Wait Wait at Wake’s Wait

Ken AshfordPopular Culture1 Comment

Npr_wwdtm_image_300If you ever get the chance to see a live taping of NPR’s weekly news quiz program "Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me", I recommend it.

Last night the WWDTM gang came to Winston-Salem for the taping of this week’s show at Wait Chapel in Wake Forest.  At $30-35 per ticket, they still managed to pack the 2000+ seat house.  I chose to sit in the back row of the balcony for two reasons:

  1. I didn’t think I would be able to stay for the whole thing, since I wanted to rehearse a bit for "Little Shop of Horrors"
  2. It’s a freakin’ radio show.  I didn’t really understand why a lot of people felt the need to be really close.  I mean, it’s not like they dance.

Despite assurances that the taping would being at 7:30, the show got started late — closer to 8:00.  Peter Sagal — who looks nothing like I expected — explained during the audience warm-up that part of the reason they were running late was because the Chairmen of Krispy Kreme had paid them a visit backstage, bearing gifts (i.e., really really good donuts).  The cast and crew indulged in them, and Sagal quipped that he was glad that the Chairmen of R.J. Reynolds didn’t come and bring gifts.

Unlike the old timey radio shows, there was no bulky center stage mike that theyhovered around.  The three panelists — Roy Blount Jr., Kyrie O’Connor, and Mo Rocca, sat at a table.  Carl Kasell stood at a podium with his name on it.  So did Sagal, although since they were all equipped with headphones and wireless mikes, Sagal felt free to roam about as the show progressed (although he didn’t roam far from his script which was on the podium).

They’ve done this a while; the show, while live and "freeform" for much of it, was like a well-oiled machine.

The special guest was Chris Paul.  Now, I’m not a basketball fan at all, so I never heard of him.  For those simularly situated, he is a Winston-Salem native, and he attended Wake Forest.  He later became 2005-2006 NBA rookie of the year, and he plays point guard for the New Orleans Saints Hornets. He’s also, I might add, a really decent well-spoken guy.  His topic was "failed food products".  Despite not having a clue as to the answers, he managed to guess all of them right, enabling someone from Greensboro to have Carl Kasell’s voice on their answering machine.

It’s interesting to see a radio broadcast performed onstage.  They pretty much plow straight through.  There will be, to be sure, some editting — they went well over an hour, but it was fun to watch.  And it was kind of cool knowing that the show will air in a couple days to over 2.5 million listeners (not to mention god-knows-how-many podcast downloads).

I never found Roy Blount’s interjections on the show to be particularly humorous.  Last night was no exception.  Mo Rocca would get laughs, and then Blount would say something which would leave everybody scratching their heads.  Sagal would take a deep breathe and move on.

Toward the beginning of the show, the at-home call-in contestent was some guy from Concord, NH.  If you hear a clap (just one clap) from someone who seems to be sitting in the back row of the balcony, that’s me.  My NPR debut.

"Wait Wait Dont Tell Me!" airs this Saturday at 11 a.m. on 88.5 WFDD.  For people outside the Triad, check your local NPR listings.

P.S.:  Ran in to lots of people I knew in the audience.  One of them, Karen Robinson, had sent me this Youtube link, which may be funny only if you’ve been to law school.  I especially like it because I think the school depicted year is NYU Law….