

BASS: I'm calling Left Shark for Halloween. No one can steal that one.


SAGAL: Well, Lance Bass, what a pleasure to talk to you. We've asked you here this time to play a game we're calling...

KURTIS: It All About The Bass, About The Bass, No Treble.

BASS: Yeah.


SAGAL: So you are Lance Bass, but what do you know about bass, I mean, the fish? I mean, probably not a lot unless you were named for the fish, which would be weird 'cause it's your last name.


SAGAL: So we're going to ask you three questions about bass and bass fishing. Get two right, and you'll win our prize for one of our listeners. Bill, who is Lance Bass playing for?

KURTIS: Sky Joiner, from Muscle Shoals, Ala.


SAGAL: All right, Lance. Here's your first question. Cheating is a big problem in professional bass fishing tournaments. It's a huge problem in fact.

BASS: True.

SAGAL: To try, you might...


SAGAL: Please tell me that you, Lance Bass, have entered a bass fishing tournament.

BASS: I have not officially entered a bass fishing tournament, but growing up in Mississippi, yes, I fish a lot. Look, I was either going to be a bass singer or a bass fisherman so...

SAGAL: There you are. To try to prevent cheating, bass fishing tournaments routinely do what? A, give all winners polygraph tests right there on the dock; B, test to make sure each competitor's urine is at least 30 percent Miller Lite; or C, they hire scuba divers to follow each boat around and actually watch the fish get hooked.

BASS: Wow. Well, I mean, I guess I'm going to have to go with C, scuba divers.

SAGAL: They're - scuba divers following the boats?

BASS: Yeah. I mean, that's pretty aggressive, but yeah. Why not?

SAGAL: It would be. Sadly, the boats go upwards of 60 miles an hour, so they'd have to be really good scuba divers. The answer was polygraph test. They actually - at many bass fishing tournaments - hook the guys up. Did you catch that fish? Yes, sir. That's what they do.

OK, Lance, here's your next question. Now, the way you cheat in a bass fishing tournament is you stash a live fish in your boat or in the water and then pretend you've caught it. But one cheater at a tournament in the U.K. was caught when what happened? A, he forgot to take the bass out of the supermarket packaging; B, spectators recognized the fish from seeing it at a nearby aquarium; or C, he presented it to the judges in the form of fish sticks?


BASS: Wow. I guess I will go for A?

SAGAL: So you think...


SAGAL: So you think that a guy - usually guys competing in a professional bass fishing tournament – says, here's the fish I just caught from this lake and one of them is in a Styrofoam tray, wrapped in cling wrap? So you're really going to - 'cause we offer you the choice of the supermarket packaging, B, recognize it from the aquarium, or C, fish sticks.

BASS: All right, B just sounds way better now.

SAGAL: You're right. It's B.


SAGAL: So, yeah, somebody had just been to the aquarium and they said, that fish looks familiar.

O'ROURKE: I say.

SAGAL: I say. And they called the aquarium and they said, are you missing a bass? And they said, well, as a matter of fact we are. And thus the guy was caught. All right. Here we go. The last question for you is about Big Mouth Billy Bass that was the singing mechanical fish that was all the rage a decade ago.

BASS: Oh, yeah.

SAGAL: It was not just a novelty though as proved by which of these? A, in Venezuela, it's being used to teach English; B, it stopped a home invasion robbery in Minnesota after the intruder was scared off by its rendition of "Take Me To The River;" or C, the newest version is entirely edible - an innovation after several unfortunate incidents with the first edition.


BASS: I know this one. It's B, it scared away an intruder.

SAGAL: You're right, Lance. Very good.


SAGAL: Guy broke into the house. All of a sudden he heard somebody singing, he turned and fled. It was just Big Mouth Billy Bass.

BASS: That's right.

SAGAL: Bill, how did Lance Bass do on our quiz?

KURTIS: He got two out of three, and that's a win for Lance.


SAGAL: Congratulations. So Lance Bass is a former but forever teen heartthrob and he's also the host of the show "Dirty Pop" on Sirius XM radio. And if you want to see how he's doing, check out his new music video, it's called "Walking On Air." Lance Bass, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME.


BASS: Thank you so much for having, guys.

SAGAL: Bye-bye.

Support for NPR comes from NPR member stations and from TIAA-CREF, a global financial company dedicated to delivering financial outcomes that matter. TIAA-CREF, created to serve, built to perform. Learn more at tiaa.org. Fifth Generation, Inc., maker of Tito's Handmade Vodka, still independently owned by Tito Beverage, distilled and bottled in Austin, Texas. American-made and gluten-free. Recipes and more at titosvodka.com. And Lumber Liquidators, a proud sponsor of NPR, offering more than 400 styles of wood and hardwood, bamboo, laminate and vinyl. With flooring specialists in hundreds of stores nationwide. More at lumber liquidators.com or 1-800-HARD-WOOD. WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME is a production of NPR and WBEZ Chicago in association with Urgent Hair Care productions, Doug Berman, benevolent overlord. B.J. Leiderman composed our theme. Thanks to all the panelists, our guests, our listener contestants, Mr. Bill Kurtis, and of course, our scorekeeper emeritus, Carl Kassell, still our only prize. I'm Peter Sagal. We'll see you next week with an all-new version of WAIT WAIT …DON'T TELL ME. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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