PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where notable people are asked questions about things they never bothered to notice because they were doing something important.
SAGAL: Tim Kaine has represented Virginia in the U.S. Senate since 2013, and he was, prior to that, governor of the commonwealth. And you may remember he came pretty close to being vice president of the United States a couple years ago.
SAGAL: He got his start, though, in politics here in Richmond, first in the city council, then as mayor. We are glad to have him in his old stomping grounds today.
Tim Kaine, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
TIM KAINE: It's so good to be on the show. Thanks, Peter. Thanks, Richmond. It's great.
SAGAL: We're going to get to your background, which I find amazing. But I have to ask. As everybody knows, you were the vice presidential candidate in 2016. You almost, almost got there.
KAINE: I'm an electoral college dropout.
SAGAL: You are.
SAGAL: When you think about it, you came in second...
SAGAL: ...Which is great.
KAINE: There you go. Right.
SAGAL: I was surprised to know - because as long as I've known, you've been a central part of Virginia politics - but you're not from around here.
KAINE: I am a Kansas City kid with a wife who's a Virginian who's a much better negotiator than me. So...
SAGAL: So that's why you ended up here.
KAINE: We loved Richmond from the beginning because my wife knew that what I love is the outdoors. And so I was trying to convince her she would love pro baseball and jazz music. And she was trying to convince me - I don't have to convince you. I know you love the outdoors. And you can canoe in the heart of downtown. And you can mountain bike. And...
KAINE: It's just a - this city.
MAEVE HIGGINS: You can canoe?
KAINE: Yeah. There's whitewater rafting right in the heart of downtown.
KAINE: Yeah. It's beautiful.
SAGAL: Are you one of those people who always wanted to go into politics? Were you delivering your acceptance speeches into mirrors when you were in junior high school?
KAINE: No. I ran for sixth-grade class president and lost. I ran for...
LUKE BURBANK: Well, that was the electoral college, too.
KAINE: ...Ninth-grade class president - yeah, that was.
KAINE: Then I had no interest in politics. I was a civil rights lawyer. But, you know, maybe it's a Richmond thing, but I just got mad at city council one day. I mean, I...
HIGGINS: You were like, I can't even canoe in this town.
SAGAL: Yeah, it's ridiculous.
KAINE: I'd been practicing law here for 10 years and just ran a race and won a landslide by 92 votes.
KAINE: And I can't say I'm undefeated, but I can still say I've never lost either the popular vote or the Virginia vote in the election of...
SAGAL: Well, there you go. That's impressive.
SAGAL: And you then quite - as is well known, went on to become governor of Virginia. And I understand there's, like, a tradition as you hand over the position.
SAGAL: What is that tradition?
KAINE: The tradition is when you handed off the key to your successor, you play a prank on them.
SAGAL: Well, I have to ask. What prank was played on you?
KAINE: Well, funny you should ask that question.
KAINE: I believe this is the ur-prank. I don't think it can ever be exceeded. We were giving a tour to the newly elected governor, Bob McDonnell, and his wife and his children...
KAINE: ...In 2010. And we told them about the ghost at the mansion. There is a ghost at the mansion that has appeared over the decades. We could tell that some of his children actually were scared by these stories. So we bought a burner phone. We...
KAINE: We changed the ring so that it was a woman screaming that got progressively louder.
KAINE: We got a great battery for it, and we put it in a place up in the residence that would be nearly impossible to find.
KAINE: And then, about every 10 or 11 days at weird times in the day, we would call it.
KAINE: And we would let it ring and get louder and louder. And then we would hang up before anyone answered. And eventually, because there's a, you know, kind of a network, we started to hear there's some things going on down at the mansion that people...
KAINE: ...Because we only lived 2 miles away. There's some concerns about phenomenon. And...
HIGGINS: The children are so frightened.
KAINE: And then we eventually heard from the McDonnell family, and we laughed about it. It ended up with a lot of the kids all jumping into one bed together one night when this thing was going too...
KAINE: ...Crazy. So I just don't think that can ever be topped.
SAGAL: You know, it's funny because...
SAGAL: ...I had a question here about how such a nice guy has succeeded in politics. I'm not going to ask you that anymore.
SAGAL: Well, Senator Tim Kaine, it is a delight to talk to you. But we...
KAINE: I've been filibustering to avoid...
SAGAL: Oh, no. It was coming.
SAGAL: Senator Kaine, we've invited you here to play a game we're calling...
BILL KURTIS: T-Kaine, Meet T-Pain.
SAGAL: That's right.
SAGAL: T-Kaine, we're going to ask you three questions about the Grammy- and "Masked Singer"-winning musician T-Pain. Answer 2 out of 3 right, you'll win our prize - the voice of anyone...
KAINE: I thought it was Thomas Paine.
SAGAL: Really? The game is called Not My Job. And at least we're not asking you about being vice president. So give us...
KAINE: All right. OK.
SAGAL: We wouldn't do that.
KAINE: You wouldn't?
SAGAL: We'd mention it, but we wouldn't do it.
SAGAL: Bill, who is Senator Tim Kaine playing for?
KURTIS: Greg Jones of Richmond, Va.
SAGAL: He's out there somewhere.
KAINE: Greg, if I lose, I could make it up to you because we live near each other, so...
SAGAL: He doesn't get a voicemail, but he gets a huge government contract. How did that happen?
SAGAL: All right.
SAGAL: Here's your first question. So T-Pain, the musician - his real name is Faheem Rasheed Najm, but he adopted T-Pain as his rap name early on. What does T-Pain stand for? A, Thomas Paine, Mr. Najm's favorite of the early American intelligentsia; B, it rhymes with knee pain, something that's bothered him since his days playing lacrosse...
SAGAL: ...Or, C, it stands for Tallahassee Pain because that's where he grew up, and he really, really did not like it?
KAINE: I'm going with C.
SAGAL: You're right. That's exactly right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: He did not like Tallahassee, Najm.
SAGAL: So you did very well. Here's your next question. T-Pain has performed everywhere for many decades but in only one place that he described later on as, quote, "weird as hell." What was this venue...
SAGAL: ...That was weird as hell? A, in the penguin enclosure at the San Diego Aquarium...
SAGAL: ...B, entertaining at a rave at the Mormon Tabernacle...
SAGAL: ...Or C, at NPR headquarters?
SAGAL: You're right.
BURBANK: I won't set foot there.
BURBANK: No. I'm not going.
SAGAL: Den of iniquity.
SAGAL: T-Pain did a Tiny Desk Concert that until quite recently was the most downloaded and watched Tiny Desk Concert ever. So...
SAGAL: There you are.
SAGAL: There you go. All right. Here's your last question. T-Pain, if you know him, and I'm sure you do, is known for having many, many tattoos, including which of these? A, a to-scale portrait of Rachel Maddow's head on the center of his back...
SAGAL: ...B, a neck tattoo that is just the word tattoo...
SAGAL: ...Or C, on his elbow, the Chinese symbol meaning auto-tune?
SAGAL: B - you're going to go for the neck tattoo that's...
SAGAL: ...Just the word tattoo. You're right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
KAINE: And I knew none of those.
SAGAL: That was pretty sharp.
KAINE: All right. You get no government contract, Greg.
KAINE: You're getting a voicemail.
SAGAL: No, seriously...
SAGAL: T-Pain gets tattoos like other people get novelty T-shirts. He's just like, that seems fun. Put it on my skin. That's how he rolls.
Bill, how did Senator Kaine do on our quiz?
KURTIS: He got the trifecta - all three right...
KURTIS: ...A rare achievement.
SAGAL: Senator Tim Kaine represents the great Commonwealth of Virginia. Senator Tim Kaine, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
KAINE: Thanks, Peter.
(SOUNDBITE OF PERCY FAITH'S "THE VIRGINIAN")
SAGAL: In just a minute, we are forever young in our Listener Limerick Challenge. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to join us on the air. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.