I have to say, as somebody who wrote a book that has a couple of chapters dedicated to fact checkers and fact checking, there were a couple things where I was like, “Hey, that’s pretty good.” One was the tension between the writers and the checkers. Is that one of the things you’ve heard about?
BS: We’ve all heard stories and fact checkers that have talked to us about it have said that tension is real. You can just image that it would be real with any kind of creative situation when someone is getting in the way of a writer’s writing process … I also think there is something relevant when you’re talking about tension with writers and fact checkers now with all the blogging going on. There must be even more tension between fact checkers and bloggers because bloggers can just write whatever they want.
I would have to image some of the guest stars that you approached had also dealt with a checker when a profile was written about them. Did you ever have any conversations with any of the guest stars about their experiences with checkers?
DB: They just came in and were very game to come in and play along. But none of us brought that up that I’m aware of.
PK: When we originally wrote a short for Pauley Perrette I think we had it in there that her hair was naturally black, and the checkers were verifying that she didn’t dye it. But she said, “Well, my hair is naturally blonde so I don’t really understand where you guys are coming from.” We hadn’t checked our facts. So we changed the script.
BS: In a similar vein, working with Alex Trebek we were talking about facts with him constantly and talking about the show, about Jeopardy!, and … at one point we asked him something and he had the answer and we said, “Mr. Trebek, is there anything you don’t know?” He responded with, “What I don’t know is not worth knowing.” It was so good that we put it in the show.
I’m going to give you a couple of facts about real fact checkers and I want you to decide if they’re true or not …. So, do they fact check cartoons at The New Yorker?
BS: No. I’m gong to say no because some of those captions are ridiculous.
DB: I’m going to say no as well.
PK: I gotta go no with this one but, again, Russel and Dylan would fact check a caption or a photo in heartbeat.
I’m sorry to say you’re all wrong—they in fact do fact check the cartoons at The New Yorker.
DB: Are you serious?
Yes, if you are citing a company name in a caption or draw the White House, you better have the right number of pillars for the White House and have spelled the company name correctly. Last question, this is a piece of trivia: What famous American novel that was later made into a film starring Michael J. Fox had a…
DB: Bright Lights, Big City—boom!
That’s right! Bright Lights, Big City had a magazine fact checker as a main character.
DB: A cocaine-addled fact checker at that.
Correct … Is there anything you’ve learned about fact checking that we haven’t talked about?
DB: What’s funny was that during the shoot I was at a friend’s house for dinner and there were two people there that were actually fact checkers from Maxim magazine, which is just really funny considering it’s the magazine I think we’re lampooning. And I was like, “I’m doing a series about this” and they were not impressed. They were not impressed at all. It tells us that this is a little more on the nose than we had thought it was.
PK: I also want to add that every fact checker I’ve ever met since 2007 has seen our short with Bill Murray and has enjoyed it—or at least told me they did. So what I’ve learned is that fact checkers should probably spend more time fact checking and less time watching funny videos on the Internet.
BS: What I’ve learned is that fact checking is hard. When we’re writing these things and we have facts that we want to reference, we have to check them to make sure that they’re true—and it’s hard.
Is there anything else you want to add?
PK: I just want to add that I think today is the seventy-fifth anniversary of women’s suffrage and, you know, we also wanted to give voice to a group whose voice had gone unheard for far too long. These fact checkers, you know, they don’t create anything—they have to interpret, and hopefully we…
DB: Don’t print this, Craig! Don’t print this! [laughing]