Mad Money, CNBC's daily show about the stock market, is not your typical financial show. Host Jim Cramer shouts, he throws things around, he pushes buttons to make funny noises.
Since Cramer is a former hedge fund manager, we'd like to see just how much he knows about actual hedges. We'll test him with three questions about the world of topiary.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where we ask successful people about things that really shouldn't matter to successful people. It's called Not My Job.
So "Mad Money," the daily show about the stock market on CNBC, is not your typical financial advice show. The host shouts, he throws things around, he pushes buttons to make funny noises to underline his point. But he's rich, so he's not crazy; he's eccentric.
SAGAL: Jim Cramer, host of "Mad Money," joins us now. Jim Cramer, welcome to WAIT WAIT.
JIM CRAMER: (Unintelligible).
SAGAL: So I just naturally assumed - I guess seeing your style I should've known this, but I just assumed you'd be one of those guys who got out of college and went right to work on Wall Street, but that wasn't your background, right?
CRAMER: No, I went right to work as a sportswriter in Tallahassee and a homicide reporter in California.
SAGAL: You were a homicide reporter?
CRAMER: Oh yeah, I covered everybody who died violently in the Los Angeles area for about a year.
SAGAL: And did your career covering murderers and victims of terrible crimes prepare you in any way for a career in Wall Street?
CRAMER: You know, at the time I was still a sophist when I was out there because these were real people with real lives, and then you get to Wall Street, and it's really kind of - it's tawdry. It's about making money and nothing really else. And I think that that's difficult for a younger person who was idealistic before I went in there.
SAGAL: Really? So I mean, you went from covering murderers to covering - to talking to bankers, and you found that, like, terrifying and disillusioning?
CRAMER: You know, I thought there would be some soul to it, but there was no soul to it.
SAGAL: So why then did you devote your career to it?
CRAMER: Because I was living in my car before I went to it, and I really wanted to be able to make some money.
SAGAL: So you were living in your car?
CRAMER: Yeah, my second year out of college, I was living in a tough neighborhood. Someone stole everything from me over a period of three days, and I was evicted. All I had was my Ford Fairmont and came back and ended up living with my sister in her studio apartment in Greenwich Village, got my life back together, went to law school and then got a job on Wall Street and stuck it out for a while.
SAGAL: So when did you start giving out investment advice, as you do now?
CRAMER: I started in 1981, and there I used to give it out frankly on my answering machine. I used to say I'm not here right now, but I think you should go buy (unintelligible)...
SAGAL: Wait a minute, wait a minute. What were you doing at the time? What was your job?
CRAMER: I was at law school.
SAGAL: You were at law school, and you would like - I mean, you write about this in your new book, "Get Rich Carefully," and you say that you'd be sitting in, like, law school class and reading the Wall Street Journal in the back of the room.
CRAMER: Right, and the professor - some of the professors didn't like it. Other professors would call me up and say, well, why are you doing this. And I'd say because I want to run money. That's what I kind of - I want to manage money. And I was running a couple of the professors' money by the time I graduated.
SAGAL: Really? So they would like call on you and, like, what are you doing reading the Wall Street Journal in my class, and by the end of the year, they're like yeah, could you invest some money for me?
CRAMER: Absolutely. They were some of my initial investors in my hedge fund.
SAGAL: And you would - you said you left stock tips on your answering machine, so if anybody happened to call you for whatever reason, they would get a stock tip?
CRAMER: Absolutely, and that's how, again, how I got to large investors. I didn't think I would, but my largest investor gave me a half-a-million dollars after listening to three stock tips in a row and making a lot of money.
SAGAL: So they would just call you up, and on your answering machine, you know, buy Acme Amalgamated, and they would and make a lot of money, and they'd just keep calling you?
CRAMER: Yes, and I had some great hits, and a very wealthy investor said that he had made more money off the answering machine than he had in 20 years with money managers.
BRIAN BABYLON: So that's this pre-Internet stuff. I guess that's...
SAGAL: That's amazing.
CRAMER: Yeah, and then he gave me a half-a-million dollars, a check for half-a-million dollars. I had never seen anything like it. And he said look, I owe it to you. I've been using your answering machine tips, and I feel badly, and here's $500,000. Go run with it.
SAGAL: Wow, and was that - that was the start of your career because you famously ran very successfully a hedge fund for many years.
CRAMER: Yes, that was how it got started, off the answering machine.
SAGAL: Right. Now, I'm going to make an observation here. I've been talking to you for a little while. You seem quite sane.
CRAMER: Well, I'm not the guy - there's a guy on "Mad Money," and he's me, but I have to amp it up, and in reality you've got me in Summit, New Jersey, where I'm a dad, and I'm a regular guy.
SAGAL: So you are not like that in real life, you are not totally amped up to 11 shouting - you're not talking all right, kids, time to have dinner, cowuga, that's not you at all?
CRAMER: No, and I know it's funny because in town I have a persona, and it's not the guy on TV. Look, I try to be true to my words of what I say on TV, but there is an entertainment component and a coaching, teaching component, and I try to make it come alive. But I'm a real (unintelligible) around town.
SAGAL: Do you think that there are people who watch your show who don't care at all about finance or investment but just like you jumping around the set and hitting the sound effects and throwing your books?
CRAMER: Definitely, definitely.
CRAMER: Well, there's, like, little kids who like the show. I mean they just - you know, it's kind of like - they like the sound effects. They like the drama of it and even though it is about stocks.
JESSI KLEIN: There are times when it's like a Japanese game show.
BABYLON: I like to watch it because I think you look like Louis C.K., and it's sort of funny. It's sort of like Louis C.K. acting crazy, giving financial advice.
CRAMER: I'm often confused with him and with Vladimir Lenin.
SAGAL: You're confused with Vladimir Lenin?
BABYLON: And Louis C.K. That's hilarious.
CRAMER: I've been stopped several times in New York in the last, say, two years with people who have said you look familiar. Is it possible that you were related to Lenin?
SAGAL: Oh, the irony.
CRAMER: I know. I mean, he was certainly not the great capitalist. And then Louis C.K., whom I think is incredibly funny but also he has a drearier show, obviously...
CRAMER: You know, if we can call it that. But a lot of people have said that - they've compared him to me much more than they have, say, "Mad Men" and Jon Hamm.
SAGAL: Yes, that doesn't - that would be lovely. Well, all I know is that you're a bald Jew from Jersey making good for yourself. So I'm pleased to see you.
SAGAL: Absolutely. All right, Jim Cramer, we have invited you here to play a game we're calling: 2
CARL KASELL: Look at my beautiful shrub.
SAGAL: That's right, you, as we've discussed, former successful hedge fund manager, but what do you know about actual hedges? We're going to ask you three questions about the world of topiary, get just two right - topiary, of course, sculpted hedges, yes. Just get two of these questions right, you'll win Carl's voice for one of our listeners. Carl, who is Jim Cramer playing for?
KASELL: Jim is playing for Kathy Pecora of Homer Glen, Illinois.
SAGAL: All right, you ready to play, Jim?
CRAMER: You bet I am.
SAGAL: All right, here is your first question. In 2002, a Santa Cruz, California, resident's artful topiary, in front of her home, made the news when what happened? A, a neighbor called the cops complaining that the 20-foot-tall shrub was far too phallic for her tastes; B, they woman burned down half the neighborhood when she tried to make her Moses and the burning bush scene, quote, super-realistic; or C, she sculpted the words free candy here, children, out of poison ivy.
CRAMER: I think this is definitely B, Moses and the burning bush.
SAGAL: Really? So you think she made a little sort of scene of Moses in front of a bush, and she lit the bush on fire, and it caused a problem?
CRAMER: Yes, definitely that.
SAGAL: Actually it was A, it was the incredibly phallic - yeah, she did this very large sort of cylindrical thing and with some rounder things next to it, and...
KLEIN: I thought it looked cool.
SAGAL: OK. That's OK, you still have two more chances here, Jim.
CRAMER: OK, OK.
SAGAL: Next topiary question. One group in Seattle in Seattle has actually come out to advocate against topiary. What's their reasoning? A, sculpting plants to look like animals makes them no longer safe for vegetarians; B, bad topiary is, quote, the senseless torture of shrubs, unquote; or C, extra leaves are the mustaches of the plant world, and mustaches are really cool right now.
CRAMER: Wow, I don't know about the sensitivity to plant life. I'm going to eliminate B.
SAGAL: Now wait a minute. I just want to point out to you: It's Seattle.
CRAMER: Oh, I'll go with B then.
SAGAL: You're right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: The group is called Plant Amnesty, and they do not seem to be joking. All right, this is going to be - you've gotten one right with one to go. You get this one right, you win all the marbles.
In 2008 in Liverpool, England, a topiary tribute to the Beatles made news when what happened: A, it was mobbed by screaming teenage girl plants; B, Pete Best snuck in and tried to grow a Pete Best bush next to it; or C, someone beheaded Ringo?
CRAMER: I think that it sounds like it would be C.
SAGAL: You're right. Somebody beheaded Ringo.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: Yes, that was a little bit of the Jim Cramer we know and love from TV, Just a little bit. It was exciting to hear. Carl, how did Jim Cramer do on our quiz?
KASELL: He had two correct answers, Peter, and that's enough to win for Kathy Pecora.
CRAMER: Thank you.
SAGAL: Oh, it's exciting. Jim Cramer is the host of "Mad Money" on CNBC. He's part of thestreet.com. And his new book is "Get Rich Carefully," in bookstores now. Jim Cramer, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!
CRAMER: Thank you, Jim, bye-bye.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SAGAL: In just a minute, Carl catches some Z's in our listener limerick challenge. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT, to join us on air.
Support for NPR comes from NPR stations, and: Angie's List, providing reviews of local roofers, painters, landscapers and plumbers to keep the consumer informed, more at Angie'sList.com; The Sy Syms Foundation supporting advances in science, education and the arts since 1985, SySymsFoundation.org; and Care.com, offering HomePay, a solution for nanny tax obligations, from payroll tax to tax filings, learn more at Care.com.
We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME! from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.