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Frequently Asked Questions

1) I'm going to be in Chicago next week. Can I come watch a taping?

Of course. You can watch the show recorded live at Chase Auditorium in Chicago's Loop on most Thursday nights. For tickets, go to Chicagopublicradio.org, or click on the link on our own homepage. We also tour around the country for six to 10 shows per year. Check the homepage to see if we're coming to an auditorium near you.

2) Do the panelists -- or the listeners -- know what they're going to be asked in advance?

No. During the week, the crack Wait Wait staff at HQ in Chicago researches and writes questions, based on their news value, potential for humorous wisecracks, and funny accents for Carl. Neither the panelists nor the listeners know what they will be asked, although, being sensible people, they know that if Britney Spears or Arnold Schwarzenegger does anything even mildly odd during the week, it will probably come up.

3) I hear your show Sunday morning, but my friend in another city hears it on Saturday. Which broadcast is the live one?

You'd think, from the amount of mistakes, coarse jokes and unintentionally self-revealing comments that you hear on an average Wait Wait, that we'd have to be live... otherwise, wouldn't somebody stop us? But the fact is, because stations broadcast us at various times, our show is recorded in front of a live audience Thursday evening, edited for length, and then broadcast nationwide starting at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday, and then throughout the weekend, as your local station desires. Find out where to listen to the show.

4) But if you're not broadcasting live, then when should people call in to be on the show?

Any time at all. Whenever you call, even if you're listening to the show at that moment, you'll be greeted by a mellifluous voice on an answering machine (okay, it's Peter Sagal, but do you know how much those mellifluous voice guys charge?). You'll be asked to leave your name and number, and tell us something about yourself... perhaps just why you want to play our game. Our producers listen to all the messages, and call some people back to arrange for them to be at their phones during our Thursday evening taping. You can also nominate yourself via e-mail, at waitwait@npr.org.

5) How do I increase my chances of getting picked to be on the show?

Be charming. Speak clearly. Say kind things about associate-level radio producers. Offer bribes. Be kind to children and dogs. Live a virtuous life. Have an amusing accent.

6) How come Carl Kasell doesn't record the greeting on your own answering machine?

See note about prices of mellifluous voiced guys above.

7) Who comes up with those fake news stories we hear toward the end of the show?

The panelists do. Two days or so before taping, we let the panelists know what the real news story will be, assign that story to one of them, and then ask the other two panelists to come up with similar -- but made up -- stories of their own. It's the only part of the show (that, and the predictions at the end) where the panelists have any advanced warning of what's to come.

8) How come all of Charlie Pierce's fake news stories take place in small towns in Wisconsin?

Charlie says that years ago, he had the job of preparing the regional sports scores for a Milwaukee newspaper, which involved reporting bowling league results, lacrosse scores, etc. from all over Wisconsin. He says the names of places like Spread Eagle, Wisc., just stuck in his head. Warning: since people started catching on to this, he's been changing his tactics, sprinkling in other towns among the Wisconsin hamlets. And if we ever do get an odd true story from a small town in Wisconsin, well, you know what we're going to do with it.

9) I know who Carl Kasell is, of course, but how the hell did Peter Sagal ever get this job?

Dumb luck. Peter was a playwright and screenwriter living in Brooklyn back in 1997 when he got a call from someone who knew someone who was putting together a new show for NPR. Since all Peter had really wanted to do with his life was talk about things he knew little about for National Public Radio, it felt like destiny.

10) I read a funny news story that seems right for the show. How do I submit it?

We love suggestions from listeners. The best way to send a story is by e-mail, to waitwait@npr.org. Remember to always include the complete text of the story, including the author, date, and the name of the newspaper or magazine in which it appeared. Also, if there's an online version of the story, include a link. Second best is to call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT, and leave the pertinent information on our answering machine. People do use old-fashioned mail to send us clippings, which we appreciate, but since we're a weekly show sometimes the stories don't arrive in time for us to use. We thank our listener contributors on the air, and send first time contributors a thank-you gift.

11) I thought the comment you made about left-handed Zamboni drivers last week was completely tasteless. Can't you people make any effort to hide your bias against left-handed Zamboni drivers?

Every week, we try to present news items we find funny and interesting, and try to be funny and interesting about them, without regard to race, creed, political affiliation or bad hair (okay, actually, we come down really harshly on people with bad hair). During the course of our repeated attempts at humor, we will probably, eventually, offend everybody on earth, at least once, because everybody (including us) has one or two things that are just Never Funny. We can agree on some verboten topics: we try to stay away from war, disease, natural disasters, or other stories in which people are injured or hurt through no fault of their own. However, it's inevitable, I think, that one day, one of us is going to crack wise about something you care deeply about. So, we apologize in advance, and if you want to let us know how you feel, write to us at waitwait@npr.org.

12) You only give out your e-mail address, but I like writing in soy ink on vellum. What's your postal address?

Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!
C/o WBEZ
848 E Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60611

13) Does Carl really record answering machines messages for people who win on the show?

Would Carl Kasell lie to you?.

14) Is the Doug Berman I hear credited as your Executive Producer the same Doug "Subway Fugitive, Not a Slave to Fashion" Berman that produces Car Talk?

Did you ever doubt it?

15) I love your show, but my local public radio station doesn't carry it. What can I do?

Well, you can ask them, nicely. Each station makes its own decisions about what programs to carry, and they often respond to listener requests. Particularly when they're accompanied by, oh, say, a new building. Otherwise, you can always listen to our current and archived shows on the Web site.

16) Who selects those hilarious/tasteless/confusing music cues that sometimes follow segments on the show?

Whichever of our producers is editing that week's show -- usually Rod Abid, Mike Danforth, or Amanda Gibson, along with our crack staff of engineers -- gets to make the call. They take pride on coming up with music cues (or "buttons," as we call 'em in the radio biz) that riff off on the story or comment that just preceded it. Classic example from a few years ago: a story about a newfangled kind of toilet paper, followed by a drum riff, which true music afficianados knew was from the old Ventures song, "Wipeout." Often, these cues are the funniest things on the show, which is either very impressive or very alarming.