In Recent Podcasts: Drunk Driving and Niagara Falls

Here at Story Collider, we're busy preparing for our fall slate of shows -- which includes trips to DC, San Francisco, New Orleans, and more! -- and I'm just catching up here on some of our recent podcasts today. Two amazing recent storytellers from our podcast? Comedian Wyatt Cenac and Science Friday's Ira Flatow.

Wyatt Cenac: Drunk Driving for Science

You may recognize Wyatt from The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, or from his new show on TBS, People of Earth, about a support group for alien abductees (which, I have to say, looks great), or from his recent standup comedy special, Furry Dumb Fighter. We were lucky enough to have him in our May show that we produced in partnership with public radio’s Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen. (You can still watch the whole show here!)

Wyatt shared a hilarious story about completing his high school community hours at a science center--”This was a place of science. I knew this because it was called The Science Place,” he says. At The Science Place, he became addicted to cracking their drunk-driving simulator, trying to find a gender, height, weight, and number of beers to enter into the computer that would still allow him to “get home safely.” “You’re telling me that a seven-foot-tall, 300-pound man can’t have beer?” Wyatt says. “I mean, I’m basically Shaquille O’Neal right now and I can’t have one beer?”

To Wyatt’s credit, according to a chart from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in this Business Insider article, Shaq could indeed have one beer. Also according to their chart, I am “impaired” after one drink and legally intoxicated after two. I have to say, given past experience, this makes sense.

Ira Flatow: The Sound of the Falls

Science Friday’s Ira Flatow appeared in one of our Brooklyn shows last summer, telling a story from his early days working for NPR, when he’d been assigned to find out what it sounds like to go over Niagara Falls -- using a recorder, not firsthand observation. He recounts his boss telling him, "I want to take a barrel and I want to throw it over Niagara Falls. But not just any sort of barrel. I want to put a tape recorder in the barrel so we can record what it sounds like to go over the falls in a barrel -- because very, very few people have survived to tell the tale of what that sounds like."

This turns out to be true! There is a Wikipedia page actually titled: “List of Objects that Have Gone Over Niagara Falls," and it's a bit of a grim read. (Can I please direct you to the entry from 1930, which includes the line “The turtle survived the ordeal”? I plan to end all future dinner party anecdotes with that line.) One thing I never thought of -- apparently fish swim over the Falls. "The volume of the Falls creates a cushion of air bubbles and water mixture at the base that softens the the surface of the plunge pool at the base of the Falls," and their bodies are built to absorb pressure, according to the website Niagara Falls Thunder Alley. Once, a tourist was grazed by a salmon that had been swept over the Falls.

So if you want to find out what it sounds like to go over Niagara Falls, you'll either have to listen to this story, or ask a fish.

-- Erin Barker, Artistic Director