NPR nerds unite as 'Wait Wait' invades OKC

Carl Kasel, Peter Sagal and the rest of the “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me” crew visited Oklahoma City’s Civic Center Music Hall as part of the news quiz show’s live tour. Photo: NPR

OKLAHOMA CITY — On a damp and dreary Thursday, OKC’s NPR nerd population dutifully packed the Civic Center to see the live production of National Public Radio’s oddly informative news quiz show, “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me.”

Carl Kasel and Peter Sagal (NPR)

Host Peter Sagal, announcer and 2010 National Radio Hall of Famer Carl Kasel and a celebrity panel of judges set up shop in the big room at the Civic Center Music Hall in the throws of the Great State Fair of Oklahoma and college football.  Despite those annual September distractions, the beloved NPR news/comedy program played to a packed house.

This week’s panel consisted of Boston Globe Magazine writer Charlie Pierce, Houston Chronicle’s Kyrie O’Connor and snarky CBS Sunday Morning contributor Mo Rocca donning a pair of lavender slacks.

The state’s third oldest FM signal, NPR affiliate KOSU-FM 97.1, was the evening’s title sponsor and Oklahoma’s former first lady of 10 o’clock news, Jenifer Reynolds served as emcee.

Just as tape began to roll on the evening’s performance, legendary broadcaster Carl Kasel slipped on his headphones, grabbed the microphone and hoarsely croaked out, “from NPR and…ahem…I’m sorry, can we do that again,” much to the crowd’s delight.  A sip of water and a second take seemed to do the trick.

The wildly popular “Wait Wait” has a loyal audience of 3.1 million listeners of the radio broadcast and a million additional podcast subscribers.  Host Sagal quipped, “98 percent of our audience ate lunch alone in seventh and eight grade.”

Sagal explained that the NPR crew “wanted Oklahoma City to get an NBA basketball team before we come to do the live show.”  He also joked that they “managed to collect all of the state’s liberals under one roof,” a comment that was met with roaring applause.

Both the host and guest panel made attempts to connect with the local audience.  When introducing panelist Kyrie O’Connor, instead of mentioning she is from Houston, Sagel said she was from, “that state to the south that we won’t mention.”

He also said that Oklahoma should be called “Great-klaoma, because you’re so much better than ‘OK.”

Mo Rocca described his adventure at the State Fair of Oklahoma. “For all of my life, I’ve always hated manicotti.  That is, until I had it on a stick.”

All of the staples of the quiz show played out on the Civic Center stage.  The news quiz, the phony stories, interactive phone calls, but the stand out segment was the “Not My Job” portion of the show.

Oklahoma native Delmar Smith, a rodeo gate-man and dog trainer, was brought on stage to talk about the rodeo scene and eventually answer questions about “Rhinestone Cowboy” tailor Nudie Cohn. 

Smith told tales of calf roping and even training Queen Elizabeth’s Labradors in England with as much southern charm and flair as lovable country grandpa straight out of a movie.  Sagal commented, “I grew up in New Jersey, Delmar, we don’t have people like you.”

The line of the night came from Sagal when talking about Delaware Senate hopeful Christine O’Donnell’s recent dabblings in witchcraft, he said, “this is the first time witchcraft has been an issue in an election since the original tea party.”

After the show wrapped up, the panel answered questions with a Q&A session.  One audience member asked where the “Wait Wait” team ate while in Oklahoma City.  Sagal said he talked to Oklahoman and celebrity chef Rick Bayless about where to go in town.  “Bayless said to me ‘Everyone will tell you to go to Cattlemen’s, they do have good lamb fires’ and then he told me what lamb fries were.  So we decided to go to Earl’s Rib Palace.”




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Craig Sanger

A broadcast journalism graduate of University of Central Oklahoma, Craig Sanger is film critic for Oklahoma City FOX affiliate KOKH-TV, morning radio host on KATT-FM, and staff writer at distinctly Oklahoma Magazine. 

Craig is a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

Follow Craig on Twitter.

Contact Craig Sanger


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