20 things you need to know about 'Wait Wait. , , Do not Tell Me! 'On its 20th anniversary

20 things you need to know about 'Wait Wait. , , Do not Tell Me! 'On its 20th anniversary

The popular NPR radio show and podcast "Wait, Wait. , , Do not Tell Me! "Is the Chase Bank Auditorium in Chicago. (Rob Grabowski)

NPR's "Wait Wait. , , Do not Tell Me! "Officially celebrated its 20th anniversary last month, a milestone that was marked with an intellectual. , , oh, who's kidding whom? Peter Sagal, judge and scorekeeper Bill Kurtis and 15 panelists, which is to say it like the proverbial herding of cats. Thank God for the editors, who won the marathon taping into an hour of the week's news (you can hear the podcast here),

As one of the show's original panelists, and because of my overlords, I have allowed them to do so. "WWDTM" trivia party. You're welcome.

1. "Wait Wait" owes its existence to "Car Talk," the surprise NPR hit starring Tom and Ray Magliozzi, two Boston brothers and mechanics with an infectious sense of humor and the occasional useful car advice. Executive Producer Doug Berman What approach to make another show on the weekend, and he came up with a news quiz format to reward faithful NPR listeners with a light take on serious news. Berman says: "It was designed to be a complete waste of time." His genius move: persuading NPR's legendary morning newscaster Carl Kasell to serve as judge and scorekeeper. Carl gave the show instant respect and saved us from the chopping block during those bumpy early years.


Carl Kasell, reclining on the piano, and Peter Sagal at an early "Wait Wait … Do not Tell Me!" Promotional photo. (Wait Wait Do not Tell Me / NPR)

Dan Coffey, Carl as scorekeeper and panelists Roy Blount Jr., Peter Sagal and yours truly. Clinton's Impeachment and Viagra – A Little Blue Dress and a Little Blue Pill.

3. Wait, Peter what a panelist? Indeed. He took over hosting duty in spring 1998 for Coffey, who was not junkie. Peter, on the other hand, what a Harvard-educated playwright, deeply steeped in current events and literate ad-libs. "I have two traits that are good for this job," he says. "I'm very eager to please. I want to be happy. And I've got a very quick mind. "PBS" Constitution USA "series, author of" The Book of Vice "(which includes a pre-Trump scandal interview with Stormy Daniels) and his new "The Incomplete Book of Running."


"WWDTM" panelists take the stage for the 20th anniversary show Oct. 25. From left: Amy Dickinson, Adam Burke, Paula Poundstone, Luke Burbank, Adam Felber, Maz Jobrani, Faith Salie, Roy Blount Jr., Tara Clancy, Peter Grosz, Mo Rocca, Tom Bodett, Negin Farsad, Roxanne Roberts and Brian Babylon. (Rob Grabowski)

4. "Wait Wait" was not an overnight hit. In fact, plenty of people thought it was the standards of NPR, and of course they were correct. (One of our early slogans: "NPR Without the Dignity.") Fortunately, another NPR weekend show that had started at the same time was even more trouble, so "Wait Wait" had a little time to work out the kinks. After careful deliberation, the decision to make goofy jokes until they canceled the show.

5. The show was originally taped at NPR studios: Carl and I in Washington, Peter in Chicago and the other panelists wherever they lived. In 2005, we switched to a live audience at Chicago's Chase Bank Auditorium or theaters across the country. We tape Thursday nights, which means the show are edited, the calls are distress live during the weekend broadcast, and we pray nothing newsworthy happens Friday.

6. So how do you do the work, anyway? Would-be contestants leave a message on the "Wait Wait" batphone, and those selected sit by their phones on Thursday night, waiting for producers to call and then their five minutes of glory. Winners receive the only prize "WWDTM" has ever won: Carl's voice (now any member of the cast) on their home answering machine.

7. After a Hall of Fame radio career, Carl retired in 2014 and passed away earlier this year. Who could fill those enormous shoes? The show asked award-winning broadcaster Bill Kurtis, who amazed everyone by agreeing to join the team. "They're actually very similar," Peter says. "Both were very serious news people. Both came to us later in life, after they had established careers. And both of them had their personalities and their accomplishments. They were huge and never really had a chance to express it. "

8. "Wait Wait" has been released on "Jeopardy !," an insult on "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," a crossword clue and more, including the time Peter and Carl were immortalized on "The Simpsons."

9. If only one of those were true, it could be a "bluff the listener" segment, where listeners guess which one of three crazy stories is real. Producers find a real but insane news story, and then ask one of the three panelists to present it. The other two must write an equally crazy bluff using the same general theme. (Fake news!) Peter wants to ask because they want all of our reactions to be spontaneous.


Then Illinois senator Barack Obama is presented with a birthday cake after his 2005 appearance on "WWDTM." (Jerry Schulman)

10. The list of celebrities on the show's "Not My Job" segment is a Who's Who of American politicians, authors, actors, musicians, and sports people. Peter is often asked who the worst and does not hesitate for a second. "The worst guest in the world is Gene Simmons," he says. The KISS singer was "viciously obnoxious, rude, sexist, racist and just mean." The best? "Leonard Nimoy, Dick Van Dyke, Carol Burnett, Carrie Fisher." The show also has two presidents: Bill Clinton (by phone), after he left office; and Barack Obama (in person), when he was still a senator. "Obama was better by a mile," Peter says. "Hey what's so effortlessly charming. As soon as he walked offstage, I turned to the audience and said, 'That guy is going to be president.' "

11. Best guest host: actor Tom Hanks, who appeared on the show as a "Not My Job" in January 2017. Peter has not been asked to replace Hanks in a big Hollywood movie , despite the fact that he co-wrote the screenplay for "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights," the sequel no one saw. Another thing no one saw: Peter's role as a snake charmer in Michael Jackson's "Remember the Time" music video, which did not make the final cut.

12. The writers and staff do the heavy lifting, and the panelists get a lot of the credit. There are a few who have been on the show for two decades, as well as an ever-growing team of journalists, authors and comedians (about 20 regulars) who rotate every week. The only common denominator: smart takes on stupid news, especially the scientific studies that Paula Poundstone hates so much. Seriously, you will never get back that hour of your life.) For the 20th anniversary, panelist and CBS contributor Faith Salie hosts bonus podcasts called "Wait Wait Naked and Ashamed" with panelists who were neither naked nor Ashamed. Or were they? It's radio, so no one knows if you're not wearing pants.

13. Speaking of podcasts: "Wait Wait" is one of the top 10 podcasts in the country – about 5 million people listen to the show every week, with an additional million via podcast.

14. Best ad lib that aired: If I had to pick a favorite, "Clippy Must Die" would be high on the list. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft Bill Gates. Somehow, Adam Felber improvised on the imitation of Clippy with the cannoli scene in "The Godfather": "It looks like you're digging a grave. Is this a business grave or a personal grave? "

15. Best ad-lib that did not air: During a show in Berkeley, Calif., A sign-language interpreter was faced with Ronald Reagan's reaction like I just crapped a pineapple. "The interpreter faithfully tried to translate the quote – to hilarious effect. The panel was so amused by this superhuman effort that they repeated the phrase, and variations thereof, for the remainder of the show.

16. The hardest show? The broadcast a week after Sept. 11, 2001, when we attempted to bring a little relief to a shattered nation: A couple of Rudy Giuliani's jokes, a shout-out to the civic patriotism of Mafia garbage collectors. "We got this tremendous influx of mail from people saying things like 'Thank you. It's the first time I laughed in 10 days, '"Berman says. "We did not know if we could do that, but we had to try."

17. Every panel checks out headlines, but two of us study for the show. Faith (Harvard, Oxford, Rhodes scholar) and me (none of those things) cram for "Fill in the Blank," the game where we're individually quizzed on the week's news. We usually know big news stories, but there are always one or two questions about drunk, robbers, idiots or a combination thereof tossed in for comic relief. Faith and I scour the news and make lists on these very stories. Paula, Faith and me – a cage match of estrogen and Diet Coke.

18. Adam has racked up the most wins (128), Faith has the highest percentage of wins (51 percent) and I have the highest recorded score (21 points) Just in case you're working on your 2019 "WWDTM" fantasy team picks.

19. How do we know all this? Thanks to our No. 1 fan, Linh Pham, who started listening in 2005 and maintains an exhaustive website with data on every show and panelist. His favorite panelist? Mo Rocca. "I love how he spends as much time as he likes trying to find an answer."

20. People ask we're really having that much fun. For 20 years, the answer has been a resounding yes. So thanks, y'all.

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