Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!

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Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!
Genre Game show, Panel show, Comedy
Running time ca. 50 min.
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
Home station WBEZ in Chicago, IL
Syndicates NPR, WBEZ
Hosted by Peter Sagal
Announcer Carl Kasell (1998–2014)
Bill Kurtis (2014–present)
Created by Doug Berman
Produced by Miles Doornbos
Ian Chillag
Executive producer(s) Mike Danforth
Recording studio Chicago, Illinois
Original release January 3, 1998 (1998-01-03) – present
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 news-based radio panel show produced by WBEZ and National Public Radio (NPR). 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. The show averages about 6 million weekly listeners on air and via podcast.[2]


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

Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! is recorded in front of a live audience in Chicago at the Chase Auditorium beneath the Chase Tower on Thursday nights.[3] 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 also often travels to various cities in the United States and produces a road show in front of a live audience for promotional and station-related purposes.

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 Tom Bodett, Luke Burbank, Adam Felber, Peter Grosz, Mike Pesca, Richard Sher, Bill Radke, Susan Stamberg, Robert Siegel, Brian Unger, Drew Carey, Tom Hanks, and Jessi Klein when Peter Sagal was on vacation.[4][5][6][7][8]

Carl Kasell, who also served as the newsreader on Morning Edition, was the show's official judge and scorekeeper until his retirement on May 17, 2014, after which the role was taken over permanently by journalist Bill Kurtis. In addition to Kurtis, Korva Coleman, Corey Flintoff, and Jean Cochran, among others, have also served this role in the past.

Wait Wait... listeners also participate by telephoning or sending emails 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. Prior to October 21, 2017, the usual prize for winning any game was to have Kasell (named "Scorekeeper Emeritus" following his retirement) record a greeting on the contestant's home answering machine or voice mail system.[9] The current prize is to have any one show panelist or staff member of the contestant's choice record the greeting, including Sagal, Kurtis, and Kasell.

Several shows a year, usually coinciding with holidays or local NPR member station pledge drives, 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 segments[edit]

Though there are some deviations from time to time, episodes of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! feature the following format:

Opening Tease[edit]

As with other NPR programs, Wait Wait offers a one-minute top-of-hour billboard teasing the program that will follow the network's hourly newscast (which traditionally starts at 1 minute past the hour). In this minute, Sagal offers a humorous comment on the week's news, mentions the identity of the week's interview guest, and sets up an out-of-context reading by Kurtis of a quote or game title from the episode.

Who's Bill This Time?[edit]

Formerly "Who's Carl This Time?" until Kasell's retirement, this segment asks the contestant to identify the speaker or explain the context of three quotations from that week's major news stories as read by Bill Kurtis. Each answer is followed by a humorous discussion of the story by Sagal and the panelists. Two correct answers constitute a win for the contestant.

Panel Questions[edit]

In two separate segments each week, Peter Sagal asks the panelists questions regarding less serious stories in the week's news, awarding them one point for each correct answer. The questions are phrased similarly to those featured on The Match Game or Hollywood Squares to allow the panelists to offer a comedic answer in addition to their real guess as well as a hint from Sagal if needed. The answer is often followed by a discussion of the story.

Occasional Panel Variations[edit]

On occasion, the panel segments feature a variation on the game play. Such past variations have included the following:

  • "Extra! Extra!" — Each panelist is offered three strange headlines for a story used by a newspaper or online news site, with Sagal offering the name of the source and the nature of the story. Choosing the correct headline earns the panelist a point.[12]
  • "The Trump Dump" — With rapid-fire delivery, Sagal reads each panelist strange, peculiar factoids from the presidential administration of Donald Trump. Correctly determining whether Sagal's statement is true or false earns the panelist one point. If it's false, Sagal offers the correct nature of the question, which often is as frivolous as what he had read.[13][14]

Bluff the Listener[edit]

In "Bluff the Listener," a contestant hears three unusual stories based on a common theme, with each panelist reading one story. Two of the stories are fictitious, while the third describes a genuine news story. The listener must determine which story is true and not a product of the panelists' imaginations, and earns the prize if they guess correctly. The panelist who read the story the listener picks as true is awarded a point, regardless of whether their story is true or not. A sound bite from the true story (either from the newsmaker himself or herself, or a reporter or expert familiar with the story) is played to reveal the answer.

Not My Job[edit]

External audio
Jimmy Wales plays "Not my job", 10:19, NPR, November 4, 2006[15]

For a full list of "Not My Job" participants, see List of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! guests

In the "Not My Job" segment, a celebrity guest calls in (or occasionally appears on stage) to be interviewed by Sagal and the panelists as well as take a three-question multiple-choice quiz. In Wait Wait's early years, "Not My Job" guests were mainly culled from NPR's roster of personalities and reporters; the pool of guests later expanded to include guests of greater celebrity. As the segment's title suggests, the guests are quizzed on topics that are not normally associated with their field of work. For example, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was asked questions on the history of Hugh Hefner and Playboy magazine,[16] while author Salman Rushdie was asked about the history of Pez candy.[17][18] Often, the subject matter of the quizzes serve as an oblique yet comic juxtaposition to the guests' fields of work, such as when Mad Men creator/producer Matthew Weiner was quizzed on ways people try to cheer others up ("Glad Men") in a March 2015 appearance.[19] Two correct answers from the guest constitute a win, with the prize going to a randomly selected listener who contacted the show but was not chosen as an on-air contestant (their identity and locale are disclosed by Bill Kurtis before the quiz begins).

Listener Limerick Challenge[edit]

In the "Listener Limerick Challenge," the contestant must "listen for the rhyme" by identifying the last word or phrase in three news-related limericks written by Philipp Goedicke and read by Bill Kurtis. Peter Sagal follows with a humorous summary of the news item. Two correct answers constitutes a win.

Lightning Fill-in-the-Blank[edit]

In the final round, 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 in one minute, scoring two points for each correct answer. The order of panelists is determined by how many points they accumulated during the show; the lowest-ranked panelist goes first, with an off-air coin flip or random draw used if panelists are tied. For each panelist, the stories become more frivolous and humorous as the quiz progresses, with Peter Sagal offering a summary of the story behind the last question. After the quiz, 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.

Panelists' Predictions[edit]

Following the credits at the end of the show, the three panelists are asked to offer a comic "prediction" about an ongoing news story, often one discussed earlier in the program.


In 2008, National Public Radio reached an agreement with CBS Entertainment to create a television pilot of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me![20] Peter Sagal and Carl Kasell would be in the pilot, and Doug Berman would be the executive producer.[21] 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.[22]

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.[23] 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.[24]


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).

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


Peter Sagal and the crew of Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me at the 67th Annual Peabody Awards

In April 2008, Wait Wait won a Peabody Award.[25] The program website was nominated for a Webby Award for Humor in 2008.[26]


  1. ^ "BJ Leiderman, NPR Biography". NPR. Retrieved 2007-04-25. 
  2. ^ Johnson, Steve (December 19, 2016). "NPR's 'Wait Wait' is even more fun live". Chicago Tribune. 
  3. ^ "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me Ticketing". WBEZ Chicago. 
  4. ^ "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!- August 12, 2006". npr.org. Retrieved 2011-02-03. 
  5. ^ "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!- August 27, 2005". www.npr.org. Retrieved 2011-02-03. 
  6. ^ "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!- August 14, 2004". www.npr.org. Retrieved 2011-02-03. 
  7. ^ Roti, Jessi. "Tom Hanks to guest host 'Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me' in Chicago". chicagotribune.com. 
  8. ^ 'Wait Wait' For March 11, 2017: Guest Host Jessi Klein with Not My Job Guest Neal Brennan
  9. ^ Adams, Erik (March 4, 2014). "Carl Kasell steps down from Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2017-07-11. 
  10. ^ ""Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me" website". NPR. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  11. ^ a b c Pham, Linh. "NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!: Stats and Show Details". Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  12. ^ "Extra! Extra!" from NPR Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, 1/29/2011
  13. ^ "The Trump Dump," from NPR Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, 4/1/2017
  14. ^ "Panel Questions segment" from NPR Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, 11/11/2017
  15. ^ "Not My Job: Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales". Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!. NPR. November 4, 2006. Retrieved January 13, 2017. 
  16. ^ Madeleine Albright (6 December 2003). "Not My Job!". Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! (Interview: Audio). Interview with Peter Sagal. NPR/WGBH. Retrieved 2008-01-13. 
  17. ^ Salman Rushdie (9 September 2001). "Not My Job!". Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! (Interview: Audio). Interview with Peter Sagal. NPR/WGBH. Retrieved 2008-01-13. 
  18. ^ Brenna, Susan (4 June 2006). "NPR's 'Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me!' You Can't Make This Stuff Up. Or Can You?". [New York Times]. Retrieved 22 July 2016. 
  19. ^ "Not My Job: 'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner Gets Quizzed On Glad Men," from NPR.org (3/28/2015)
  20. ^ 'Wait' may soon get answer on TV vision, Chicago Tribune, September 9, 2008
  21. ^ "Wait, Wait" To Become TV Show? - mediabistro.com
  22. ^ "BBC America And NPR To Bring "Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me!" To TV In December". Retrieved 2011-11-16. 
  23. ^ "Fathom Events - Wait Wait..Don't Tell Me!". Retrieved 2013-05-03. 
  24. ^ "See the Show". npr.org. National Public Radio. 15 March 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-03. 
  25. ^ 67th Annual Peabody Awards, May 2008.
  26. ^ "Webby Nominees". Webby Awards. 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-29. 

External links[edit]