April 21, 2016

#62 Decoders

by Reply All

Background show artwork for Reply All

Reporter Rukmini Callimachi is always looking for new ways to eavesdrop on ISIS operatives online. Recently, she got a new look into how ISIS members might be using the internet to coordinate their attacks. Plus, a new Yes, Yes, No.

The Facts

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Further Reading

Reporting by Rukmini Callamachi

Runa Sandvik

Adam West's Tweet


PJ VOGT: From Gimlet, this is Reply All. I'm PJ Vogt.

PJ: Ok so I guess the first thing is just can you guys say your names and your titles so we have them?

RUKMINI CALLIMACHI: Rukmini Callimachi and I’m a reporter at the New York covering terrorism.

RUNA SANDVIK: Runa Sandvik I am the director of information security for the newsroom at the New York Times.

PJ: Wait, what does that mean?

RUNA: That anything security-encryption related for the people in the newsroom sort of falls under me.

PJ: So last week, I headed up to the New York times to talk with Rukmini and Runa. You might remember Rukmini.

We actually talked to her back in Episode 33 about how ISIS uses the internet. And Rukmini's reporting is so good because she's like, she does a lot of reporting on ISIS using the internet. She's kind of like a narc at a high school. Like a cop who's like hanging out with the high school kids trying to fit in, but with ISIS, on the internet.  And since we last talked last summer a lot has happened. And Rukmini has learned way more about how ISIS talks on the internet in its most private, confidential conversations.

So, of course, I was dying to talk to her. But before we could get into that, Rukmini was just excited to show me this new encrypted chat program she has on her phone. ISIS people use it to have conversations and Rukmini has been listening in on those conversations because that's what she does.

RUKMINI: What's interesting is you'll see them posting, let me see if I can pull up some of them.

PJ: You have it on your phone?

RUKMINI: Yeah, it's on my phone. And, let's see if I can find some of them. They'll post things, they'll say, okay, "Please ask your friends to join the Kalafa news channel." And then at the bottom here it'll say, "This should not reach Twitter nor Facebook." Right, so they. . .

PJ: Wow. They use emojis.

RUKMINI: They use emojis.

PJ: Like a lot of them.

RUKMINI: Yes. Yes they do.

PJ: And it just looks like a chat, like it looks like Facebook Messenger.

RUKMINI: Exactly. Exactly.

PJ: Ok, so in Rukmini just carries around that little window into how ISIS people are chatting with each other. And it’s helpful enough, but ISIS knows that there are journalists in these chat rooms so they’re always a little bit cagey. The reason that I was there was to talk to her about this other window that she'd found. And it had the potential to be way bigger because it seemed to show where ISIS members planned their actual terror attacks.

So this story starts right after the ISIS attacks on Paris last November. 130 people were murdered. The attacks were all over the news. Most famously there were images from the Bataclan, a rock venue in Paris that was one of the targets hit.

Normally, after an attack like this, investigators work backwards. They look at the terrorists phones and computers and they draw the web of contacts that made the attack. The planners, the financiers, so that they can try to stop the next one. But this time, there was nothing.

RUKMINI:  After the Paris attacks authorities found absolutely no electronic communications. They found no emails. No Facebook chats. No. . .nothing, you know, nothing that showed an electronic, an electronic trace.

PJ: Huh.

RUKMINI: Now  Runa and others. . .argue that perhaps, perhaps this means that they never actually sent any messages, right? That they were so disciplined that they managed to carry out the operation by only speaking to each other in person or using burner phones, you see?

PJ: Yeah.

RUKMINI: Without ever having communicated in some other way.

I happen to think that’s not true. For the following reason:

One, in the Bataclan, several witnesses saw one of the suicide bombers who had a bomb strapped to him and was walking around with a detonator in his hand. They saw him flip open a laptop and do, do something with it. And they saw, they saw them asking about the internet: "Why is the internet not working?"

PJ: Rukmini thought that maybe this was a clue, that they'd been talking using computers. Just not on any of the channels that anybody outside of ISIS was used to trying to eavesdrop on. And there were more hints in this direction.

Reportedly, some of the witnesses saw a bunch of weird code on the screen of the terrorists' computers, which led some people to theorize that maybe the terrorist was actually using TrueCrypt, which is this open source program. Nobody actually knows who made it, but it's considered by security experts to be a very good encryption tool.

RUKMINI: So, so that’s one, one data point. The other data point is after Brussels in a trash can outside of the, the apartment that they had rented they found a laptop of one of the airport bombers. . .

PJ: Uh huh.

RUKMINI: . . .and that laptop with the information on it, including a will, etc., you know, has, has helped investigators. So it seems that they were doing something, you know, that involved the internet. I don't know, I don't know what, but it stands to reason, in my opinion, that, that they were using this for later attacks.

PJ: So does the ISIS have a way of talking online that none of us have figured out how to listen in on? Rukmini felt pretty sure that they did. And then, very very recently, she got a hold of this document. It's an interrogation record from a man named Reda Hame. Reda Hame was a French citizen who had joined ISIS. He'd been arrested three months before the attack on the Bataclan. And he was very unusual from two reasons. First of all he was an IT guy. Like a tech support guy. And second of all, unlike every other ISIS operative that French intelligence officials have been able to capture, he was very willing to talk.

Reda told French investigators that he had actually just recently returned to Paris after training with ISIS.

RUKMINI: He had been sent a couple of months before the Paris attacks and under interrogation he acknowledged that he had been sent by that same person with the objective of hitting a rock concert hall. Which is, what does that make you think of, you know? The Bataclan.

PJ: But he didn’t go through with it. So here is Reda’s version of what happened. He had a good job and then he lost it. He was angry and so he flew to Syria to fight Bashar al-Assad. But instead he ended up working with ISIS on a plan to attack France.

So, Reda was trained by an ISIS head honcho who was codename “Dad." And the training was not what I would have expected. It was extremely focused on just using computers.

RUKMINI: He was there for roughly a week so a very short amount of time and part of his training was, was learning how to use weapons and the other part of his training took place inside of a cyber cafe in Raqqa where they handed him a USB stick containing TrueCrypt. He was supposed to use this whenever he was writing a message to the group. He was supposed to encrypt it and put it inside of an encrypted folder. And then he was supposed upload it to a Turkish website from where his ISIS handler was going to download it.

PJ: The website was called doseya.co. It was like a Turkish version of Dropbox. According to the training, if Reda wanted to send a message to his handler, rather than sending an email, which some government could spy on, he was supposed to upload an encrypted file to this Turkish Dropbox. Then his handler would just have the same login as him. And he could logon to that Dropbox and download the file. So nothing actually passed between them.

But when he gets to France, Reda gets busted and he tells the police everything. And so Rukmini says that the guy who Reda was told to call "Dad," he was actually also the planner for the big Paris attacks. Which makes Rukmini think that it's likely that those attackers were using that same encryption. That they were using TrueCrypt.

Rukmini cares about this because she wants to understand terrorists. That is her job. But for the rest of us it is also so interesting and so relevant, because for months we've been having this big national debate about encryption v. terrorism. Most people will remember this, but a while ago two people who were inspired by ISIS murdered a bunch of civilians in San Bernardino. Both of the shooter died and one of them left behind a locked iPhone that the FBI wanted to open so the FBI tried to force Apple to unlock it for them and Apple said they couldn't do it. They didn't want to break their own encryption because then they couldn't guarantee privacy for anybody who used an iPhone. And so it was this big abstract debate, like, terrorism v. security. And Rukmini's reporting about what happened in Paris, it totally informs this argument that we've been having in America. And in a lot of ways it tells us that our argument is bullshit. Like it's founded on premises that are totally wrong. One very fundamental reason our argument doesn't make a lot of sense is that it assumes that most terrorists even use Western technology. In fact, if you look at everything we learned from this interrogation new ISIS recruits are told to stay away from any piece of technology made by a Western company.

RUKMINI:So for instance, doseya.co. They thought that this was a Turkish only website and were therefore directing traffic there. TrueCrypt, because it’s been around for so long. . .it’s open source, right?

RUNA: Yes.

RUKMINI: . . .is again I think software that can't be backdoored, right?

RUNA: . . .the developers are anonymous, as well, where you gonna send the request?

RUKMINI: Where're you going to send the request, exactly. They're not using iPhones. So, the debate in Congress is of course over, I think, if I get it right, it's, it's over American companies and whether American companies can be, can be forced into handing over the code or whatever, whatever is needed to, to get into their chats. What do you do if the, if, if the technology they're using is not American? And ISIS, like Al Qaeda before it, is paranoid of Western companies. Osama bin Laden used to say, "They made the internet, so be careful with it."

PJ: The other assumption it feels like we always make in our big argument about encryption is that we talk about it like it works all the time. And Rukmini's reporting actually suggests that terrorists are constantly screwing up when they try to use technology. ISIS is not sitting there wondering whether or not Apple's going to unlock their iPhone for the FBI. Instead, ISIS's big operational concern is actually teaching operatives to stop screwing up using technology.

Last June an air force general told a story of an ISIS member who accidentally included the geolocation on one of his tweets from an ISIS base. 22 hours later U.S. warplanes bombed it. and fundamental mistakes like that are happening constantly.

RUKMINI: So take Reda Hame who gets arrested in August of, of last year. So just a couple months before, before the Bataclan attack. He forgets the password to TrueCrypt. He wrote it down on a piece of paper...

PJ: Feels like that’s not the thing you’re supposed to do.

RUKMINI: Yeah, it's sort of like the PIN, you know, to your debit card. Right?

PJ: Yeah.

RUKMINI: You don't, you don't keep it with your debit card, right?

PJ: Yeah.

RUKMINI: Well, so he kept the password to TrueCrypt on a piece of paper next to the password to doseya.co, which was then found at his house when he gets arrested.

PJ: And Rukmini says ISIS made other mistakes. Remember that Dropbox-style site that Reda was supposed to upload his encrypted messages to? Turns out it wasn't as secure as ISIS thought.

RUKMINI: Runa was able to find out that it was actually, it’s actually hosted on a French server,

PJ: Huh.

RUKMINI: My, my. . . I don't know this for a fact but my reading of, of what I saw in the documents is that they were using something in Turkey because they thought it might be out of reach of Western law enforcement

PJ: Got it.

RUKMINI: Runa pointed out actually that they were most likely wrong.

PJ: Because it was hosted by. . .


PJ: . . .a French company.

RUNA: Yes. Yeah, exactly.

PJ: Huh.

PJ: It’s complicated. It's really complicated

RUNA: It's, it’s challenging and when you’re looking at this site it appears to be Turkish. There’s, there's nothing on that page that tells you otherwise.

PJ: How were you able to find out that it was, that it was hosted in France?

RUNA: You check the IP address of the website to figure out where the server is.

PJ: Oh that is find-out-able. That's actually isn’t that. . .huh.

RUNA: Uh huh.

RUKMINI: But for example me as layperson, I, I never thought to do that.

PJ: Right, I wouldn't have thought to do that.

RUKMINI: You know, and so, it was Runa’s expertise that actually pointed that out. I don’t know if ISIS has somebody at the level of Runa, you know, who could have pointed this out. But, yeah, they were. . .

PJ: Huh.

RUKMINI: . . .in the last couple of months they've been choosing people who have an IT background specifically I think because they've had so many failed plots that failed because of sloppiness on, on, on computer related stuff. People sending Facebook messages to their mom.

PJ: That was actually a thing that happened?

RUKMINI: Yeah, the, it wasn' to his mom it was actually to a friend, but, but a guy who was arrested two years ago, uh, February of 2014. He’s the first… we believe the first ISIS operative who, who goes from France to Syria, gets trained, and then turns around and goes back. He's arrested in February in Cannes with three TATP bombs. The same explosive that was used in Brussels and Paris. And the reason people, the authorities figured out what he was doing is because of his voluminous Facebook correspondence with various friends. . .

PJ: Oh my God.

RUKMINI: . . .where he, where he brags about being in Syria. Where he brags about being at certain battles. Which, which place him at, at the very battles that ISIS was winning. And anyway so he was sloppy, right?

PJ: Right.

RUKMINI: So, so the information technology aspect of it is, is … seems to be preceding the military training.

PJ: Hmm.

RUKMINI: That, that’s more important than military training and I think it's because they've realized that, you know, just, just from watching what's happened in the U.S., anybody with a gun can do enormous harm. You know, somebody opens fire in a, in a movie theater by the time that security gets there you've already killed X number of people, right?

PJ: Right.

RUKMINI: So you just need to be able to open fire, you know, with a weapon.

PJ: And the hard thing is just finding someone who knows how to use a computer very well.

RUKMINI: Somebody who's not going to essentially create more damage to the network through, through faulty, you know, internet or computer use.

PJ: Listening to Rukmini talk about ISIS I felt myself oscillating between fear of these violent murderous criminals and also this other feeling which is like, "God, what a hard organization to run."

They’re in Raqqah, in Syria, and they have to conscript strangers in other parts of the world to go commit acts of murder for ISIS in Europe. And the easy way to do this without ISIS getting caught is to never talk to those strangers directly, just put out a bunch of propaganda online, DIY materials about how to commit terrorism attacks. And that works a lot of the time actually. That’s how you end up with attacks like the one in San Bernardino.

But ISIS also wants to do bigger, more violent, more terrible attacks. And those attacks-- like the ones in Paris--those attacks require communication. A lot of communication. Law enforcement is paying attention to the communication networks and that means that ISIS now has to find candidates who not only have extremist views, not only are willing to murder innocent people and to die in the process, but who are also computer experts.

There are fewer people who fit that bill, and so when ISIS goes out to recruit new people, they have to take some risks. And Reda Hame, the IT professional who go arrested, he was one of those risks. He shows up and he looks like someone ISIS would want. A middle-class French guy who's also an expert in computers with a European passport. And he's really angry. He sounds like someone ISIS would want to use in a terror attack. But the thing is, he actually wants to fight in Syria.

RUKMINI: Once he got to Syria, he had gone there to fight the regime of Bashar al-Assad. That was what he thought he was doing when he joined ISIS. Instead he gets there and immediately they’re like you know, “We’re sending you back to Paris, you know, because you’ve got a French passport, you look white and you’re going to pass through a security.”

And when he waffled Abaaoud took his passport and said, "If you don’t do it we’re going to give it to somebody else. Somebody else is going to take your passport and go in your place." Right?

So he claims that he was actually very much on the fence, he wasn’t sure he wanted to do it and so it’s possible that he, you know, lost interest you know in this, in this mission if you will. But what’s unclear is he leaves, he leaves in June from Syria. He doesn’t get arrested until August. If he really had second thoughts why didn’t he just go turn himself in to police, you know. . .

PJ: Right.

RUKMINI: . . .in the third week of June?

PJ: I want to ask you if you believe it but like I think you’ll say like, "I don’t know," because how can you know?

RUKMINI: I do think that Reda was at some level trying to be honest because the details he shared were, were very specific and they very much checked out with other things that the interrogators were able to, to triage.

PJ: Huh.

RUKMINI: So, who knows. They ask him as well, "Why didn’t you turn yourself in to police right when you got home." And he said at the end, "I was more scared of ISIS back in France than I was of authorities. He suggests that ISIS has such a, such a significant network in Europe that if he had tried to go to police, they could have hurt him or his family. You know, again, take it with a grain of salt. Who knows.

PJ: So the reason Rukmini does what she does, the reason she spends so much time eavesdropping on terrorists is because she thinks that ultimately they're understandable and that understanding them is important. Terrorists do not want this to be true. For terrorism to work terrorists have to seem like people with their minds made up. People who do horrible things and don't think twice about it. That's what makes them so scary. And it. . .if there's optimism in the story of Reda Hame, maybe it's just the optimism of finding ambivalence. Of finding somebody who went through a lot of the steps to doing a terrible thing. Somebody who certainly wasn't a hero, but somebody who at least was human and confused. To ISIS, that is a terrifying idea.

Coming up after the break, The Riddler.

Stick around.




ALEX GOLDMAN: Welcome once again to "Yes Yes No," the segment on the show where our boss, Alex Blumberg, comes to us with stuff that he finds on the internet that he doesn't understand and we explain it to him. And then afterwards he's like, "That's it?"

PJ: Okay, so this is like, this is not typical in that this is a thing that I found on the internet that I don't understand.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Mixin' it up.

PJ: Yes.


ALEX: Go for it.

PJ: I don't want to be agist or whatever, but I did look at it and I was like, "Maybe this is a thing that's like a reference Alex knows that I don't know.


PJ: Because of agism.


ALEX: Which Alex?

BLUMBERG: Happy to help you out, sonny.

PJ: That one. Okay.

BLUMBERG: This is a tweet that you don't know.

PJ: It's not only do I not know, but like a lot of people are reacting to it so it means something. So you guys know who Adam West is.

ALEX: Yes.


PJ: He played Batman on the old campy Batman.


ALEX: Mmmhhhmm.

PJ: So I was looking up his Twitter account for other reasons and. . .

ALEX: Hold on, can we just like have a break out session here? What does other reasons mean?

PJ: It's not like embarrassing or anything. It just feels like a long story. There's this Twitter account that just tweets that Batman, like from the 60's or whatever. They just tweet the labels from that show. It's called like Batman Labels and it's so funny, cuz they're really specific. It's like, "Anti-theft Joker spray" or whatever. Like they're, they're, they were clearly the sign designer on that show was having a lot of fun.


ALEX: Right.

PJ: So they tweet that so I've just been like

BLUMBERG: : by the way i used to watch that show i had no idea it was comedy.

PJ: Me ,too!

BLUMBERG: Yeah, yeah.

PJ: So Adam West, that Batman, I was looking at his Twitter cuz I've been like thinking about it a lot and having weird Batman dreams because of it. And this tweet, like he tweets stuff and people like are whatever. This tweet like went crazy and it makes no sense to me. So, he says, "At my age I try not to let myself get bored. No nincompoopery allowed." And then there's a picture of him and he looks kind of plaintive. And in one hand he's holding a bunch of grapes and the other hand he's holding a garlic head.

What does that mean? Like I've never felt more profoundly "no" in my life. Like the old grapes and garlic joke? There,. . .you don't look in @ replies and get more. . .

ALEX: Clarity?

PJ: No, cuz it's all people who are just responding to a famous person. "You sure aren't a nincompoop in my book. You look great for your age!?" Like he didn't ask that question. Like, that sorta thing.

BLUMBERG: What's crazy is like how much, how many people are coming on to him in his @ mentions.

PJ: What did they say?

BLUMBERG: "Are you modeling for a still life Mr. West? You're still such a fine figure of a man." And then there's another one, like, "Wow, you're a real hottie." Stuff like tha. . .it's just weird.

PJ: It's not the the point of the thing.

BLUMBERG: "No nincompoopery allowed." I have no idea.

PJ: But here's what I wonder is if this actually a pure "No No No" tweet? Like if this was something like a joke he had with his wife or like his kid and he was like, "Brawp, put it on Twitter. People will just tell me I look hot. It doesn't matter."

ALEX: Heh.

PJ: Like, did anyone ever get this?

ALEX: I wonder if it's somehow a joke about like a classic painting featuring a still life.

PJ: Called like "The Nincompoop"?

ALEX: Called like, "Still Life with Nincompoop, Grape, and Garlic."

PJ: I looked up the definition of "nincompoop" to make sure it didn't mean something I didn't know about. It means exactly what you think it means. This is one where like I want. . .if we don't know, I want to call Adam West.

ALEX: All right. So we have to call Adam West.

PJ: Yeah.

ALEX: Alright.

PJ: Alright.

BLUMBERG: Bring me back here when you find out.

PJ: Hold on a second. Okay. Alex. So it’s been 24 hours and I have news. So, Phia was able to get contact information for Adam West in under an hour. And I called him to find out what his tweet meant.


PJ: Yes.


PJ: Yes.

BLUMBERG: : Shut up.

PJ: Seriously.

BLUMBERG: : That’s why you brought me back into the studio?

AG/PJ: Yes

BLUMBERG: : Oh my god.

PJ: And I am now at a "yes" for this.

ALEX: I’m dying to know what it means.

PJ: You said that sarcastically but I know you mean it.

ALEX: No, I, I was not being sarcastic. I so desperately want to know what this means. Now more than ever because I just don’t like you having info. . .having knowledge that I don’t have.

PJ: Oh, get used to it. Anyway, so I called him.

ADAM WEST: Desert bat cave.

PJ: Hi, is this Adam West?

ADAM: It is.

PJ: Hey, it's PJ. How’s it going?

ADAM: It’s going great.

PJ: Did you just say "desert bat cave?"

ADAM: Well it’s - you're, you’re calling me in Palm Springs.

PJ: Oh, I’ve been there once, it is a beautiful beautiful place. It is not like New York in spring which is gray and cold and horrible.

ADAM: Yeah, I know what you’re saying. I like New York in … what, what was the old song? "I like New York in June?"

PJ: What song is that?

ADAM: That was an old Cole Porter song, I believe. You see. . .

PJ: He sounded like the most normal nice man in the world. We talked for, like, probably 35 minutes and then at the end I was like, I hung up and I was like, “Wait I never really asked him about the tweet.” And then I called him back and was like, “Hey Adam West. I’m so sorry to bother you again."

So...okay. So the tweet. . .the deal is, it’s a joke about vampires. The reason he’s holding garlic and grapes, is the joke is like, “Oh what if you’re such a nincompoop you that didn’t know like which of these things warded off vampires, garlic or grapes."

ADAM: Yes.

PJ: Ah.

ADAM: What if you were such a nincompoop you didn't know and you thought it would be grapes and not garlic.

PJ: That makes sense to me. And So it was almost like a skit, but then the caption is being like, you're saying like, “Oh, I don’t mess around.” But obviously you’re messing around.

ADAM: Yeah, I think was too obtuse.

ALEX: He’s like describing a joke that he made to himself.

PJ: Yes. It’s an Alex Goldman tweet.

ALEX: Oh, it’s totally an Alex Goldman tweet.

BLUMBERG: : I still don’t get it. He’s describing a joke that he made to himself about vampires? What?

ALEX: All right, all right. Here’s the scenario.


ALEX: Imagine a guy. A guy who is so old and dumb, he doesn’t know whether grapes or garlic ward off vampires. And he thinks to himself, “It’d be super funny to tweet this, but not give people the vampire reference, so they have no idea what I’m talking about.”

PJ: It took me 40 minutes to get where Alex just got in half a second.

ALEX: Except vampires were never mentioned in the tweet, so .

BLUMBERG: : But then, “At my age I try not to get bored.” What is that, what's that, so I come up with amusing scenarios to amuse myself and take pictures of them?

PJ: I think exactly.

BLUMBERG: : Ok - Alex Goldman, so you’ve, you've sent tweets like this?

ALEX: On April 12th, I was just looking through my Twitter feed.

PJ: I'm sorry.

ALEX: On April 12th I tweeted the words “Elk Neck”.

BLUMBERG: : … So anyway, PJ

PJ: Yeah yeah yeah.

ALEX: It got 8 favorites.

PJ: Yeah, and similarly, if people really liked you like they like Adam West, like, that got like 100 retweets. There's a, there's a, a point where people were just like, “Adam West is just goofing around. I don’t need to full. . .I don't need understand this on a 1-1 level. I like him and he’s goofin’ around and I support it.”

BLUMBERG: Well that's what, so that was so confusing. So it was like sort of like, so like, you’re looking at that tweet and looking at all the, all the responses to that tweet. Like we were sort of looking for meaning.

PJ: Yes.

BLUMBERG: And there was no meaning to be gotten.

PJ: The meaning was -

BLUMBERG: Like what percentage of the people commenting understood what his joke was?

PJ: I’m gonna say like maybe zero.

BLUMBERG:  There’s no signal in that whole thing.

PJ: It was all noise.

BLUMBERG: It’s all noise.

PJ: Yeah.

ALEX: I love this tweet so much.

PJ: I think I mentioned, but like, we talked for a very long time. Like longer than I talk to most people.

ADAM: The. . .a podcast is like a radio show isn't it?

PJ: Yeah, exactly.

ADAM: I started in radio.

PJ: You did?

ADAM: Yeah.

PJ: What kind of radio?

ADAM: Well, it was AM at that time and I. . .

BLUMBERG: He has a beautiful voice.

PJ: He really does.

ALEX: Yeah, he really does.

PJ: And he said that his like big breakout hit was Batman. And that role actually created a lot of problems for him. So the thing that everybody already knows about Adam West's Batman is it was like  a very goofy version of Batman.

VILLAIN: Ho ho, ha ha. Remember me old chum.

BATMAN: You jolly devil. Harm one hair of that boys head.

THE RIDDLER: Riddle me twice Batman. What kind of pins are used in soup?

ROBIN: Terrapins, Batman.

BATMAN: Right.

THE RIDDLER: Very good.

PJ: And this was supposed to be funny. Like, Adam West thought it was funny. The people making the show thought it was funny. But some of the viewers thought that Adam himself was not in on the joke. That he was trying and failing to play a very serious Batman. And that he was a dope. And so when Batman was over it was hard for him to get other jobs. Like other, particularly serious acting jobs.

ADAM: You know, there were times when I was so poor and desperate to work that I was shot out of a cannon.

PJ: Really?

ADAM: With my cape flying behind me.

PJ: Wait, not really though. Not really. I. . .

ADAM: Yes, once. In order to survive and take care of family and so on, I had to do a lot of stuff I didn’t want to do.

PJ: So he kept trying out for all these serious roles, but he couldn’t get them because nobody took him seriously. And then finally he was just like, "You know what? Fine. I will just embrace the joke that everybody's making about me."

ADAM: I realized that everybody loves Batman so why the hell shouldn't I love Batman. I am Batman.

PJ: So he started allowing himself to be typecast as Adam West, the guy who used to play Batman and used to make us all laugh.


PJ: And he credits that with saving him.

BLUMBERG: : I still don’t quite get the "no-nincompoopery allowed."

PJ: Yeah, and everytime I asked him about that he, he, he’d be like, “Oh, well, a nincompoop. . . ” And I was like, "No, I know what a nincompoop is. . ." But I feel like. . .Erase that sentence in your mind, and just hear it as, like, “JK," or like, "Here's a joke." Or like, "Smiley face emoji." Like, you know what I mean? It's like. . .

BLUMBERG:  Oh, right. "No nincompoopery allowed" is like a smiley face emoji.

PJ: Yes.

ADAM: Anyway I better, I better run and not take too much. . .

PJ: Thanks so much. And, yeah, just thank you for existing in the world. You are a very wonderful person.

ADAM: Well you sound like a great guy, and my best to all your pals and fellow workers there.

PJ: I’ll pass it on.

ADAM: Ok, Kiddo.

PJ: Alright, have a good one.

ADAM: You, too . Thank you.  

PJ: Bye.

ADAM: Bye.

PJ: Reply All is me, PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. We were produced this week by Tim Howard, Sruthi Pinnamaneni, and Phia Benin. Production assistance from Mervyn Degaños. We were edited by Peter Clowney and mixed by Rick Kwan. Matt Lieber is the chairman of Wayne Enterprises.

Our theme music by the mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder and our ad music is by Build Buildings.

You can follow Adam West on Twitter @thetealadamwest--you'd be insane not to.

Also, this is your last week to vote for Reply All as your favorite podcast for the Webbies. We're in second place. It's going to be a nail biter. Go help out.

You can find more episodes of the show at itunes.com/replyall. You can also find us on Google Play as of this week. Our website is replyall.fail.

Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.