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Ask Wessel: Can you name any past The Voice winners?

Plus: Potluck food, John's restaurants, and video games.
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Every Friday on Dana Wessel answers your questions. Music, sports, pop culture, whatever you want. Have a question? You can tweet them to @DanaWessel or email him at

Q: My boyfriend and I were having this debate. Was that band of animals that played music at Circus Pizza cool or really creepy? - Maria

I say both! I remember being absolutely terrified by them as a young child. Like, traumatized, crying and not able to enjoy my pizza. That ape was terrifying. But as I got older I thought they were the coolest. I can remember being up in front dancing like a weirdo all hopped up on root beer to their tunes.

Wanna hear something weird? So the animatronic band in question is called the Rock-Afire Explosion and there is an entire subculture of people who have bought and restored these things to working order in their houses or random bars. They have even reprogrammed them so they cover recent hit songs. There was a whole documentary you can see online. It is equal parts creepy and fascinating.

Imagine being on a first date with someone and you go back to their place only to find they have a fully-loaded Rock-Afire Explosion set up in their basement. That might be the most terrifying thing on earth.

Q: Have any solutions for airlines? This [stuff] is getting out of control. - Jamie

No. There are no solutions. They need to give up. We are at the point of no return. They just need to embrace the chaos. Everybody spends $50 to get on a plane. Flat fee. You are handed a pair of brass knuckles and a flask of whiskey. Then it is just a combination of Fight Club and Con-Air once onboard. There is just no coming back from the path we’ve headed down. Airplanes will soon be less civilized than a prison riot.

Q: Top 3 video games made after 2000? - Don

Man, this is going to be a tough question to answer. It is pretty well-established in this here mailbag that I am firmly on Team Cartridge when it comes to video games. I punted on new games around the PS2 era and stuck to the cartridges and cords that I was used to. So, that being said, my list might anger some people. But these are the three that I spent the most time playing.

  • Tony Hawk Pro Skater - Whenever anybody hears a song from the soundtrack they are immediately transported back to sitting in their parents' basement on a summer day doing a sick combo.
  • Grand Theft Auto III - I rented this game on an unassuming Saturday afternoon the week it came out. I played it for a couple hours before immediately driving to Best Buy to purchase it.
  • Whichever was the first Mario Kart game that came out in the 2000s - Probably Double Dash? I am too lazy to look it up. Told you I don’t know a lot about games past the 2000s.

Q: Man, how about that Trump guy? - Danny

Seriously. How about that guy?

Q: If you could watch only one actor's full catalog for the rest of your life, one TV and one movie, who would they be? - Patrick

Man, this is a tough question.

Let’s start with TV. Here are a few honorable mentions.

Danny Devito - This would give me all of Taxi, the majority of Always Sunny, and three classic Simpsons episodes where he voiced Homer’s brother. Pretty decent run. Couldn’t complain about that.

Rob Lowe - I’d get 79 episodes of West Wing, 76 episodes of Parks and Rec and countless other guest spots and SNL hosting gigs. I could live with this as well.

Ted Danson - I’d get all 275 episodes of Cheers. That’s the real prize. But then there are also the 86 episodes of CSI he did. That would make for a nice blend. Toss in the work he has done on Curb Your Enthusiasm and that is a good roster. But what if I have too much to drink one night and accidentally watch a few episodes of Becker? I can’t run that risk. My friends would make fun of me for the rest of my life.

Amy Poehler - I’d get the entire run of Parks as well as her days on SNL. That might be the funniest option. But still not the one I am going with.

My pick is….

Dan Castellaneta - Give me all 617 episodes of The Simpsons. It is the greatest show of all time and all I would need. But he is more than just Homer. Dan has appeared in so much other random stuff that I’d get some variety. He has been in episodes of Parks and Rec, The Office, Reno 911, and That 70’s Show, just to name a few.

As far as movies go? It is tough to pick just one person. You can’t go wrong with someone like Tom Hanks or Leo.

But I am gonna say Samuel L. Jackson. He has been in like 8,000 movies and there is a pretty wide range. Most of the Tarantino flicks, Jurassic Park, The Incredibles, the new Marvel movies, etc. Plus, you just know he is going to find his way into the Fast and Furious franchise at some point. It is destiny.

Q: Best dish/item a co worker can bring to a potluck? - Whitney

Anything that is from a store and fresh. Sorry all you wannabe Scott Conants and Giada de Laurentiis’ but nobody wants your homemade tater tot hotdish. The real star of the potluck is the person who comes strolling in with some fresh wings or a couple pizza pies.

Remember, quality matters, too. People will be much more impressed if you come with wings from Bunny’s rather than some frozen crap you threw in the crockpot. Also, as long as we are on the topic, gas station donuts are for the birds. We have high-quality donut shops on every corner in this state now. Go big or go home.

Q: Why are there so many food places with the last name John? Taco John’s, Jimmy John’s, Papa John’s. - Aaron

I somehow never even made this connection before. I am an idiot. But yeah, you’re right. That is pretty odd. I did a little digging and Taco John's has the rightful claim of the surname John, having been founded in 1969. Jimmy and Papa came around right around the same time in the early 1980s so I am just going to chalk this up to a coincidence. John is a pretty common name.

However, now that their chains have blown up and gone national, I think there can be only one. The easy thing to do would be hold an election, but the Russians would probably just rig that too.

So the better idea is to have Taco, Jimmy, and Papa square off in a WWE Hell in the Cell match. Winner keeps John. The other two have to change their names to either Taco McTacoFace, Jimmy McJimmyFace or Papa McPapaFace. That’s only fair.

Q: Can you name a single person to ever win The Voice? - Kristen

No. Of course not. I bet the judges can’t either. But that isn’t the point of The Voice. They aren’t looking to turn people into stars. Sure, if the next Taylor Swift was born outta The Voice it isn’t like they are going to be mad. The Voice is successful because of the judges. That is the whole appeal of the show.

Nobody cares about who wins these shows anymore. Yes, you have your favorites during the season but they are easily forgotten. The shows aren’t about discovering talent. Any talented goober with an acoustic guitar can be found on YouTube these days. This is just a platform for the famous judges.

The reason The Voice thrived and American Idol died (well, for a few months at least) was because NBC struck gold with their judges. They got the safe and likeable Adam Levine and Blake Shelton as the anchors. Those two basically cover the entire spectrum of pop music fandom. Then they have a revolving cast of middle judges that keep things fresh. Plus, the Blake Shelton/Gwen Stefani romance had every NBC exec standing on their desk thrusting the air with delight.

So, yeah, it is easy to make fun of The Voice for not creating a star, but make no mistake, they really don’t care. They know everybody will be momentarily enchanted with the contestants and forget about them the second the season ends. The reason the people come back season after season is to see that country boy Blake rip on that city slicker Adam. That’s the hook of the show.

Alright, that’ll do it for this week! Let’s all raise a tall glass of orange juice and toast to the weekend! We might hit our first 80 this weekend. Get out there and keep the dream alive.

Keep your questions coming to @DanaWessel on Twitter, in the comments section below or email them to

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