Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!

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Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!
Genre Game show, Panel game
Running time ca. 50 min.
Country United States
Language(s) English
Home station WBEZ in Chicago, IL
Syndicates NPR, WBEZ
Host(s) Peter Sagal
Announcer Carl Kasell
Creator(s) Doug Berman
Producer(s) Emily Ecton
Mike Danforth
Ian Chillag
Eva Wolchover
Exec. producer(s) Doug Berman
Recording studio Chicago, Illinois
Air dates since 1998
Audio format Stereophonic
Opening theme B.J. Leiderman[1] (composer)
Website Website
Podcast Podcast

Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! is an hour-long weekly radio news panel game show produced by Chicago Public Radio and National Public Radio. It is distributed by NPR in the United States, internationally on NPR Worldwide and on the Internet via podcast, and typically broadcast on weekends by member stations.


Taping of the July 24, 2010 episode at the Chase Auditorium, with panelists Adam Felber, Roxanne Roberts and Keegan-Michael Key

The show is hosted by playwright and actor Peter Sagal. When the program had its debut in January 1998, Dan Coffey of Ask Dr. Science was the original host, but a revamping of the show led to his replacement in May of that year. The show has also been guest hosted by Luke Burbank, Adam Felber, Peter Grosz, Mike Pesca, Richard Sher, Bill Radke, Susan Stamberg, Robert Siegel, Brian Unger and Drew Carey when Peter Sagal is on vacation.[2][3][4]

Carl Kasell, who also served as the newsreader on Morning Edition, is the show's official judge and scorekeeper. Korva Coleman, Corey Flintoff, Jean Cochran, and Bill Kurtis (referred to in the show as "legendary anchorman" Bill Kurtis in reference to his role as the narrator in the movie Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy) among others, have served this role. Each week, a panel of three humorists, journalists, and/or comedians are chosen to participate in the program. NPR announced on March 4, 2014, that Kasell would be retiring from the show in Q2 2014.[5]

Wait Wait... listeners also participate by telephoning or sending e-mails to nominate themselves as contestants. The producers select several listeners for each show and call them to appear on the program, playing various games featuring questions based on the week's news. The usual prize for winning any game is to have Carl Kasell record a greeting on the contestant's home answering machine or voice mail system; in light of his retirement, Kasell remains "Scorekeeper Emeritus" and will still provide his voice for those winners that want it.[6] In most cases, the contestants receive a bit of latitude in getting the correct answer, such as getting another guess and a hint should they initially guess wrong, or getting credit for correctly identifying everything about a news-maker except their name.

The show typically closes with the "Panelists' Predictions", during which each panelist provides a headline that is designed more to make the listener laugh than to actually predict a real news story. That segment usually ends with Carl Kasell stating that if any of those come true, "we'll ask you about it on Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!"

Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! is usually recorded in front of a live audience at Chicago's Chase Auditorium in the Chase Tower on Thursday nights. Until May 2005, the show was recorded in one of Chicago Public Radio's studios, with no audience and often with one or more panelists calling in from other locations. The show often travels to various cities in the United States and produces a road show in front of a live audience for promotional and station relation purposes.

Several shows a year, usually coinciding with holidays, are compiled from segments from past episodes, or feature holiday-related theme programming (such as for the 4th of July, an entire program based on questions from American history adapted to fit the current events format), and are either recorded in front of an audience for later broadcast, or at WBEZ's studio facilities without an audience.


On-air games[edit]


Who's Carl This Time?[edit]

The contestant must identify the speaker or explain the context of three quotations read by Carl Kasell. Two correct answers constitutes a win. In a variation of this game, Carl Kasell's Countdown, three popular songs are played and the contestant must identify the related news story. In another variation (debuting on May 18, 2008), Carl Kasell's Answering Machine, Carl Kasell reads three fictitious voice mail messages based on recent events.

Bluff the Listener[edit]

The contestant hears three odd but related news stories read by the panelists. Two of the stories are invented by two panelists, with the actual story being read by the remaining panelist. The listener must determine which one is true and not a product of the panelists' imaginations. The show uses a sound bite from the actual story (either the newsmaker himself or herself, or a reporter or expert familiar with the story) to reveal the answer. (This is one of the few games where the contestant cannot receive any hints at the correct answer or receive partial credit for being "close enough" to the actual answer.) A panelist earns a point if a contestant chooses his/her story in the Bluff the Listener game, whether or not that story was true.

This Week's News[edit]

In between games, Peter Sagal asks the panelists questions from the week's news and the panelists earn points by giving correct answers. These questions are generally based on less-newsworthy stories of the week, and phrased similar to questions in The Match Game or Hollywood Squares to allow the panel to give a comedic answer should they be unaware of the real one.

Not My Job[edit]

A specially invited guest takes a three-question multiple-choice quiz on a topic that is a comic juxtaposition to the celebrity's field, with a unique appropriate category name used each week. Originally, the guests on these segments were NPR personalities and reporters, but the pool of guests later expanded to include mostly celebrity guests (usually via phone), ranging from former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who was asked questions on the history of Hugh Hefner and Playboy magazine,[11] to author Salman Rushdie who was asked about the history of Pez candy.[12] Two correct answers constitute a win and the prize goes to a randomly selected listener who contacted the show but was not chosen as a contestant. At least one exception to this rule has been recorded when, in June 2005, Sagal made an "executive ruling" in favor of then-major Robert Bateman, who was participating as the celebrity from his station in Baghdad, Iraq.

See List of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! guests for a full list of participants.

Listener Limerick Challenge[edit]

The contestant must identify the last word or phrase in three news-related limericks read by Carl Kasell (and written by Philipp Goedicke). Two correct answers constitutes a win. Peter Sagal introduces each limerick segment with a pun on the word "rhyme".

Lightning Fill-in-the-Blank[edit]

At the end of the show, the panelists take a Lightning Fill-In-The-Blank quiz. Each panelist is given a series of eight fill-in-the-blank questions about news stories, and must answer as many as he or she can (the stories become more frivolous and humorous as the quiz progresses) and are scored 2 points for each correct answer. After the quiz, all the points are totaled, and the panelist with the highest score is declared the week's champion (in the event of a tie for first place, the tying contestants are declared co-champions). Panelists do not receive prizes for winning. Three-way ties are quite uncommon; in the 23-Oct-2010 show—which was such a tie, between Mo Rocca, Kyrie O'Connor, and Peter Grosz—no one could remember when the previous occurrence might have been. On October 15, 2011, a three-way tie occurred between Mo Rocca, Charlie Pierce, and Amy Dickinson. Mo Rocca humorously begged for a three-way tie, where each player would have nine points in honor of Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan.[13] The most recent three-way tie occurred on September 29, 2012, between Brian Babylon, Kyrie O'Connor and Adam Felber, with Peter Grosz filling in as host. The last three three-way ties have occurred in weeks when either Peter Sagal or Carl Kasell were absent from the show.


Ask Carl[edit]

Parodying panelist Amy Dickinson's "Ask Amy" column, Carl Kasell reads invented inbox messages from "newsmakers with troubles". The listener must then identify who the newsmaker is. Two correct answers out of three constitutes a win. Debuted on May 9, 2009.


Carl Kasell reads invented Facebook status updates. The listener must then identify who posted the update. Two correct answers out of three constitutes a win. Debuted on March 14, 2009.

An Internet Destination Called Carlslist[edit]

Carl Kasell reads postings from the fictional Internet site "Carlslist" (a parody of Craigslist) based on recent news events. The contestant must guess the person or event being referred to in the "posting" to score points. Debuted on October 21, 2006.

Extra! Extra![edit]

Carl Kasell reads three headlines to each of the panelists; two are fake and one is true. The panelist earns one point if they select the true headline. Debuted on January 29, 2011.

Getting to Know You[edit]

The contestant must answer a question or quote having to do with a presidential candidate.

Wait Wait... Television[edit]

Carl Kasell reads commercials for fictional television shows based on recent news events. The contestant must guess the person that the "commercial" references to score a point. As with the other games, two correct answers out of three possible yields the prize. Debuted on October 1, 2006. In a variation of this game, called Carlvision (debuted April 11, 2009) Carl Kasell reads fictitious episode descriptions (based on news events) for actual current or former television programs as such descriptions might appear in TV Guide, and the contestant must identify the newsmaker or event; two out of three correct answers are required to win. This game was played on May 19, 2012, and was dubbed The Wait Wait... Up Fronts


In 2008, National Public Radio reached an agreement with CBS Entertainment to create a television pilot of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me![14] Peter Sagal and Carl Kasell would be in the pilot, and Doug Berman would be the executive producer.[15] The pilot was not picked up for regular production.

On November 16, 2011, BBC America announced that the show would make its television debut with a "2011 Year in Review" special airing on December 23, to be retransmitted by NPR stations on the 24th and 25th. The taping included two American panelists—"Wait Wait" regulars Paula Poundstone and Alonzo Bodden—and British newcomer Nick Hancock.[16]

Live cinema[edit]

On 2 May 2013, an episode was performed at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in New York City and was streamed live via satellite to hundreds of cinema theaters throughout the United States and Canada.[17] The show included host Peter Sagal, announcer Carl Kasell, and panelists Mo Rocca, Paula Poundstone, and Tom Bodett. Celebrity guest Steve Martin won in the Not My Job segment.[18]


Al Franken's former talk radio show, The Al Franken Show, contained a segment called "Wait Wait... Don't Lie to Me!", where contestants had to determine if a soundbite played was truth, lie, or "weasel" (technically true, but designed to deceive).

Welcome to Night Vale's community radio station alludes to a show following Cecil's news broadcast titled "Wait, Wait, Don't! No, Don't! Please, Don't!"


In April 2008, Wait Wait won a Peabody Award.[19] The program website was nominated for a Webby Award for Humor in 2008.[20]


  1. ^ "BJ Leiderman, NPR Biography". NPR. Retrieved 2007-04-25. 
  2. ^ "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!- August 12, 2006". npr.org. Retrieved 2011-02-03. 
  3. ^ "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!- August 27, 2005". www.npr.org. Retrieved 2011-02-03. 
  4. ^ "WWait Wait...Don't Tell Me!- August 14, 2004". www.npr.org. Retrieved 2011-02-03. 
  5. ^ "Karl Kassle Retirement from Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!- March 4, 2014". npr.org. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  6. ^ Adams, Erik (2014-03-04). "Carl Kasell steps down from Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me". A.V. Club. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  7. ^ ""Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me" website". NPR. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  8. ^ Pham, Linh. "NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!: Stats and Show Details". Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  9. ^ Pham, Linh. "NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!: Stats and Show Details". Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  10. ^ Pham, Linh. "NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!: Stats and Show Details". Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  11. ^ Madeleine Albright (6 December 2003). (Audio). Interview with Peter Sagal. Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!. NPR/WGBH http://www.npr.org/programs/waitwait/archrndwn/2003/dec/031206.waitwait.html. Retrieved 2008-01-13.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ Salman Rushdie (9 September 2001). (Audio). Interview with Peter Sagal. Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!. NPR/WGBH http://www.npr.org/programs/waitwait/archrndwn/2001/sep/010908.waitwait.html. Retrieved 2008-01-13.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ http://www.npr.org/2011/10/15/141374661/lightning-fill-in-the-blank
  14. ^ 'Wait' may soon get answer on TV vision, Chicago Tribune, September 9, 2008
  15. ^ "Wait, Wait" To Become TV Show? - mediabistro.com
  16. ^ "BBC America And NPR To Bring "Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me!" To TV In December". Retrieved 2011-11-16. 
  17. ^ "Fathom Events - Wait Wait..Don't Tell Me!". Retrieved 2013-05-03. 
  18. ^ "See the Show". Retrieved 2013-05-03. 
  19. ^ "NPR's Irreverent News Quiz Show Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! Wins Peabody Award, Thanks Politicians, Newsmakers and Celebrities For Providing Fodder" (Press release). National Public Radio. 3 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-29. 
  20. ^ "Webby Nominees". Webby Awards. 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-29. 

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