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Not My Job: We Quiz 'Black Monday' Star Don Cheadle On Black Friday

BILL KURTIS: By the end of June, we had been locked inside for four months, and we were getting a little punchy, as our guest, Don Cheadle, found out.


DON CHEADLE: I came out of California Institute of the Arts. And we were involved in comedy, drama, comedia, mime - you know, what have you?


CHEADLE: Well, not in college. In high school, I was in a mime show. But that's a whole story.

SAGAL: Wait a minute. You - wait. Yeah, hold on. You can't just drop that. You were in a mime troupe in high school? Did you do, like, the classic oh-I'm-in-a-box-you-can't-see stuff? Or was it more, like, dramatic?

CHEADLE: Come on, man. (Unintelligible). The box thing is so passe. That's so Marcel Marceau. It's so 1955, man - half that stuff.


SAGAL: I wanted to get back to, like, the range of work. I just want to - if - people who don't know your work, first of all, shame on you. Secondly, like, on one end, you starred in "Hotel Rwanda," a very serious drama about a genocide. You were nominated for an Oscar. And you've also done an elaborate sketch about a testicle spa for Funny or Die.


SAGAL: That's range, my friend.

CHEADLE: Yeah, man.

SAGAL: And of which of those two are you most proud?

CHEADLE: God, I mean...

FAITH SALIE: Which of his two testicles?


CHEADLE: Left one. Is that - oh, that's not what you meant.

SAGAL: (Laughter).

MO ROCCA: Did you have to do a screen teste (ph) for that role?


CHEADLE: Yes, I did.

SAGAL: You know, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Cheadle is not just a gifted actor. He's a producer. He came up with that bit, if I'm not mistaken.

CHEADLE: I did. I did. And I had it in the sack when I went in. It was just like...

HARI KONDABOLU: Man, that must've been a ball to film.

SAGAL: (Laughter).

CHEADLE: It was. It was nuts, man.


SAGAL: Probably the biggest project you've been a part of - the "Avengers" movies. Is it true that you were given, like, an hour or so to decide if you wanted to be in those movies?

CHEADLE: Actually, I was at my daughter's laser tag birthday party.

SAGAL: Sure.

CHEADLE: And they called me. And, you know, they said, we need to know in an hour. And I said, I'm at my daughter's laser tag birthday party. They said, oh, oh, take two hours.


SAGAL: Did you need two hours to think about it?

CHEADLE: Yeah, for sure because, I mean, this was at the beginning, and it was six movies, which is 12 years, you know? And I took the whole two hours.

SAGAL: You did. You really considered it (laughter).


SAGAL: I imagine that as a trained mime, when you were, in fact, shot by your daughter in laser tag, your death scenes were immensely great.

CHEADLE: Look; I was only in it for that. I don't - I'm not a fan of laser tag.


CHEADLE: But I'm definitely a fan of death scenes.

SAGAL: Oh, yeah.

CHEADLE: So I didn't think about it in that way, but great ideas about that.

SAGAL: I do want to - before we get to the game, I do want to talk to you about "Black Monday," your show on Showtime, which the second season came out. I had no idea what it was about until I started watching it this week.

CHEADLE: And then you had less of an idea.

SAGAL: (Laughter) It takes place in 1986. You play a character who's kind of a Black Gordon Gekko. What would you call this guy? He's amazing.

CHEADLE: Yeah. I kind of feel like he was the white me.

SAGAL: Oh, Gordon Gekko, right (laughter).

CHEADLE: You know, yeah, it's sort of a what-if, you know, kind of a reimagination of that time period were there to be a shop like that on the street that had a Black trader at its core and then also had, you know, his No. 1 being a Black woman. You know, that place really didn't exist.

SAGAL: Just to give people who haven't seen the show an idea of its tone, there is a scene where your character takes his young protege out - what's supposed to be, like, the best night on the town ever. And he takes him to see an execution...

CHEADLE: (Laughter) Yeah.

SAGAL: ...Which in context is hilarious.

CHEADLE: (Laughter) Well, he goes, what do we see? He's like "Death Of A Salesman."


SAGAL: Did they ever pitch anything to you and you're like, no, I cannot do that?

CHEADLE: Oh, every day. Every day.

SAGAL: Really? (Laughter) Because the stuff you do on camera is pretty severe.

CHEADLE: I'm saying, the stuff we do is bananas, so you can imagine the stuff that they pitch, and I'm like, I'm not saying that.


CHEADLE: I'm like, if you want to be in front of the camera, you can make that joke. I won't be making it. And they're both Jewish, so they're like, hey, do this Jewish joke. I'm like, I am not doing...


CHEADLE: You guys can do that.


SAGAL: I have to say, having watched a lot of the show, I cannot imagine what was too tasteless for you to do because the stuff you do...


CHEADLE: I mean, that's really kind of the concept - is, like, to see (laughter) how close can we toe the line without stepping over. And sometimes, you know, you put your toes over. And then you're like, OK, we might get in trouble for that one. But that's the whole point, I think, and it fuels the frenetic energy that that time period was.

SAGAL: Yeah.

CHEADLE: Everybody was on coke. Everybody was going crazy.

ROCCA: And what do you guys use instead of cocaine? Seriously, what is the substance?

CHEADLE: Sometimes B12. Sometimes cornstarch.

SALIE: What is that like?

CHEADLE: It ain't fun. I'm not going to say it's fun.


SAGAL: Can't you just mime it? You are trained.

CHEADLE: I offered that. I offered that.

SAGAL: (Laughter).

CHEADLE: But going through the whole makeup...

SAGAL: Yeah.

CHEADLE: ...It just would've taken a long time and been pretty confusing for the audience, I think.

SAGAL: I understand.


SAGAL: Why is he snorting - cocaine isn't there and why is he doing it inside an invisible box?

CHEADLE: And why is the cocaine real but everything else is mimed? I don't understand.


SAGAL: Well, Don Cheadle, we have asked you here to play a game we're calling...

KURTIS: Welcome to Black Friday.

SAGAL: You star in "Black Monday," so we thought we'd ask you about Black Friday. That's the Friday after Thanksgiving when crowds show up to get a start on Christmas shopping and also maybe do some murders.


SAGAL: Answer 2 out of 3 questions correctly, you will win our prize for one of our listeners. Bill, who is Don Cheadle playing for?

KURTIS: John Baker (ph) of New York City.

SAGAL: All right, you ready to do this?

CHEADLE: OK, I'm - I'll do my best for you, John.

SAGAL: All right, here we go. One of the huge toy fads was the Furby back in the 1990s. During one Black Friday during the Furby craze, which of these once happened in a big-box store? A, a woman broke an employee's fingers to get a whole crate of Furbys; B, a woman broke an employee's fingers to get a single Furby; or, C, a woman broke an employee's fingers to get a ticket to wait in line to buy a Furby?

CHEADLE: I just love that the truth in all of them is that a woman broke an employee's fingers.

SAGAL: Yes, that's the one thing we can count on.

CHEADLE: That's - I love it. I'm going to say to get one.

SAGAL: To get one.


SAGAL: No, it was actually to get a ticket to stand in line.

CHEADLE: I'm going to say it's to get a ticket to stand in line.


SAGAL: It's too late. No, apparently, they were handing out tickets because you needed a ticket to get - hold your place in line. And she reached up and she grabbed, like, an early ticket so hard she broke the employee's fingers. She was asked to leave, did not get a Furby. All right, this is fine. This is fine. You have two more chances.

During the height of Black Friday madness, one Walmart gave employees special training about handling the giant pallets of sale items. What was it? A, in a pinch, flat-screen TVs can be used as shields; B, when you hear the bells over the intercom, cut the plastic and run; or, C, only use your tranquilizer darts on customers who are not holding expensive items?

CHEADLE: Wow. I'm going to go with B again - cut the plastic and run.

SAGAL: You're right.


SAGAL: That's exactly what he was advised to do because, apparently, you just didn't want to be between anybody and their TV.

CHEADLE: Yeah, that's smart. That's...

SAGAL: I think so. Do you have - I'm sorry. I'm quite distracted because Mo has taken off his shirt.

CHEADLE: He took it off about 10 minutes ago, and it was wild. The first...

SAGAL: I was focusing on you, like a good host should.

CHEADLE: I was just seeing his head, but now he's pulled his shoulders into it.

ROCCA: Should I save this for pledge week?


ROCCA: It's really hot in this room.

CHEADLE: I'm burning up, too, but I'm not disrobing.


CHEADLE: We got people in closets, and they're not taking their shirts off.


SAGAL: It's really...

ROCCA: It's just so warm in here.

SAGAL: Oh, my God. We have all been locked inside too long, I think.

SALIE: (Laughter) Oh, my God.

SAGAL: All right. Back to the game. So you've gotten one right with one to go. If you get this, you win, and everybody's happy.

One man who started standing in line at a Walmart on Tuesday to get a plasma TV when they went on sale on Black Friday ended up walking away empty-handed. Why? A, he was actually at a Wall Shop, Tucson's No. 1 retailer of retaining walls; B, on Wednesday, he decided there was just more to life than, you know, accumulating things; or, C, he hadn't realized there was a different entrance that was much closer to the TV section, and when he got in, they were all gone?

CHEADLE: It's C, for sure.

SAGAL: It is C, Don.


SAGAL: That's what happened.

CHEADLE: I love it.

SAGAL: Bill, how did Don Cheadle do on our quiz?

KURTIS: He won - 2 out of 3. Very good job.

SAGAL: Congratulations.

CHEADLE: Thank you.


KURTIS: Well done.

SAGAL: Don Cheadle is a Golden Globe-winning actor and the star of "Black Monday." Season 2 is airing right now on Showtime. Thank you so much for being on our show. We are all grateful.

CHEADLE: Thank you, guys. This was a lot of fun.

KURTIS: Thanks.

ROCCA: Bye, Don. Thank you.

SAGAL: Thanks again.


SAGAL: When we come back, we try to break Tituss Burgess from "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," and we ruffle the feathers of America's favorite bird-watcher. We'll be back in a minute with more WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.