Check out the full episode transcript here:
Hayes Brown: Jeff Goldbloom and drag racing, a match made in heaven, right? Turns out, Nope. Sondheim’s 90th birthday has this inspired in today’s list and have you heard? There’s a rumor in North Korea. Luckily, Buzzfeed News’ Megha Rajagopalan is here to help us separate fact from fiction.
Casey Rackholm: The date April 27th, 2020.
HB: The time News O’Clock.
HB: Hello friends. I’m Hayes Brown.
CR: And I’m Casey Rackholm. Welcome to News O’Clock.
HB: Okay. I love the East coast, but it is really dragging me down today. It feels like just the Monday-est of Monday’s possible out here.
CR: Which is insane because we usually don’t know what any day is, but today it’s very clear. It’s a Monday.
HB: It is super clear through all of the fog and panic. The Monday slices through like a knife to the heart, just informing us of it’s Monday-ness.
CR: And in the most Monday fashion, I woke up at 7:00 AM to gardeners doing landscaping around my apartment.
HB: Oh no.
CR: It’s been a noisy morning.
HB: What are they even doing out there right now?
CR: I don’t know, but I saw them cutting down a tree that then hit several wires, so it all sounds good to me, right?
HB: Yeah, I’m sure.
HB: Are they at least social distancing between themselves as they are cutting down trees. Are there six feet between them as they fell?
CR: Hopefully, Hayes.
HB: Okay. It is time for the corona update.
CR: Ah, yes, the best time of the day.
HB: Your sarcasm is heard and honestly appreciated. So here’s what you need to know today. For instance, briefings might be over for now. We’ve gotten kind of used to his daily, kind of rambly, briefings at the end of the day… on the coronavirus, but over the weekend, the White House indicated a pause after last week’s bleach briefing. At … what’s that? He’s actually briefing again tonight even though the White House said that he wasn’t going to brief again tonight? Okay. That didn’t last too long then did it. Meanwhile, speaking of things not lasting very long, some states are beginning to open up again, including Georgia, which last week allowed hairdressers to open, and this week is allowing restaurants to reopen.
HB: Now, most of those are states that you would call red states, with Republican governors, but that includes Colorado, which has a Democrat for governor Jared Polis, who was with the progressive caucus when he was in Congress. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization is warning us not so fast on the hope that if you’ve had coronavirus, you’re done with it. While there is hope that people with antibodies have some form of resistance to the coronavirus, the WHO warned over the weekend that there’s not any evidence saying that for sure yet. So once you get your antibodies test, which are ramping up, don’t go out there just coughing willy-nilly on people. Don’t take the risk. And finally, Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the lead members of the President’s Corona Task Force, was asked a few weeks ago who he’d to play him on Saturday Night Live.
CR: Who? Which actor would you want to play you? Here are some suggestions that I’ve heard. Ben Stiller, Brad Pitt, which one?
HB: Oh, Brad Pitt, of course.
President Donald Trump: This weekend he got his wish, courtesy of guest host, Brad Pitt, playing Fauci reacting to some of the president’s more, out there comments, including Trump’s denial that he’d ever fire Fauci.
Brad Pitt (Dr. Fauci):
Let’s see what he said about that.
President Donald Trump:
Today, I walk in. I hear, I’m going to fire him. I’m not firing him. I think he’s a wonderful guy.
Brad Pitt (Dr. Fauci):
So yeah, I’m getting fired.
HB: Can you imagine having that kind of poll though? Just to demand who plays you on SNL? I could never, I would be happy with whomever they gave me at that point.
CR: I know, most definitely. I’d be like, “Oh my God. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for considering me.”
HB: Who would be your dream pick though?
CR: Oh my dream pick? I don’t know. I don’t think that I have a celebrity doppelganger, so it would really just have to be whoever I loved at the moment. I love Saoirse Ronan, so I’m going to say Saoirse Ronan and everyone could just pretend I have an Irish accent.
HB: Yeah, done. Sold. I will totally buy that. I think my person would, based on things I’ve been told over the years, Jeffrey Wright from Westworld, the Hunger Games is what I’ve been … You’re in agreement with them then?
CR: Oh my God. That is the most …
CR: I am in such agreement. As soon as … You couldn’t even say Jeffrey all the way and I was like, “Oh my God. Yes.”
HB: I mean the age difference is there, but you know what? Honored if that’s even a consideration.
CR: All right, well it’s time for today’s Good News, Bad News.
CR: As you might guess from the name, this is where I bring you some of the most, “Oh my God, yes!” and most, “No, thanks,” stories from around the internet
HB: This weekend seems like it was a smorgasbord of both, to be honest.
CR: Indeed, but we shall begin with the good news. Buffy the Vampire Slayer exists and it’s at least in part thanks to the Queen of Country Dolly Parton. Her production company, Sand Dollar Entertainment, was apparently one of the original producers of Buffy, which is, I guess some people knew that who were in the know but a lot of fans did not know that, including me, and they just realized it over the weekend and it’s been nuts. And also her production company helped with … They produce Father of the Bride and Fly Away Home. I mean it’s insane but also as soon as I heard it I was like, “Oh my God, that makes so much sense. Dolly and Buffy.”
HB: Right? Two great tastes that apparently go great together. I was shocked and delighted when I learned this because I thought I knew some shit about Buffy the Vampire Slayer but not this one.
CR: Definitely not. But yeah, it makes so much sense because Dolly Parton is so campy, she loves telling female stories and it’s just like, “Wow, what a match made in heaven.”
HB: But also what loss that we never got a Dolly Parton cameo on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
CR: I know. Apparently, it’s a rumor that Buffy’s birthday, January 19th, was a Dolly shout out, but I’m like, “No, let’s put Dolly in it. I want to see Dolly and Buffy together.”
HB: I want to see Dolly as Vampire Number Three, is what I wanted to have seen. That would have been amazing.
CR: You know what? No, I think it’s time for a rewatch to find her somewhere in the background.
HB: Add her in.
HB: Put George Lucas, Buffy, and just digitally put her in years later.
CR: Okay, so onto the bad news. For anyone who is excited to see Jeff Goldbloom on RuPaul’s drag race this weekend, it did not go well. No spoilers if you didn’t see it, but Goldbloom was a guest judge alongside Rachel Bloom from Craziest Girlfriend and the category for the runway was patriotic looks and Persian American drag queen Jackie Cox wore a hijab with her outfit. And then Jackie and Goldbloom had this exchange.
Jeff Goldbloom: Are you religious, may I ask?
Jackie Cox: I’m not. And to be honest, this outfit really represents the importance that visibility for people of religious minorities need to have in this country.
Jeff Goldbloom: Isn’t this an interesting wrinkle though? Is there something in that religion that is anti-homosexuality and anti-woman? How does that complicate the issue? I’m just raising it, thinking out loud and maybe being stupid, but what do you think?
Jackie Cox: No. I think drag has always shaken the tree.
CR: Yeah, it’s not great. There’s lots of backlash online with people calling the comments Islamophobic. Though there were supporters who said Jeff was just asking questions.
HB: That was so messy. What’s wild is just how Jeff Goldbloom, he was, while he was asking it, just in a sort of just kind of a pontificating kind of way. Not really paying attention to where the question’s going. Just filming me to ask the question.
CR: That’s a really good impression.
HB: That was my… by the way.
CR: Really good.
HB: Thank you.
CR: That sounds like him during the episode. He is extremely, that was his voice the entire time. I don’t know. It is, it’s just a messy situation because he’s bringing up this homophobia and religion, but I’m like, “Okay, are we not going to bring up Christianity and the homophobia that’s rooted in that?”
CR: So it was definitely felt like a pointed question.
HB: Whether he knew it or not. And while the only way to learn is to ask, the problem is not that the question was asked is that the question’s been asked so many times before at this point. Jeff, why are you still catching up on this one?
CR: Right. And it felt like it was just taking away from Jackie Cox’s beautiful moment on stage.
HB: A mess all around, indeed.
CR: Well, after the break, we’ve got Megha Rajagopalan to give us the tea about North Korea. Be right back.
HB: Welcome back. It’s time for Say More. This is where we get to talk to some of the best people out there into spending some quality time with us.
CR: He’s alive. he’s dead. He’s got a train. The last week has seen rumor after rumor about North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, and whether he’s even still breathing, let alone in charge of his country.
HB: To help us sort through the mess, we’re lucky to have Buzzfeed News World Correspondent, Megha Rajagopalan , who’s joining the conversation from London. Hello Megha.
Megha Rajagopalan: Hey.
CR: So over the weekend we had a story from TMZ go viral claiming that Kim Jong-un wound was dead. On a scale of one to 10, how panicked were the text messages you got when that story went up?
MR: Oh my God. I was like everyone else on earth. I was on a massive Zoom call playing a trivia game and someone was looking at their phone. They’re like, “Oh my God, Kim Jong-un is dead.” And I was like, “Holy shit.” So I ran inside and Googled and then I was like, “TMZ? That TMZ?” And then I looked at it and it was like, “According to media outlets in China and Japan,” and it said, “We have not verified this information.” So I was like, “Okay, maybe not. Maybe let’s chill.”
HB: So what is the latest on what we actually do know for sure about Kim Jong-un? Because I feel like it’s not a lot. Something about a train managed to weave its way up to my brain this weekend. But that’s about it.
MR: Yeah, I mean it’s the most secretive state in the world. It just bears repeating over and over again. So anything you see on this that hasn’t actually been said by the North Korean government just treat with a huge amount of suspicion. The train thing is that basically there is a thing called 38 North, which is based in D.C. And they do a lot of monitoring satellite images of North Korea and the latest discovery that they’ve made is that a train that belongs to Kim Jong-un, it’s his train, has been spotted at this resort town in the East of the country called Wonsan. He has a compound there. So considering it’s his train, that’s maybe one piece of evidence that he’s actually there. Then again, the North Koreans know that everybody is monitoring satellite images for info about them because there’s literally very few other ways to be able to do it. So I mean if I was trying to cover up someone’s death, maybe I would just send us train up there. It’s hard to say.
HB: Okay, really quickly. Why a train? Why does he own a train? Why is that his preferred transportation method?
MR: It’s a communist country. They are known for being very into train travel. But I mean seriously, he takes the train to visit China. I think the subway in Pyongyang is known for how beautiful it is. It has the same style as the Metro and Moscow and that sort of thing. So I just think it’s part of the kind of infrastructure of North Korea.
CR: Okay, so he’s only 36. Why are we so worried about his health like this?
MR: Well, he’s a heavy smoker. He’s thought to be diabetic. He’s thought to be overweight. He’s a heavy drinker by many accounts. I think the UN once estimated that his alcohol budget topped $30 million or something like that. I think it’s a lot of expensive whiskey and that sort of thing. He had ankle surgery, which has been linked to his weight. So not necessarily the most healthy person. So all of those are factors.
HB: So I mean really quickly since I feel like we didn’t really get into it, why have we been worried that he’s dead to begin with? What set off this chain of suspicions?
MR: Essentially, if you’re thinking about how do you know if the leader of a really secretive country is alive, dead or in poor health, you have a limited amount of tea leaves to read. So in this case, essentially Kim Jong-un didn’t show up in state media for a long time, for several weeks. The train, I should mention, has been parked in Wonsan since April 21st, but he’s sort of disappeared for a few weeks before that. And then there was a celebration and commemoration of his grandfather Kim Il-sung, who’s the founder of the country, and he didn’t show up at that, which was highly unusual. So that’s sort of where all the speculation began.
HB: So if he does die, huge if here, since we don’t even know if he’s already dead or not, who takes over North Korea? Because there’s no heir apparent. He’s not married with a kid or anything. He hasn’t named a successor or anything.
MR: Yeah, that’s true. So it’s worth remembering that when Kim Jong-un came to power, we basically knew nothing about him. We had a few photos of him from Swiss boarding school. He had shown up, I think, two seats down from his father, Kim Jong-Il, at a state banquet. So it’s really hard to say who the successor is going to be. It’s just too early. He doesn’t not have children that are old enough to take over from him. However, he does have a younger sister whose name is Kim Yo-jong, who has actually been appearing in public quite a bit, I guess in the past few years.
MR: She was at the Olympics in Pyeongchang in South Korea. She’s also shown up in state media and stuff like that. So that’s the person that the North Korean analyst community has probably been talking the most about. That being said, North Korea is an incredibly patriarchal kind of culture. It’s sort of hard to see a woman taking over for the Kim dynasty, which is kind of the ultimate example of strong man rule. But there are lots of other examples of patriarchal societies that have had women leaders, so it’s possible for sure.
CR: Wow. Okay. What is the weirdest rumor you’ve ever heard about North Korea?
MR: There are so many to choose from, but I think for me the one that takes the cake is the rumor that Kim’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, was executed by being stripped naked and eaten by a pack of wild dogs, which I think is an instructive example because this is another example of a rumor that basically started because somebody made a joke about it on Chinese social media. It was then picked up by a tabloid in Hong Kong and then a bunch of Western news outlets that weren’t reading critically basically reported it unchallenged and then it came out that there was literally no basis for this story. And it’s funny because there’s a little kernel of truth there, which is that Kim really did purge his uncle who was quite a powerful figure at the time, but it’s a testament to like how weird we think North Korea really is, that we’re willing to believe that he did it by feeding him to a pack of wild dogs.
HB: See, that’s an interesting point, which gets me into my last question for you. Why does this country fascinate Americans just so much? Because I feel like of all the international news out there, people seem the most willing and like eager to latch onto the North Korea stories.
MR: Yeah, that’s so true. When I started paying attention to how many readers were coming to the stuff that I wrote about North Korea, I was just blown away. And it’s interesting because in the context of these Kim Jong-un death rumors, it’s literally like no one has any information about this. There’s so much speculation ,yet all of the stuff that people are publishing about North Korea are getting just piles and piles of readers.
MR: I think North Korea is different from other countries that have kind of weird or quirky aspects to their politics because it’s also kind of geopolitically significant because it is a nuclear power, because Trump has had this kind of much publicized diplomacy with them, because of all of these other figures from the West who have become part of this strange North Korea news cycle. People like Dennis Rodman, for instance.
MR: I just think that there’s like an endless appetite. And I think that the last factor is just that the lack of information just makes people want to know more. That makes people want to kind of grasp any little crumbs of information there may be. And I kind of include myself in that to be honest.
HB: I mean, ditto that here. Megha, thank you so much for talking us through this and I will wait with bated breath to see if we figure out that Kim is alive or dead by the time this episode publishes.
MR: Thanks guys. Talk to you soon.
CR: It’s time for The List because if you know Buzzfeed at all, you know how much we love lists. And today we’re inspired to look at our six best movie musicals.
HB: Yeah, today we’re still reeling from this weekend’s performance of some of composer and lyricist, Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday performance. It was so good. So we decided to channel that energy into today’s list.
CR: Okay, so good, minus all of the technical issues that happened. Wasn’t it delayed by like an hour.
HB: Yeah, but shh.
CR: Okay. We’re ignoring it, we’re ignoring it. Okay. And for clarity sake, we’re only talking live-action musicals. Sorry to all the Disney fans out there. So first up on our list of the six best movie musicals, number one, Grease.
HB: Number two, Moulin Rouge.
CR: Number three, Once.
HB: Number four, Little Shop of Horrors.
CR: Number five, Mamma Mia.
HB: And number six, West Side Story.
CR: I’m already so sad about every single movie musical that didn’t make the cut. Immediately, I want-
HB: Right, all of your loved.
CR: Everyone is loved. If this list could be over a hundred I would watch them all.
HB: I think it’s a pretty solid list though.
CR: I think so. I think we have a good range of … Mama Mia, I just want to watch when I’m happy, have a drink in hand, singing with some other friends in my apartment. Same with grace, honestly.
HB: Little Shop of Horrors, you watch for when you want to see Steve Martin be absolutely deranged with a giant puppet. And Moulin Rouge for when you want to be really happy and then cry a lot.
CR: And then if you want to cry some more, just start watching Once.
HB: And then West Side Story to round it out and really get that classic musical experience, complete with intermission, which surprised the hell out of me when I first watched the movie. Oh, you’re actually you’re just going to play music now while I go get a snack? I love this.
CR: Okay, so I know we’re talking about movie musicals that we love, but while we were compiling this list, I couldn’t help but think of the most insane musical that I’ve ever watched. My parents played it for my sister and I when we were younger and I recently revisited it. The musical is called Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Have you seen it, Hayes?
HB: I haven’t seen it, but I know it because my high school did it years before I showed up. I don’t even know the plot of it though.
CR: I will tell you the plot because I actually found the soundtrack at a record store and I sent it to my sister and I was like, “Oh my God, do you remember this?” And then I looked it up on Wikipedia and I couldn’t believe we watched it. Okay. So just to sum it up as quickly as I can. Basically, there are these seven brothers that live in the mountains and then there’s this town down below. One of the men gets married to this one woman and she comes back with him and she’s like, “Oh my God, all you boys, you’re so messy, blah blah blah.”
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CR: And she’s cleaning everything. And they love that it’s clean and that someone cooks for them. So they’re like, “We want brides too.” And their brother is like, “Okay, well the only way we can do that is if you kidnap them.” So all the brothers go down to town, kidnap six women, bring them back and then there’s a snow storm, so that all the families can’t rescue their daughters and they have to wait until spring. But by the time it’s spring, they’ve all fallen in love with the brothers.
HB: Wow. Screaming forever. How is this possible that this was an idea that became, not just a play, but a musical? Thank you, Casey, for bringing that to my attention.
CR: Oh, you are welcome. Okay, so if you want to watch any of these, you can rent all these fantastic films from the usual places online, but for a couple that are currently on streaming services, there’s Moulin Rouge, which is on HBO Go, HBO NOW, Mamma Mia on Hulu, and West Side Story on Starz.
HB: Is one of your favorites still missing from our list? Let us know about it and why it’s at the top of yours.
CR: Just open the voice memo app on your phone. Record your answer, including where you’re sending it from, and email it to us at email@example.com. That’s newsoclock, all one word, @Buzzfeed. Or just DMS at the News O’Clock account on Twitter.
HB: Okay. We have time for one more thing because we can not let you go until we talk about this. Casey, real quick. Have you seen a video lately that just made you feel better because of how pure it is?
CR: Yeah. I think this is a point in question. You know that I’ve been crying most recently. It was during an episode of Great British Bake Off. That sounds very common to me. So there you go.
HB: I mean, same. So the version I’m talking about today came across my timeline on Saturday and it’s a video of a girl and her uncle, possibly her fake uncle, her play uncle ,singing the classic Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. Please listen.
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”
CR: Oh my God, that is so good.
HB: They just fucking crush it. It’s so good. I had real tears coming from my face when I first listened. Then I played it for my fiance and the real tears came back again. And beyond their vocals, the video itself is great because she’s this tiny twelve-year-old girl, braids and sitting on the arm of a chair or a couch and he’s sitting next to her, but looks to be about five times her size and built like a refrigerator. Just a brick of a man with those lovely vocals.
CR: I know the contrast makes it even crazier. I mean she’s so tiny and the voice she has, it’s so beautiful and strong and all the different levels to it. I mean, who is she?
HB: Her name is Bri’Anna Harper from Virginia, shout out to Carolyn Moss of the Just Bought It podcast for that info. Bri’Anna is on Instagram as @ya_gurl, G-U-R-L, bri, where she has 53,000 followers and when I went to visit her page, I saw that she’s now working on a song with Neo.
CR: Okay, that’s so cool and make sense. She is talented enough to be doing that. And going back to the song they did, it’s such a good one for this moment and actually it’s kind of ironic that they’re sitting together in that video.
HB: Why? Why is that ironic?
CR: Okay. Because Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell were not in the room together when they recorded the song.
HB: Shout out to that early social distancing, which is while considering the fact that that song sounds like they were just right next to each other, just riffing off of each other.
CR: I mean, if you know what? That’s what we’re doing now. That’s probably what tons of podcasters are doing, we are truly in a wild time.
HB: You’re right. Innovators in more ways than one.
CR: That’s it for today. Join us tomorrow for all the best and worst of what Tuesday has to offer us, plus coronavirus conspiracies.
HB: And remember, just because the Michael Jordan documentary is inspiring, there’s no reason to embarrass yourself trying to be him on the basketball court in a pandemic. No, you cannot dunk. You just cannot.
CR: Be sure to subscribe to News O’Clock on the iHeartRadio app, Apple podcast or wherever you go for your sound stories.
HB: And please take the time to leave us a rating and a review to help us figure out what you like about the show versus what you love about the show. And tell all your friends about the show so they can set their alarms and never miss another News O’Clock.
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