Radio Show Taping: Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me

The Oddly Informative News Quiz

I’d never attended the taping of a media show, radio, tv, or any other type. I was a little worried that the truth would ruin the illusion of a live quiz show. Would there be a big flashing APPLAUSE light?

No. It was remarkably like a fun, interactive play. The hosts and the panel all had a (17 or so page) script, with lots of room for improvisation. The callers were real, live people – a realization that added some dramatic tension to the event. What if the person gets angry and hangs up? At one point Paula Poundstone, after a long rant, looked surprised and said, “Hey, wait, is Dee still on the line?” That became a good joke through the rest of the show.

The guest, T.R. Reid, was a good talker, and kept laughing so hard his head set would come off, and the NPR tech would come out and put it back on. Probably all that will get edited out. I’d heard of his most recent book, The United States Of Europe, and I’d like to take a look at it.

The script clearly contained some cues meant to produce laughter and applause, but it was no different from a play in that way. Peter occasionally stopped and repeated a line, but not enough to really interrupt the flow of things. The only strange part was the “do-overs” at the end of the show, where he re-read parts of the script after listening to his headphones. They recorded the audience reaction during those too, and it was much more forced than the original. Overall, though, it was a very enjoyable live performance, and I’m very curious to listen to the show that gets broadcast from it.

The Wait Wait Website

3 responses to “Radio Show Taping: Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me”

  1. Fun, I’ve always wondered about the audience participation with Radio. Terry Gross interviewed a musician recently who wrote a rock song “Ode to Terry Gross” mainly as a ploy to get on her show!

    The same musician mentions at the end of the ode, that he has other songs written for the other popular NPR shows as well…So, I wonder when we’ll be hearing the “Wait, Wait” song!

  2. Terry Gross was the guest player on the show the week before, and Peter Sagal said they got into a conversation about marketing condoms for the show that never made it off the cutting room floor…

  3. That’s too bad…but maybe someday NPR will release samples of the Outtakes. You know like they have at the end of movies sometimes? That would be neato.

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