Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me

photoI have a bias in favor of quick-witted people: I tend to think if you’re quick-witted, you are extremely intelligent. Your brain works faster than the average brain to turn knowledge into humor.

If that theory is true, tonight I got to listen to some of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met.

I was invited to attend a taping of an NPR radio show called Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. I’ve heard of the show but never listened to it–I pretty much only listen to board game-related podcasts these days. Apparently WWDTM records a live show every week in Chicago, but occasionally they travel to other cities.

Although it was clear that the show was a big deal from the sold-out crowd at Powell Hall (the same place where I saw The Matrix a few months ago), I don’t think I realized how cool the show was until the lights dimmed and the music started playing. “Wow,” I thought. “These guys are rock stars!”

In reality, they’re more like comedians. But they’re comedians in front of a very welcoming, excited crowd–I doubt there are ever any boos at a WWDTM taping. The whole show is carefully orchestrated, and it moves along at a nice clip. The 2-hour show felt much shorter.

As I mentioned, I was amazed by how quick-witted the hosts and guests were. Peter Sagal, the main host, has some prepared jokes and lines, but he also ad-libs quite a bit, and pretty much anything he said was gold. The three panel members were all quite quick-witted as well. And even the guest of honor, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, was really funny, which I think was just as much the environment and her supporting cast as it was her sense of humor.

Back when I was working on the publishing company I co-founded, we puzzled over how to make book readings more appealing. After seeing this live radio show recording, I think I have a much better idea of how it could work. Humor is key, as well as variety–don’t linger on any one topic for too long. Having an organized, coordinated program goes a long way, and having multiple people involved instead of just one reader can make for a very entertaining event.

I had a great time at Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. If you ever get the chance to see them live, I highly recommend it. Although I bet listening to their show would be quite enjoyable as well. Have you ever listened to it?

5 thoughts on “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”

  1. Love this show. We’ve seen them live twice, once at Powell a few years ago and once in Chicago. SO fun, they are like rockstars in their own right.

  2. My wife and I went to see it live two years ago and loved it. (We were fortunate that my favorite panelist–Roy Blount Jr.–was there that night.) The show is fun to listen to, but it’s even better live.

  3. I love it! I’ve always wanted to go to a live show…maybe I can petition them to come to Birmingham? Or maybe they’ll be in St. Louis when I head up there next year 😉

  4. It’s neat that you all have heard of this show (and seen it live)! They said their listenership is around 4 million.


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