This is a transcript of our episode “Armadillos vs Porcupines”

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Announcer: From the brains behind Brains On!, it’s Smash Boom Best.

Habte: 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, two courageous critters take the stage. It's armadillos versus porcupines! Which brave and beautiful beast will claim the crown? Will it be the master of armor or the king of quills? It won't be easy, but luckily, Habte is here to help us decide. Hi, Habte.

Habte: Hi.

Molly: So Habte, when I say “armadillo,” what comes to mind?

Habte: So they have, like, armor and they can kind of roll-up.

Molly: And how about when I say porcupine? What comes to mind when I say porcupine?

Habte: Many, many needles. Needle all around.

Molly: So, do you think this is going to be a tough decision, porcupines versus armadillos? Is this going to be a close debate?

Habte: I think this is going to be a really close debate. They both have really interesting ways of defending themselves.

Molly: So, what tips do you have for our debaters today? How can they convince you?

Habte: I'll say humor and facts.

Molly: Those are some great debate strategies. All right. Now it's time to introduce our debaters. Arguing for the heroic hard-shelled armadillo, it's Phyllis Fletcher. Hi, Phyllis.

Phyllis Fletcher: Hey, now.

Molly: Phyllis, in a single sentence, why are armadillos the most awesome?

Phyllis: Because they are fabulous and tough.

Molly: A very compact argument. I like it. Here to rep proud and prickly Team Porcupine, it's Tracy Mumford. Hi Tracy.

Tracy: Hey there. Feeling sharp.


Molly: Tracy, give us your take on why porcupines are the perfect creature.

Tracy: Porcupines bring their super punk attitude across so many continents showing off their thrills and quills and surviving in the wild.

Molly: Ready to rock. We are off to a very strong start, but remember, it all comes down to Habte's opinion. Win him over and you win the match. Phyllis and Tracy, are you up for the challenge?

Phyllis: Yup.

Tracy: So ready.

Molly: Before we start, let's recap the rounds. First, it's the Declaration of Greatness. Team Armadillo and Team Porcupine will each deliver a statement in defense of their side using fabulous facts, figures, and stories. Each team will also have 30 seconds to make a rebuttal. Next, it's the Micro Round, a creative challenge that both sides have already prepared for.

Then it's the Sneak Attack, a surprise challenge that will require debaters to use all of their skills to score a point. And then, the Final Six. Our debaters will make their last argument in just six words. A sweet, short, and crucial round. Habte will be giving out points along the way, but he'll keep his score a secret until the very end. Listeners, we want you to judge too. If you'd like to keep score on an official scorecard, you can download one on our website at, or just make your own. Okay, everybody, are you ready?

Tracy: So ready.

Phyllis: Yep.

Habte: Yep. Definitely.

Molly: Perfect. Then it's time for the--

Announcer: Declaration of greatness.

Molly: Our debaters will present the most fascinating facts and awesome arguments in favor of their side. We flipped a coin and Phyllis you're up first. Get us amped up about armadillos.


Phyllis: Imagine if you really don't like something that's happening, or you think someone's going to come over and try to start something. Imagine you just turn into a ball, just, oop, you're a ball and your shell is tough like a bike helmet. Your whole body is just a big sphere made out of bike helmet stuff. You're almost like a transformer. You just shapeshift and you don't have to deal with anything until you come out. That is the life of an armadillo.

The armadillo is fabulous and tough. It looks funny and it has other weird qualities, which I shall name. However, its weird qualities are exactly what make it so tough and so fabulous. I defy you to name a better animal. An armadillo kinda looks like a cross between a turtle and an anteater. It lives in South America, Central America, and the Southern US. It's a mammal. It walks around on all fours. It can be anywhere from three inches long to five feet depending what kind it is and it has a shell. A lot of the time it's tan, which makes it look like a football, and for the armadillos that can curl up and hide, those ones can look like a tiny volleyball.

The armadillo is much maligned. That means people talk mean about it, but there's no reason for that. Some animals can catch a break because people think they're fuzzy, like porcupines, but no, an armadillo might not be pretty. But what you see is what you get. As I was saying, the armadillo is fabulous and tough. The first fabulous quality is obviously its shell. The armadillo shell is really, really tough. They do have predators, but if you're trying to eat an armadillo, you're going to break a sweat and you might even break a talon or a tooth or something.

Some people don't like armadillos and consider them pests and try to shoot them. But there are stories of bullets bouncing off of their shells. It's important to say that these stories have no independent witnesses, and all the people in these stories were okay, but one time a guy shot an armadillo and the bullet ricocheted back and hit him. Another time, the bullet bounced off three things and hit someone else. But everyone is fine except one of the armadillos wasn't found and the other one didn't make it. Still, a porcupine can not do that. Plus, an armadillo can get mad and do this. (wheezy grunt) So you can mess with me if you want, but I might turn into a ball or if I can't do that, I might yell at you.

An armadillo has fabulous nails. They are these talons things they can walk on and also use to dig food out of the ground, like little bugs and worms and stuff. So it's like, if you could walk on your fork. Imagine if someone buried your food underground and you could find it by smell. They can do that! This comes in handy since they're nocturnal so they can sniff around for their food at night. Also, an armadillo has a signature scent. It's described as musky, so like, if you ever smelled animal pee in the wild or on a farm or something like that. We might think it smells bad, but does the armadillo care what we think? No. That's confidence.

I have to acknowledge a very unfortunate thing that happens to armadillos, they do get hit by cars a lot. There are a few reasons for this. Armadillos are nocturnal and they can't see very well, and one of the things they eat is roadkill, animals that were hit by cars. So they'll smell something yummy that was hit by a car and they'll be like, "Oh, what's this?" And they'll tie their napkins around their necks and go out into the middle of the road with their little fork talons ready, and boom, get hit by a car. So that's too bad. Their shells are not enough to protect them from that.

Finally, the name. It's the best name to say. It means little armored one in Spanish. In conclusion, armadillos are tough. They are smelly, they are sometimes hairy, and they scream. They may deflect bullets, but they come in peace. They just want to be awesome and eat a few worms.

Molly: An awesome argument for the little armadillo, a true ode. So Habte, what stuck out to you about Phyllis's Declaration of Greatness?

Habte: One thing that stood out to me is that when someone shot an armadillo yet a bullet bounced off of it. That's how strong the shell is. Also, they could span from three inches to five feet. Also, the sound that you made was--


Molly: It's going to be my new ringtone on my phone. Well Tracy, you have 30 seconds to poke holes into Phyllis's argument. Your time starts now.

Tracy: Okay. So, porcupines can poke a lot of holes in things, including your argument, Phyllis. That sound you made, that's like a nightmare cuckoo clock. Like, Habte's going to hear that when he's trying to fall asleep at night. And your sense of smell, that's nice, but I'm don’t have to dig up dirt food and roadkill. Mmm, thank you, no thank you. Now, I'm all about looking funny. Porcupines can't argue with that, but you are like the bowling ball of the animal world. People are just going to like roll you across the landscape. I don't want to be a bowling ball. I want to be the master of my own destiny.

Molly: And time.


Molly: Phyllis, anything you'd like to say in response?

Phyllis: I'll hold my fire for my opportunity to rebut.

Tracy: Just roll up, Phyllis! Roll up like a ball.


Molly: All right, Tracy. It is time for you to bring your love for porcupines to life.

Tracy: Look, I’m not going to lie, I like porcupines because I like ridiculous creatures. Porcupines are like a cactus and a dog got smooshed together. They’re like your hairbrush just woke up one morning and ran off into the woods and yelled “I’m a mammal now!” 


They make me laugh every time I see one. 


I would love to just scoop up a porcupine and put in my backpack but, that’s not a super good idea, as we all know, because porcupines have quills.


Quills are their super power, their self-defense method and, let’s be honest, their very punk sense of style. 


Now, I don’t want to get too technical, but there are a lot of different kinds of porcupines. You got Old World porcupines in Europe, Africa, and Asia. You got New World porcupines, and then you got the frosted hairy porcupine, the stump-tailed porcupine, the streaked dwarf, the Brazilian, the Santa Marta. At the porcupine family reunion there is a lot going on.


And this is what I find so wild about porcupines: They are all over the place. Here’s Jessy Coltrane, the area biologist for Kalispell, Montana, talking about the North American porcupine. 


COLTRANE: You can find them all the way from Mexico all the way up to the Arctic. And so they’re really super diverse and their diet is basically horrible, it’s like eating cardboard, and so these are these little fat guys that somehow can make it in the desert and then up on the Arctic tundra.


Porcupines! Full of surprises! So here’s another surprise for you: 


Their noses feel like marshmallows.  This is real.The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., said so. When the baby porcupine Quilliam was born, the zoo announced: Porcupine noses feel like marshmallows. Can that be any cuter?! 


But, as we know, no one is usually talking about porcupines’ little marshmallowy, squishy, wishy noses. No, we’re always talking about the quills.


A lot of people are confused about this, so allow me to clear it up:


Porcupines cannot shoot their quills. Their quills will not fly across the forest, pew pew pew, and whizz past your head. 


But some of you thought that, didn’t you? A lot of people still do. And while it is very important to get the facts straight, I think we just have to be honest that porcupines basically spread the best rumor ever. 


As forest creatures go, they’re kinda small, they’re not super fast, but somehow they have convinced all these people that they should be afraid of them, like: AHHHH! They might fling their quills at us, RUN!


That’s like there being a rumor that you can shoot flames out of your eyes. You never have to actually do it — people just see you and they think it’s true and hightail it out of there.


That works out kind of great for porcupines, if you think about it.


But there are also even cooler TRUE things about porcupine’s quills. Allow me to make a few points here — eh, points? Poky? Quills? Eh? Get it? OK, moving on.


COLTRANE: Every porcupine has about 30,000 quills, which is ridiculously a lot.


That’s Jessy Coltrane, again. THIRTY THOUSAND QUILLS.


And porcupines have those quills from the time they’re born. Baby porcupines, called porcupettes, are born with soft quills, but after a few hours, they harden right up. 


And while those quills don’t shoot out, they do get stuck in anything they touch. The ends of the quills have barbs that will embed in your skin. And they are SUPER hard to get out. Some porcupine quills are as thick as a pencil. Ouch.


And with those barbed ends, the quills can actually travel farther in to whoever got stuck with ‘em. Jessy’s dog learned that the hard way.


COLTRANE: My dog had gotten into a porcupine and I had pulled all the quills out, and two weeks later I was petting him and I got poked, and a quill was coming out the other side of his face. So it had gone through his nose and his muzzle and was coming out the other side, and I just pulled it out the other side. 


Double ouch. Now these quills…they have another hidden power. The quills are naturally anti-bacterial.


And at first, that seems kind of weird — like, it’s very thoughtful of the porcupine to not want to poke you and have you get infected. But the anti-bacterial quills are not about you! Porcupines’ quills are anti-bacterial, because porcupines accidentally poke themselves. They are such a rolly, polly, pokey ball of fun, they can’t help but sometimes poke themselves — and that’s where the natural antibiotic comes in. A little poke, no problem. 


Now, porcupines, even though they look very sharp, are actually very peaceful little creatures. They shuffle. They waddle. They like to eat woodchips. They’re nocturnal, so they’re basically just little nighttime snackers.


But, make no mistake: If you come for a porcupine, you will regret it.  They play DEFENSE.


They will stomp their feet. They will click their teeth. And, if they really have to come at you, they will do it ….in reverse.


Their tails are heavily armed, so when forced to defend themselves, porcupines run backwards, until they crash their quills right into their predator. 


Throw it in reverse, Quilliam!


(Truck reverse beeping noises.)


OK, since I told you I liked ridiculous animals, the last thing you absolutely must know about porcupines is that they talk.


            COLTRANE: Like they make these happy eating noises: Mah, mah, mah.


They are CHATTY.


COLTRANE: They’ll yell when they get angry and stuff, they go like MEAHHH. That’s the angry porcupine noise, which I use on my husband periodically.

So look, if you don’t believe me that porcupines are amazing, hilarious creatures, you should just ask a porcupine yourself. This is Teddy Bear, a real, actual porcupine, and this is a real actual recording of his voice.


(Teddy Bear making noises)


My porcupine’s a little rusty, but I’m pretty sure that translated into: How do you like my marshmallow nose, armadillos?

Molly: Some very sharp arguments for the porcupine. Honestly, would love to hear the porcupine and the armadillo have a little conversation. I would enjoy that. So Habte what is your take on Tracy's argument? What stood out to you there?

Habte: First of all, the marshmallow. Also 30,000 quills. Also, they attack in reverse.

Molly: Pretty incredible. Multitalented porcupine. Who knew? Okay, Phyllis, it's your chance to strike back. You get 30 seconds to rebut Tracy's arguments and your time starts now.

Phyllis: The entire existence of the porcupine is duplicitous. It's unfair to have a cute nose and a cute little sound where like (noise). And then, if you're a dog and you just get a little bit too close, just bam, face full of quills for a week. Not cool. Plus it's ridiculous to be the kind of animal where if you fall out of a tree, you'll poke yourself 30,000 times. That is a yikes. No, thank you to the porcupine.

Molly: And time. Tracy, you have anything you want to say?

Tracy: I guess I'd just rather be the porcupine than the dog.


Molly: All right. Habte, you have two points to award this round. One for the best rebuttal and one for the best Declaration of Greatness. Think about some of the things you liked, what you just heard, consult your notes. The criteria is completely up to you. Now, mark down your two points, but don't tell us who they're going to. Listeners at home, grab something you can write with and jot down who you think won those two points. Habte, have you made your decision?

Habte: I have made my decision.

Molly: Excellent. Tracy and Phyllis, how are you feeling about your performance so far?

Phyllis: Awesome.

Tracy: Still feeling sharp.

Molly: Okay. Everyone, it's time for a quick break so go stretch your legs, uncurl your shell, straighten your spikes and stay tuned.

Habte: We'll be back in a flash with more Smash Boom Best.



TODD: Todd Douglas here with ping pong fiend and 887-time debate champ, Taylor Lincoln!


(ping pong sounds)


TAYLOR: You’re not so bad yourself!


TODD: I was the community center champ in 7th grade!


TAYLOR: I won the Ping Pong Perfect award at summer camp in 5th grade!




TAYLOR: We’ve been having quite the game day, debate-heads -- we were just at an arcade where we ran into an EPIC debate by the pinball machine!


TODD: Yeah, two kids were arguing about whether they should spend their money on another game -- or save it! 


TAYLOR: Roll tape! 


MEL: Spend the money, Ky! I need to play another game! 


KY: But I don’t want to! I’m saving up for my Nintendo Switch! 


MEL: Well, you see, I’d like you to buy the tokens, because I need to play games.


KY: Wait. What? 


MEL: It’s important for you to buy tokens, because they cost money!


TODD: Woooooo! That was a wah wah wah WEAK argument on Mel’s part! She was knee deep in a logical fallacy. 


TAYLOR: Logical fallacies are common errors people make in debates.


TODD: They make it a whole lot easier for your opponent to take your argument out. 


TAYLOR: Yup. And Mel used a fallacy called a circular argument. It’s when your argument doesn’t present any evidence beyond the argument itself.


TODD: It would be like saying, “I’m better than you at ping pong because you’re a worse player than me.” 


TAYLOR: Circular arguments are boring. And they don’t work. 


TODD: Better to offer real advice, like, “I practice 4 hours every day, beat you 75% of the time. That’s how we know I’m a better player than you.”


TAYLOR: Well, we’ll see about that. Let’s go again!


TODD: Okay. You serve. We’ll catch you next time on




Molly: You're listening to Smash Boom Best, the show about showdowns. We love the debate ideas you send our way like this one from Lark in New York City.

Lark: My debate idea is Artemis versus Apollo.

Molly: We'll check back with Lark at the end of this episode to see which side she thinks should win.

Habte: And now it's back to our debate of the day, armadillos versus porcupines.

Molly: That's right, and it's time for round two, the Micro Round. Your Micro Round challenge is Movie Trailer. Write a trailer for a movie starring your side. We'll buy a ticket and head to the movies for whichever film looks the best. Tracy, you're up first this time. Let's roll the tape on team porcupine's motion picture masterpiece.


Commercial Voiceover: This fall, don't miss the quilling true account of a hero who always has your back. Quilla was just a regular porcupine until those bobcats came to town. She never wanted this fight. She mostly wanted to sleep, honestly, and come out at night for snacks. But when the fight came to Quilla, it was time to ask those bobcats, [porcupine noises].

That's porcupine for, “You want a piece of this?” This tale of large rodent versus wild predator will have you stuck to your seat. When those quills go in, they never come out. In a world where everyone's gone soft, the hero we need remains sharp. Don't miss If Looks Could Quill coming to a forest near you this fall.


Molly: Oh, the fierce porcupine. Very nice job. Phyllis, now is the time to come out of your shell. Let's hear your trailer.


Narrator: They’re fabulous.

Clam: Hey, Turtle! Hey, Crab!

Turtle, Crab: Heyyy, Claaam!

Narrator: They have shells.


Narrator: They conquered the big city.


Paparazzi: Ladies! Over here! Picture please!


Clam: Patience, guys. T Turtle has to get in here and she is worth the wait! Gasp—oh no!


Turtle, Crab, Clam: The vulture!


Vulture: (vulture sound)


Armadillo: Not today you old nasty bird! I just got my very sparse hair done and my nail painted—don’t make me roll over there! I am an ARMADILLO, sir!


Turtle, Crab, Clam: You tell him, Shelly!


Armadillo: I’m about to! (screams)


Vulture: (confused vulture sound followed by scared, receding vulture sound)


Narrator: Their tough pretty much the whole plot of the movie… Plus, the armadillo can scream.


Armadillo: (screams)


Narrator: Shells and the City. Nothing can crush their spirit.


Molly: Okay, Habte, which is it going to be, Shells and the City, or If Looks Could Quill. You've heard both trailers, which fantastic film do you go to? Mark down that point and tell us when you've made your decision. The criteria can be whatever you want. Maybe the one that made you laugh, the one that packed some facts, it's up to you.

Habte: What if I buy a ticket for one, then afterwards, because I'm still in the theater, I watch the other one.


Molly: You're doing some theater hopping. They're both excellent. I know it's a hard decision, but you do have to pick which one's going to get your box office dollars.

Habte: I have marked my point.

Molly: Okay, terrific. Now here comes the Sneak Attack. Your Sneak Attack challenge is Dictionary Duel. Invent a word that captures all of your side’s greatest qualities and write a dictionary entry for it. Does that make sense?

Phyllis: Yep.

Tracy: Absolutely.

Molly: Okay, we're going to give you a few minutes to write while we listen to some lovely hold music.


Molly:  Phyllis and Tracy, are you ready?

Phyllis: Yep.

Tracy: Word.

Molly: Okay. Phyllis, you're up first this time, let's hear your imaginary word.

Phyllis: Rötunddeflectorfork.


Phyllis: At least one of the Os has to have an umlaut because it's like an Ikea furniture item, except it's an armadillo.

Molly: What is the definition of your word? What does it mean?

Phyllis: It means something that is round and things bounce off it but you can also eat with it or dig with it.

Molly: So multifunctional. Very impressive. Tracy, let's hear team porcupines' dictionary entry.

Tracy: My word is quilty with a Q. It's an adjective. It means looking very obviously caught when you were doing something bad. Like when a dog shows up covered in quills, you know he did something and deserved it so he's quilty. He's very quilty.


Molly: Excellent words both of you. I'm going to try to introduce those into my vocabulary. Quilty and, can you tell us yours one more time, Phyllis?

Phyllis: Rötunddeflectorfork.

Molly: Rötunddeflectorfork. I will try to use that later today. All right. Habte, time to award a point for this Sneak Attack challenge. Which team's word won you over? Give that team a point, but don't tell us which one you voted for. Have you decided Habte?

Habte: Yes.

Molly: Was is it tough?

Habte: Ah, yeah. It was a tough one.

Molly: I hope you don't feel quilty about what you chose.


Molly: All right. We have been on the road, but we finally arrived at the Final Six. Phyllis and Tracy, you have just six words left to sway Habte. Make them count. Tracy, you're up.

Tracy: Punkie pokey chatty porcupines are forever. (laughter)

Molly: Some good adjective variety. I'm into it. Okay, Phyllis, your six words, choose carefully. Let's hear them.

Phyllis: I'm a screaming ball of stink.


Molly: I love it. Habte, heard some big arguments for these two animals. Now it's up to you, award a point for this final round. Whose six words won you over? Then tally up your points for both sides. Have you awarded a point for the Final Six?

Habte: Yeah.

Molly: And are you ready to crown a winner?

Habte: I am done.

Molly: Okay. Habte, tell us who won this debate.

Habte: Porcupines.

Tracy: Woohoo. Good game, screaming ball of stink. Good game.

Molly: So Habte, was this a hard decision? Was it close?

Habte: Yes, it was a really hard decision. It was close. It was actually by one point.

Molly: This was a nail biter or claw biter or quill biter. So Habte, walk us through your thinking.

Habte: A moment that armadillos won me over was in the first round, the Declaration of Greatness. So, it's cool how they make that sound. Both make really interesting sounds like that. And also, it's cool how they could roll up whenever someone's attacking them. And they are a peaceful defender as I said earlier. I think one way porcupines won me over is in the quilty one.

Molly: You're going to start using that word?

Habte: Yeah.

Tracy: You are my second favorite funny-looking animal, armadillo friend, so it was an honor to roll up against you.


Phyllis: Well, I'm impressed with all the things that porcupines can do, how they conduct themselves. Very gracious. And that they actually can't do something really scary like shoot their quills 30 feet. So, that's a huge relief and I'm really glad to have learned that today. Thank you.

Molly: Phyllis is a little less afraid of porcupines today. Well, that's it for today's debate battle. Habte crowned porcupines the Smash Boom Best today, but who do you think won?

Habte: Agree or disagree, it's all good. Head over to our website and cast your vote.

Molly: Smash Boom Best is brought to you by Brains On and American Public Media.

Phyliis: It's produced by Molly Bloom, Rosie DuPont, Marc Sanchez, Sanden Totten, and Jennifer Lai.

Tracy: We had engineering help from Corey Schreppel and Cameron Wiley.

Phyllis: We had production help from Elyssa Dudley, Kristina Lopez, and Menaka Wilhelm.

Molly: Anna Weggel is the voice-over hold music and our announcer is Marley Feuerwerker-Otto. We want to give a special thanks to Austin Cross, Taylor Coffman, Coco, and Gus. Tracy, is there anyone you want to give a shout-out to today?

Tracy: Yes, I need to give a shout-out to Jessy Coltrane of Montana Fish Wild Life and Parks, and her dog too. Also, Eric Ringham for being the voice of my movie trailer, and of course, Teddy Bear the porcupine who helped me out.

Molly: And how about you, Phyllis, anyone you want to give a shout-out to today?

Phyllis: Shout out to Gus of Brains On! for just being continual inspiration.

Molly: And Habte, do you want to give any special thanks?

Habte: I would like to give a shout-out to my family members for arguing with me and for preparing me for this.

Molly: Wonderful. Before we go let's check in with Lark. Remember she suggested an Artemis versus Apollo match-up. Here's who she thinks would win.

Lark: I think Artemis would win because I'm all for women's rights and she is too.

Molly: Awesome, Lark. Do you have an idea for a knock-down, drag-out debate? Head to and tell us about it. We'll be back with a new debate battle next week.

Habte: Goodbye.

Phyllis: See you.

Tracy: Bye. Quills, see you later.