Today’s debate is a charming challenge between two patterned phenoms. It’s Stripes vs. Polka Dots! Voice actor and podcaster Merk Nguyen is ready to straighten the record for team Stripes, and actor, playwright and improviser Shanan Custer is ready to round out the story for team Polka Dots! Who will be crowned the Smash Boom Best? Vote below for the team YOU think won!

Also… do you have your Smarty Pass yet? Get yours today for just $4/month (or $36/year) and get bonus episodes every month, and ad-free versions of every episode of Brains On, Smash Boom Best, Moment of Um and Forever Ago. Visit to get your Smarty Pass today. As an added bonus, your Smarty Pass will grant you access to a super special debate starring Sanden and Molly!

Audio Transcript

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ANNOUNCER: From the Brains behind Brains On, it's Smash Boom Best.

TRUMAN: The show for people with big opinions.

MOLLY BLOOM: Hi, I'm Molly Bloom. And this is Smash Boom Best, the show where we take two things, smash them together, and ask you to decide which one is best. Today's debate is a shapely skirmish between two patterned phenoms. It's stripes versus polka dots. In one corner, we've got voice actor and host of the podcast Ooh You're in Trouble, Merk Nguyen, ready to set the record straight for team stripes.

MERK NGUYEN: Get high for team stripe! [HOWLS]

MOLLY BLOOM: [GIGGLES] And in the other corner, we have actor, playwright, and improviser Shanan Custer ready to round out the story for team polka dot.

SHANAN CUSTER: That's right. I'm a big hug of joy here. Let's hear it for the polka dots!

MOLLY BLOOM: And here to judge it all is Truman from Stillwater, Minnesota. Truman lives for ballet, loves to do choir and art, and can't stand cheese on a hamburger. Hi, Truman.


MOLLY BLOOM: So no cheese on your burgers?

TRUMAN: I am completely dairy-free.


TRUMAN: And also, it just ruins the flavor of the burger.

MOLLY BLOOM: Yeah, especially if you don't do dairy, that would be a problem.

TRUMAN: I need some ketchup, maybe a little bit of mustard.

MOLLY BLOOM: You can really taste it then, right?


MOLLY BLOOM: You can't hide behind anything.

TRUMAN: You can taste the essence of the burger.

MOLLY BLOOM: So I hear you make mug cakes. What is a mug cake?

TRUMAN: A mug cake, OK. So essentially, you get a mug, put a ton of different ingredients. You put it in the microwave for one minute. And it comes out as this delightful masterpiece.

MOLLY BLOOM: Incredible. Can I put any ingredients? Or do I need to follow a recipe?

MERK NGUYEN: A maybe, with some ketchup, a little bit of mustard. Hamburger mug cake?

TRUMAN: Well, you have to follow the instructions. But if you want to, you could put an Oreo in it, little surprise.

MOLLY BLOOM: OK. We're all in.

SHANAN CUSTER: That's good.

MERK NGUYEN: Delicious.

MOLLY BLOOM: And what sort of patterns do you wear the most?

SHANAN CUSTER: Oh, Here we go.

TRUMAN: Sort of patterns?

SHANAN CUSTER: All right, moment of truth.

TRUMAN: So the shirt I'm wearing does have stripes on it.

SHANAN CUSTER: It does. It does.


TRUMAN: Personally, I would qualify them more as lines.


MOLLY BLOOM: They're very thin.

TRUMAN: But I am unbiased. I do love both polka dots and lines. This is just a really nice shirt, and I really wanted to wear it today.

MOLLY BLOOM: You look very nice.

SHANAN CUSTER: It's the shirt you guys. It's not the pattern. It's the shirt.

TRUMAN: Thank you.

MOLLY BLOOM: Do you have any advice for our debaters today?

TRUMAN: References. I love references. And I love laughing.

MOLLY BLOOM: Well, will Truman side with Merk or Shanan? Let's find out. Truman, are you ready to judge today's debate?

TRUMAN: Obviously. I'm super excited.

MOLLY BLOOM: Before we dive in, let's review the rules of the game. Every debate consists of four rounds of argumentation-- the declaration of greatness, the micro-round, the sneak attack, and the final six. After each round, our judge, Truman, will award points to the team that impresses him the most, but he'll keep his decisions top secret until the end of the debate.

Listeners, we want you to judge too. Mark down your points as you listen. At the end of the show, head to our website,, and vote for whichever team you think won. Merk, Shanan, and Truman, are you ready?


TRUMAN: Totally.

MERK NGUYEN: Let's go.

MOLLY BLOOM: Then it's time for the--

ANNOUNCER: Declaration of greatness.

MOLLY BLOOM: In this round, our debaters will present a well-crafted, immersive argument in favor of their side. Then they'll each have 30 seconds to rebut their opponent's statements. We flipped a coin. And Merk, you're up first. Tell us why stripes are stripendous.

MERK NGUYEN: Uh, excuse me. I'm in a rush because my cat, Mr. Stripes, is having a catastrophic day. He lost his favorite striped toy mouse, and he's very upset.


So I'm rushing to our go-to cat cafe to get him some bubble tea and cheer him up.



CROSSING GUARD: Whoa! Careful, miss. That car almost turned your tabby into tapioca pudding.

MERK NGUYEN: Thanks, friendly neighborhood crossing guard. Oh, hey. Cool striped vest.

CROSSING GUARD: Safety and stripes are the name of my game. And it's not just my vest. See those striped black and yellow signs on the roadside to get the attention of pedestrians and drivers or these crosswalks with their wide white ladder stripes?

MERK NGUYEN: Huh, you're right. Thank goodness for stripes, right, Mr. Stripes?


CROWD: Stripes save lives. Stripes save lives. Stripes save lives.

MERK NGUYEN: That crowd that appeared out of nowhere has a point. Stripes have been keeping people safe for decades. The world's first crosswalk was installed about 70 years ago. It took a long time for decision makers to come up with just the right pattern, one that was eye-catching and safe. Metal studs, which kind of looked like polka dots, were considered but didn't stick because drivers couldn't see them.


So in 1951, the British government finally decided on the beautiful striped design that we see to this day. They called it the zebra crosswalk.

ZEBRA: What can I say? I'm iconic.

MERK NGUYEN: Whoa! A talking zebra?

ZEBRA: Whoa. A talking human?

MERK NGUYEN: Touche. Your timing is impeccable, talking zebra, because stripes don't just keep humans safe. They're also important for animals.

ZEBRA: Well, of course, they are. My stripey pattern helps me find my family when we're in a bigger herd. Plus, it's unique to me. It's almost like what you humans have, finger stripes?

MERK NGUYEN: [CHUCKLES] Close. Fingerprints. Some researchers think zebras have black and white stripes to help with thermoregulation. That's the balancing of temperatures that happens inside a body, in this case, a zebra in their hot African savanna home. Stripes might also help ward off pests like biting flies. Other researchers say stripes help camouflage zebras from predators like lions who might confuse them for grass.

Another thing that makes stripes the smash boom best is how beautiful they are. Like the vibrant green stripes on a juicy watermelon or the pink and cerulean bands of a sunset, stripes are entrancing. And it seems that humans are fascinated with them. There are all kinds of things we create like clothing. Archaeologists even found a 17,000-year-old striped sock from ancient Egypt. So stripes have been stylish for a very, very long time. And let's not forget the most iconic striped clothing out there, referee jerseys.


Refs wear black and white striped jerseys that are hard to miss. That's intentional. When the NFL, or National Football League, was first created, refs wore all white. You could see how that'd be confusing to a player whose team jersey is also all white.

PLAYER: Hut, hut, hike!

REFEREE: Wait! Wait! Don't throw the ball to me! I'm the referee!



MERK NGUYEN: Stripes helped create that important distinction between player and official so games could go on. And stripes are more than sporty icons. They create community. Take flags, for example. Stripes are represented in so many flags around the world. And for me, they're really personal.

I remember doing the Pledge of Allegiance in school and looking up at the red and white stripes. It made me feel like I was united to those around me as a fellow American. I felt the same way when I looked at the Vietnamese heritage and freedom flag my parents had all over our house. This red and yellow striped flag kept me connected to my ancestral roots and reminded me of the sacrifices it took for my parents to emigrate to the US. These stripes bring an emotion out of me that-- I don't know-- makes my soul smile.

Even if you don't connect with these flags, I bet there's a striped flag out there that you do connect to that makes you feel seen and like you belong because you do. Unity, beauty, and safety, that's why stripes are the smash boom best.

MOLLY BLOOM: That was a very heartfelt argument for the ubiquitous, useful, and unifying stripes. Truman, what stood out to you about Merk's declaration of greatness?

TRUMAN: What stood out to me was all of the history, talking about how stripes were stylish back in Egyptian times, that's so long ago, and then even safety measures. And the community part was very heartwarming.

MOLLY BLOOM: Very good. OK. Shanan, it's time for your rebuttal.


MOLLY BLOOM: Tell us why stripes are yikes. You've got 30 seconds, and your time starts now.

SHANAN CUSTER: Stripes are yikes. I mean, I like a good zebra. I'll have a latte with a zebra. But when we're talking about safety, there's nothing safer than a circle. There's actually something called the roundness effect, which is how our brain perceives things. And circles are easier to perceive, and they stand for happiness and harmony and comfort. And it's super cool the way a circle can bring you in. Dare I say--

(SINGING) They're like a circle of life


SHANAN CUSTER: That was for you, Truman, maybe.

MOLLY BLOOM: And time.

SHANAN CUSTER: Yeah, maybe.

MERK NGUYEN: I will say, that gave me life. You go, Shanan.

MOLLY BLOOM: OK. It is now your turn, Shanan.

SHANAN CUSTER: Oh. I'm nervous.

MOLLY BLOOM: You can do it.


MERK NGUYEN: You got this!

TRUMAN: You got this.

MOLLY BLOOM: Tell us why polka dots are so great to have around.

SHANAN CUSTER: I watched a lot of sitcoms growing up-- Dr. Stripes, The Tartans, Houndstooth and Herringbone. They were all fine shows, but they followed predictable patterns. The one show that broke all the rules starred a decorative duo that was feisty, freewheeling, and fun. It was called--



DOT: (SINGING) Polka and Dot, the silliest siblings you ever did see. Hopping, jumping like two little peas in a pod.

POLKA: I got another one for you, Dot. What do you get when you poke a dot?

DOT: Polka, is this another one of your silly jokes?

POLKA: You get one angry dot. See? Poke, poke.

DOT: Oh! Don't you dare, Polka. [CHUCKLES]

(SINGING) Polka and Dot

When you poke a dot, you just can't stop


SHANAN CUSTER: Their characters were inspired by the pattern without peer, daring and dynamic polka dots. And would you believe, Polka and Dot are here today to help me show you why polka dots are the perfect pattern.

Hi, Polka. Hi, Dot.


SHANAN CUSTER: So Polka, let's talk about what makes you such a unique part of the Polka Dot duo. How would you describe yourself?

POLKA: Well, Shanan, I'm a mover and a shaker and a hopping heartbreaker.

SHANAN CUSTER: So true. The polka in polka dots comes from a fun, flirty dance called the polka, which was all the rage in Europe in the mid-1800s. Around that time, James K. Polk was running for president of the United States. As the story goes, once American businesspeople discovered the similarity between the future president's name and the dance-- Polk, polka-- they started using the word polka to describe all sorts of products-- polka shoes, polka hats.

POLKA: It was all--

SHANAN CUSTER: (DEEP VOICE) Polka on over to the polls and vote Polk for president.

(NORMAL VOICE) At the same time, newfangled sewing machines made it possible to make lots and lots of dotted fabric for the first time in history. People started sporting more and more of the spotty stuff until an American magazine called the Godey's Lady's Book featured a spotted scarf and described it as being perfect for light summer wear and covered in rows of round polka dots. With that, the polka was born.

Since then, the pattern has become the signature look for famously funny and fabulous folks, like Minnie Mouse, Lucille Ball, the 101 Dalmatians, Taylor Swift, and Zendaya, just to name a few. Polka dots have something for everyone. They symbolize lightness, humor, dance, bikinis.

BRIAN HYLAND: (SINGING) It was an itsy, bitsy, teenie, weenie, yellow, polka dot bikini

SHANAN CUSTER: --and power. OK, Dot, here's where you come in.

DOT: You said it, Shanan. I go by Dot. But as you can see, I'm a circle. And as we all know, circles are a strong and beloved shape.

SHANAN CUSTER: Yes. When you apply pressure to any side of a circle, it might bulge, it might bend, but it's very hard to break. If you apply pressure to something made up of stripes or straight lines, it's much more likely to snap in two.


And circles aren't just strong. They're inviting. Stripes are pokey and pointy and possibly painful. Circles, on the other hand, are associated with safety and positivity. And people love them. Just think of all the warm, wonderful things that are circles.

DOT: Hula hoops, acorn caps, disco balls. And don't forget, pizza!

SHANAN CUSTER: The Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is famous for her polka passion. And she loves them because of their power. As she wrote in one of her books, "A polka has the form of the sun, which is a symbol of the energy of the whole world and our living life, and also the form of the moon, which is calm, round, soft, colorful. Polka dots become movement. Polka dots are a way to infinity."

DOT: Couldn't have said it better myself.

SHANAN CUSTER: Polka dots contain multitudes. They're powerful and pretty, fierce and fun. So next time you reach into your closet, don't reach for stripes.

POLKA: Seriously, don't do it. Stripe rhymes with wipe-- my nose.

SHANAN CUSTER: Good one, polka. Grab a dotted bow tie or a spotted skirt because if you have to poke a pattern, there's only one pattern to pick.

POLKA AND DOT: Polka dots!

MOLLY BLOOM: OK. You booked the Polka and Dot for your declaration of greatness?

SHANAN CUSTER: Pulled all the strings just--

TRUMAN: Impressive.


MOLLY BLOOM: Amazing. So Truman, what stood out to you about Shanan's declaration of greatness?

TRUMAN: It was very funny, especially with all of the musical aspects and all of the olden time TV theme and especially adding characters, like so many, and I loved it. It was so funny.

MOLLY BLOOM: Very good. Merk, it is time for your rebuttal. Tell us what flaws you spotted in that argument. You've got 30 seconds, and your time starts now.

MERK NGUYEN: Three stripes for why they're polka nots. OK. Stripe number one, first of all, polka dots usually you associate with summer wear. Stripes you can wear all seasons, and you don't associate it with a specific time. Poke number two-- stripe number two, round can be anxiety-inducing-- giant boulder, bowling ball being thrown at your head. I wouldn't say round is always calm. And the safety argument was also present in the stripes argument as well. And stripe number three is that--

MOLLY BLOOM: And time. It's all right.

SHANAN CUSTER: I think you're bowling wrong. I'll say that. But otherwise, fair, fair rebuttal.

MOLLY BLOOM: All right. My friend, Truman, it is time to award some points. Please give one point to the declaration of greatness you liked best and one point to the rebuttal that won you over. You get to decide what makes a winning argument. Did one team make you laugh? Was another team's logic the pattern of perfection? Award your points, but don't tell us who they're going to. Have you made your decision?

TRUMAN: I have.


MOLLY BLOOM: Excellent. Shanan and Merk, how are you two feeling so far?

SHANAN CUSTER: OK. Hanging in.

MERK NGUYEN: I feel the heat of Shanan polka plotting against me with all the stripe gripes.

SHANAN CUSTER: It's the heat of the sun that encompasses us all.

MOLLY BLOOM: OK. It's time for a quick break. Go pat-turn up the volume and dance around.

TRUMAN: And we'll be right back with more Smash Boom Best.

ANNOUNCER: You're listening to State of Debate, home to rage and rhetoric and awe-inspiring argumentation.

TAYLOR LINCOLN: Hey, ho! Let's go, debate heads. Taylor Lincoln here.

TODD DOUGLAS: And boom shaka laka boom boom. It's me, Todd Douglas.

TAYLOR LINCOLN: We've got a stadium-sized fallacy to share with y'all. It's so big, you'll need to zoom way out just to see it.

TODD DOUGLAS: That's right. A logical fallacy is a weak argument. And today, we saw two epic mythical monsters make a colossal one called the personal incredulity fallacy.

TAYLOR LINCOLN: That's when you personally can't believe something, so you say it can't be right.

TODD DOUGLAS: Big time bummer. Here, let's listen.

MEGA LIZARD: [ROARING] Look at this city crumble under the mighty foot of Mega Lizard, the most powerful giant radioactive reptile in the land. Stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp. Stomp. Stomp. Stomp.

MIGHTY APE: Whoa. Nice stomping, Mega Lizard. Want to grab a snack after you're done flattening down town?

MEGA LIZARD: Oh, uh. Hey, Mighty Ape. Actually, I was going to just head home after this.

MIGHTY APE: Ah, come on. I have a snack I know you'll love.

MEGA LIZARD: Is it a banana?

MIGHTY APE: It's a banana! You'll love it.

MEGA LIZARD: I'm into eating buildings and tanks, Mighty Ape. Bananas are more your thing.

MIGHTY APE: Bro, but get this. Bananas are your thing too because you are both radioactive.

MEGA LIZARD: What? That's nonsense.

MIGHTY APE: Nah, nah, nah. Bananas contain naturally occurring radioactive potassium-40. They're radioactive like you, bruh.

MEGA LIZARD: Do they breathe plasma beams? Do they glow at night? Do they have the power to crush City Hall with their tail? I don't think so. If they were radioactive, humans would be scared of them. So obviously, you are wrong.


TODD DOUGLAS: Whoa there, Mega Lizard. You're making a monster mistake.

TAYLOR LINCOLN: Yeah. Just because you can't believe bananas are radioactive doesn't mean they aren't. They totally are. They just have such low amount of radiation, it's not a problem for humans or giant apes to eat them.

TODD DOUGLAS: Wow. Looks like we stomped out another fallacy. And once again, the real monster was bad logic all along.

TAYLOR LINCOLN: We'll see you next time on--

TODD AND TAYLOR: State of Debate.


SPEAKER 1: Brains On universe is a family of podcasts for kids and their adults. And since you're a fan of Smash Boom Best, we know you'll love the other shows in our universe. Come on. Let's explore.

COMPUTER: Entering Brains On universe. Ooh, so many podcasts-- Brains On, Smash Boom Best, Forever Ago. [GASPS] Picking up signal. Forever Ago, a history podcast starring Joy Dolo.

JOY DOLO: Fleer's gum was so sticky, when the bubble popped, it was so hard to get off your skin. You'd have to scrub it off with harsh chemicals.

COMPUTER: Me love sticky facts. [BEEPS] Zorp. Signal down! [BEEPS] Quick. Need Forever Ago now!

SPEAKER 1: Search for Forever Ago wherever you get your podcasts.

SPEAKER 2: Smash.

SPEAKER 3: Boom.

SPEAKER 4: Best.

MOLLY BLOOM: You're listening to Smash Boom Best. I'm your host, Molly Bloom.

TRUMAN: And I'm your judge, Truman.

MOLLY BLOOM: And we love getting debate suggestions from our listeners. Take a listen to this triumphant debate idea from James.

JAMES: My debate idea is fist bumps versus high fives.

TRUMAN: I can't wait to celebrate with the winner of that debate.

MOLLY BLOOM: We'll check back in at the end of this episode to see which side James thinks should win.

TRUMAN: And now it's back to our debate, stripes versus polka dots.

MOLLY BLOOM: That's right. And it's time for round two, the--

ANNOUNCER: Micro-round.


MOLLY BLOOM: For the micro-round challenge, each team has prepared a creative response to a prompt they received in advance. For Merk and Shanan, the prompt was smash boom review. Our debaters each had to write a five-star review for their side. Merk went first last time. So Shanan, you're up.


MOLLY BLOOM: Tell us why your review of polka dots is spot on.

LADY DOROTHEA: Big O Syrup and Fluffy Pancake Parlor, five stars. After my magical visit to Big O Syrup and Fluffy Pancake Parlor, I declare pancakes to be the perfect food. Perhaps most pleasing about these sweet delicacies is their shape. They are beautifully round, dare I say circles of joy and sweetness. Oh, and they are indeed fluffy.

Oh, and did you know that you can sprinkle pancakes with other spherical delicacies? They're perfect with round chocolate chips or round blueberries, which are perfect purple orbs of perfection, if you ask me. I was also pleased to learn that Big O's pancakes are cooked on round griddles. Their pancakes can be silver dollar-sized or plate-sized as well, variations of roundness that never disappoint.

Their inherent roundness also makes them extremely stackable, which is infinitely pleasing. Imagine trying to stack foods that lie there in a straight line like pretzels or celery sticks. Speaking of, I don't even know what to make of celery sticks. How does one know where to begin eating? Which end is preferable for full celery stick satisfaction? No, thank you, celery sticks. I am uninterested in your rather limited linear disposition.

Oh, but the pancake. I have gone round and round about this, but pancakes are so full of never-ending possibilities. I cannot wait to roll on into Big O Syrup and Fluffy Pancake Parlor once again. Just look for the big pancake-shaped restaurant near the traffic roundabout circle. Most sincerely, Lady Dorothea Dot Polk of Roundshire Circle, Wheels County, UK.


MOLLY BLOOM: Wow, a very well-rounded review there.

SHANAN CUSTER: Very thorough.

MOLLY BLOOM: All right, Merk, it's your turn to share your review and tell us why everyone is lined up for stripes.

MERK NGUYEN: Five stars for The Ripe Stripe, the restaurant with all sorts of foods featuring-- you guessed it-- stripes. As a self-taught food critic, I've got high standards, and so does my mom. But when we went to The Ripe Stripe, we were blown away. They've got all kinds of veggies with stripes, like squash, zucchini. They also have proteins like striped bass sashimi and burgers with striped grill marks.

For fruits, they've got striped Roma tomatoes and tiger-striped figs that they'll cut in front of you and make a whole show out of it. And don't even get me started on their dessert menu-- peppermint candies, candy canes, fudge stripe cookies. Yum! The waitstaff, a.k.a. the striped squad, provided top-notch service in their memorable striped overalls.

And we loved the decor. It was classy and understated thanks to their pastel green tones and thin diagonal striped wallpaper. To top it all off, there was even a stripe-themed gift shop inside! I bought some tiger melons and even discontinued Fruit Stripe gum! Talk about variety! With so many choices, you could be looking at the menu for a while. But you're guaranteed to get at least a couple of things you'll love.

The only bad thing, it's right next door to Party Pulse Polkas, the pop-up that sells polka-dot-themed party foods. The only thing they had in stock? Sprinkles. Sprinkles! So if you're looking for a restaurant that makes you feel warm and welcomed like a pair of striped socks, join the hype of The Ripe Stripe.

MOLLY BLOOM: Excellent work. Stripes as not a side dish but the main course. All right.

MERK NGUYEN: Ow, ow, knock your socks off-- striped socks, that is.

SHANAN CUSTER: With discontinued gum, Fruit Stripe!

MOLLY BLOOM: Truman, what did you like about Merk and Shanan's micro-rounds?

TRUMAN: I did really like the food theme. I loved the variety, top-notch.

MOLLY BLOOM: Leave you feeling hungry?


MOLLY BLOOM: All right. Truman, it is time to award another point for this micro-round. Don't tell us who it's going to. The criteria are completely up to you. Did someone make a dish sound more delicious? Did they have a review that made you laugh, made you think? It's up to you. Have you made your decision?

TRUMAN: Yes, I have.


MOLLY BLOOM: Fantastic. Then it's time for our third round, the super stealthy--


ANNOUNCER: Sneak attack.

MOLLY BLOOM: This is our improvised round where debaters have to respond to a challenge on the spot. Today's sneak attack is called superfan. Your side has a sports team, and you're their number one superfan. Your challenge is to make up a team chant that's four lines long about why your side is the best. Debaters, are you ready for your sneak attack?


MERK NGUYEN: Yeah! Hoo-ha!

MOLLY BLOOM: OK, we're going to start with Merk. Let's hear your stripe hype stand chant.

MERK NGUYEN: OK. This is for the team the Striped Steaks, like the meat steak, of Steubenville, Ohio. Ready?


MERK NGUYEN: Stripe hype! We're just your type. Take your shot at polka snot! Achoo!


MOLLY BLOOM: Oh, so good. I can hear the crowd now. Now, Shanan, it's your turn. Give us on-the-spot polka dot onslaught.

SHANAN CUSTER: So I'm a fan for the sports ball Ground Rounds. They are the team of the world. Put your hands together and circle round and round! Roll Ground--


Roll Ground Rounds! Go sports ball! Order up a hamburger minus the cheese. Go sports ball! Roll Ground Round! Sprinkles!

MERK NGUYEN: Sprinkles?


MOLLY BLOOM: Wow. Two incredible cheers.

SHANAN CUSTER: Yeah. I mean, incredible has many different definitions.


MOLLY BLOOM: OK. Truman, it's going to be a tough decision, but it's time to award a point.


MOLLY BLOOM: Think about which side impressed you the most, but don't tell us who it's going to. Did someone make a chant that's going to stick with you? Can you imagine a team playing and getting riled up by that cheer? Have you made your decision?



MOLLY BLOOM: Wonderful. All right. It's time for our final round.

ANNOUNCER: The final six.

MOLLY BLOOM: In this round, each team will have just six words to sum up the glory of their side. Shanan, please connect the polka dots for us.

SHANAN CUSTER: OK. Happy round joy cookie moon sun.


MOLLY BLOOM: I love that.

SHANAN CUSTER: It felt pretty good.

MOLLY BLOOM: OK, Merk, it's your turn. Give us your stripetacular finale.

MERK NGUYEN: Stripes? Sensible stylish symbolism. Polka? Anxiety!


MOLLY BLOOM: Truman, I don't know how you're going to make this decision.

TRUMAN: I don't know how I'm going to do it either.

MOLLY BLOOM: But you have to award a final point for this final six.


MOLLY BLOOM: Award that final point.

MERK NGUYEN: Oh, the anticipation. It's a dot, dot, dot. It's an ellipsis. See? The anxiety.


MOLLY BLOOM: Have you made your decision?

TRUMAN: I have.


MOLLY BLOOM: Are you ready to crown one team the Smash Boom Best?

TRUMAN: I am ready.

MOLLY BLOOM: Drum roll please.


And the winner is--

TRUMAN: Stripes!

SHANAN CUSTER: Oh, come on.

MERK NGUYEN: [SCREAMING] Stripe hype! Stripe hype! Stripe hype! [SCREAMING] Oh my god! Thank you, Truman! Ah.

MOLLY BLOOM: Oh. So Truman, was there a moment that really decided things for stripes?

TRUMAN: It was really that final six that it came down to. And it was just-- I really liked the alliteration. I liked the wording. I think that's what gave it away.

MOLLY BLOOM: That's what did it.

MERK NGUYEN: Shanan, I learned a lot about the polka dot. You gave it your best polka shot. I really want pancakes with blueberries now. And also, moon sun, that's what you said, right?

SHANAN CUSTER: I think so. I might have blacked out. I'm not sure.


MERK NGUYEN: But it was a lot of fun! This was really great. And I appreciate polka dots a lot more because of you, so thank you.

SHANAN CUSTER: Aw. Merk, I learned so much about stripes. And I also really started thinking about how cool zebras are and when those little stripes are on food because they're cooked. You've made a believer of me.

MOLLY BLOOM: And that's it for today's debate battle. Truman crowned stripes the Smash Boom Best. But what about you?

TRUMAN: Head to and vote to tell us who you think won.

MOLLY BLOOM: Smash Boom Best is brought to you by Brains On and APM Studios.

MERK NGUYEN: It's produced by Molly Bloom, Hans Buetow, Anna Weggel, and Aron Woldeslassie.

MOLLY BLOOM: We had engineering help from Derek Ramirez with sound design by Hans Buetow and Rachel Brees.

SHANAN CUSTER: Our editors are Shahla Farzan and Sanden Totten.

MERK NGUYEN: And we had production help from Rosie duPont, Anna Goldfield, Ruby Guthrie, Marc Sanchez, Maria [? Wortel, ?] and Nico Gonzalez Wisler.

MOLLY BLOOM: Our executive producer is Beth Pearlman. And the APM Studios executives-in-charge are Chandra Kavati and Joanne Griffith. Our announcer is Marley Feuerwerker-Otto. And we want to give a special thanks to Austin Cross and Taylor Kaufman. Merk, is there anyone you'd like to give a shout-out to today?

MERK NGUYEN: Oh, yes. Zebras, referees, crossing guards for helping me with this argument. And also Bert and Ernie repping stripes since Sesame Street since day one. I mean, and the Egyptians too.

MOLLY BLOOM: Yes. And how about you, Shanan? Any special shout-outs?

SHANAN CUSTER: To pancakes and to Anna for asking me to do this.

MOLLY BLOOM: And how about you, Truman? Any special thanks or shout-outs?

TRUMAN: Shout-out to my mom to get me here and having this all happen.

MOLLY BLOOM: Yes. Thank you, mom. Before we go, let's check in and see who James thinks should win the fist bumps versus high fives debate.

JAMES: I think high fives should win because after this debate, you are going to give the winner a high five and not a fist bump.

MOLLY BLOOM: If you're between the ages of 13 and 18 and you'd like to be a judge, or if you're any age and you have an idea for a knock down, drag out debate, head to and drop us a line. And make sure to subscribe to Brains On Universe on YouTube where you can watch animated versions of some of your favorite episodes. We'll be back with a new Smash Boom Best debate battle next week.


MERK NGUYEN: See you later!


SINGERS: (SINGING) Oh, yeah, the Smash Boom Best

Oh, put it through the test

Oh, yeah, the Smash Boom Best

Oh, better than the rest

It's a Smash Boom Best

It's a Smash Boom Best

MOLLY BLOOM: What a jolly debate.

MERK NGUYEN: I really can't stop thinking about blueberry pancakes right now.

SHANAN CUSTER: I know. I know.

MOLLY BLOOM: Yeah, this made me hungry.

SHANAN CUSTER: I want a hamburger. I think I'm going to have one for dinner.

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