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New Peacock comedy 'In the Know' parodies NPR

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Lauren, thank you so much for jumping in to host MORNING EDITION at the last minute, really with no time to prep for all the interviews you're about to do. I hope we didn't ruin any fun plans you might have had for today.

ZACH WOODS: (As Lauren) No, I say prep is the crutch of the unimaginative.

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MARTÍNEZ: To be clear, everyone, Lauren Caspian is not a new MORNING EDITION host. Lauren Caspian is a character created by actor Zach Woods. If you've seen "The Office" or "Silicon Valley," you have definitely seen Zach's work. His new comedy series is called "In The Know," which is a parody of public radio. Zach, thank you for playing along.

WOODS: I'm covered in dog hair. You can't see me, but I'm wearing a cardigan covered in dog hair. My hair is disheveled. I was recently asleep. I apologize.

MARTÍNEZ: That is the public radio uniform.

WOODS: Is that true?

MARTÍNEZ: We all get handed a cardigan sweater full of dog hair.

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WOODS: (Laughter) They have dog hair at the door to just...

MARTÍNEZ: Right when we start. So, OK, so tell us, who is Lauren Caspian?

WOODS: Lauren Caspian is the host of the third most popular NPR interview show, and he presides over a small office of producers and researchers and interns. It's a stop motion animated show, so it's all puppets. But he interviews guests who are on video...

MARTÍNEZ: Humans, alive humans.

WOODS: ...Humans, alive humans who are not puppets - and interacts with them and asks them questions.

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MARTÍNEZ: All right, so let's hear a clip from the show. Lauren here is interacting with some of his colleagues in the office. And it starts with Barb, the co-executive producer of "In The Know." That's Lauren's show.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "IN THE KNOW")

J SMITH-CAMERON: (As Barb) I also wanted to let everyone know that that homeless gentleman is still in the bathroom.

WOODS: (As Lauren) Barb.

SMITH-CAMERON: (As Barb) Huh?

WOODS: (As Lauren) That is hate speech. He is an unhoused person.

CAITLIN REILLY: (As Fabian) Actually, the preferred term is person who is currently without housing.

WOODS: (As Lauren) No, I don't think so. Are you sure?

REILLY: (As Fabian) Yes.

SMITH-CAMERON: (As Barb) Oh, I'm sorry. I'm really very empathetic to the man's situation. I volunteer at a homeless shelter.

WOODS: (As Lauren) No, you volunteer at an unhoused shelter.

REILLY: (As Fabian) A shelter for persons currently without housing.

WOODS: (As Lauren) Well, it just feels very clunky.

REILLY: (As Fabian) Oh, I'm sorry. Is it too inconvenient to treat vulnerable populations with respect?

WOODS: (As Lauren) How dare you? I was using the term Inuit back in the '90s. I've been spelling women with a Y since before I could spell my name.

MARTÍNEZ: So meanwhile, there's a person in the bathroom (laughter)...

WOODS: Yes.

MARTÍNEZ: ...That actually could - needs some help.

WOODS: That's right.

MARTÍNEZ: But all of you are ignoring that person. So what are we learning about the characters here, Zach?

WOODS: I think language is actually really important. However, I think sometimes an obsession with language, as you pointed out, can distract you from the more urgent, practical, real demands of a situation. And I am a classic offender of this, the kind of progressive hypocrisy - like, my ideology does not match my credit card statements. I am so disappointing in so many ways. I mean, one of the things that was really, like, an early inspiration for the show is I was walking around Larchmont, which is this kind of Tony neighborhood in Los Angeles.

MARTÍNEZ: Very hip place, yeah.

WOODS: Yes, yes. And there's this house, probably costs $4 million. And in the front lawn was a sign that said defund the police, and then right next to that sign was an ADT home security decal that mentioned that they had armed guards who patrolled the neighborhood.

MARTÍNEZ: (Laughter).

WOODS: And I was just like, this is perfect. It's like we want our progressive bona fides, but also we want our mercenaries with guns going around the neighborhood. And I felt very smug and sanctimonious, and then I went and bought, like, a $15 lavender matcha that my immigrant ancestors would probably kill me for purchasing.

MARTÍNEZ: I saw that Lauren Caspian - you mentioned the third most popular show, but he's also the third most popular host, right?

WOODS: That's right.

MARTÍNEZ: OK, so I really identify with that because I feel that I am the fifth most popular host on MORNING EDITION. It has four hosts - in no particular order, Leila Fadel, Michel Martin and Steve Inskeep, then anyone that can fill in for me, and then I'm the fifth position.

WOODS: You feel that the substitute teachers are more popular than you?

MARTÍNEZ: Yes, I've always felt that way.

WOODS: I refuse to cosign on this narrative. But also, if that is how you feel, then I think we might need to Tonya Harding some of these people.

MARTÍNEZ: (Laughter) All right, Steve Inskeep, he's coming - Zach's coming after you, Steve Inskeep.

WOODS: Steve Inskeep, if you get a lozenge that does a little vocal damage, you'll know from whence it came.

MARTÍNEZ: So, OK, I've worked in public radio for a few years now.

WOODS: Yeah.

MARTÍNEZ: What about public radio seems funny to you?

WOODS: I think the kind of tempest in a teacup part of it is funny to me. Like, I've had friends who are professors. Please hold your applause.

MARTÍNEZ: (Laughter).

WOODS: But they told me that, like, these little liberal arts schools in the middle of nowhere, it's like "Game Of Thrones" with the backstabbing and the interoffice politics. So something about the kind of gentle, small environment married with the ambition and competitiveness made me laugh. And then also, it was just a kind of framing device to make fun of people like me.

MARTÍNEZ: How much fun was it to do this? Because public radio can be a very serious place...

WOODS: Yeah.

MARTÍNEZ: But, I mean, I can imagine that you must have been laughing all the time while you were doing this.

WOODS: Yeah, it was really fun. And one thing - one big part of the show is that Lauren Caspian, the puppet, interviews real live guests, and the guests were so game and playful. Like, to ask someone, hey, will you go on a show that you cannot watch, has never existed before, you're going to be interviewed by a narcissistic, fictional, stop motion NPR host, it's kind of a big ask. And they were so funny and playful...

MARTÍNEZ: What were they looking at?

WOODS: They were just looking at a still photo of Lauren.

MARTÍNEZ: Oh, OK (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "IN THE KNOW")

WOODS: (As Lauren) Hugh Laurie, welcome to "In The Know."

HUGH LAURIE: Thank you, Lauren. It's a great pleasure to be here.

WOODS: (As Lauren) Hugh, what should we do about Meghan Markle?

LAURIE: I don't know that any action is required.

WOODS: Part of why we wanted to make it stop motion was, A, because if you're going to make a show about people who are precious and delicate and controlled by forces beyond their own awareness, puppets are the appropriate medium.

MARTÍNEZ: That would be a puppet, yeah.

WOODS: But also because I think there's something disarming about talking to a puppet. It just feels less like you're going to get in trouble or, you know, have to be on your best behavior. It's so ridiculous and weird that I think people would open up more.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, I don't know how your show, "In The Know"...

WOODS: Yes.

MARTÍNEZ: ...Is going to be processed when it finally - when people at NPR finally get to, like, start watching it. I mean, you know...

WOODS: Neither do I.

MARTÍNEZ: Some NPR types might squirm. How do you feel about that (laughter)?

WOODS: I mean, it would be the great honor of my life if I could have, like, a war, if I could be beefing with NPR. I mean, don't get me wrong, I rely on you guys. I listen to you constantly and have imported large parts of my identity from NPR. But if we could have a kind of ongoing war where they hate me and - I think that would be thrilling and make me feel alive for the first time in a long time.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Zach Woods. He plays Lauren Caspian, NPR's third most popular host on the new series called "In The Know" that's now streaming on Peacock. Zach, Lauren, whichever I'm talking to right now, thank you and congratulations.

WOODS: Unfortunately, I often can't tell the difference either. So thank you for having me, from Zach and Lauren.

(SOUNDBITE OF MILES DAVIS' "ALL BLUES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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