The ource ofall this wackiness, which seems more befitting the Car Talk guys than a straight-laced 67-year-old fr0111. Wayne County, is NPR's three-year- old news quiz show, Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! The one-hour program recreates the days when film and television stars were second fiddle to performers on radio dranlas such as Cunsmoke. Peter Sagal, the show's Chicago-based host, directs a panel of three revolving celebrity guests (and on Wait, Wait.. ., that's usually defined as journalists and funny guys who keep up with the news) and a collection of civilian contestants fr0111 across the country who call in to compete. Among other things,
they try to guess Kasell's newsmaker
quotes - which is how be got to pretend
to be the late punk singer Joey Ramone
last spring with this clue:
"NoUJ I guess I'll have to tell 'em
That I got no cerebellu.l'l'I.
Conna get my PhD.
I'm a teenage lobotomy. "
The prize for guessing Kasell's quotes?
Having him record a custom-made home
answering machine message.
Kasell has pretended he's everyone
from Charlton Heston (reportedly his best
impression) to President Bush. The com-
pany line for what he does on Wait,
Wait . .. reads: "sidekick, judge and official
scorekeeper." But his real role on the
show is more like that of the uncle in ~
every fanllly who seems so serious most of the tin1e that when he does say some-
thing funny, he's the last to know.
Kasell's voice doesn't change
measurably with any ofhis famous-person clues;
mainly, it's the idea that the most authori-
tative newscaster at NPR would allow
punk-rock lyrics to leave his lips that
makes listeners giggle and has made Kasell
the show's much-beloved mascot. A cere-
bral Ed McMahon, if you will.
"Don't you think he could be your
dad?" asked Bob Edwards, host of Morn-
ing Edition. "I mean, a really good dad,
who'd be square with you. A straight-
shooter. That's what his voice is to me.
But there's also this other side of him, this
performer. He'd give up the newscast in a
second if he had to in order to continue
his role on Wait, Wait ... That's just a side
ofhim that's always been there, the show
But Kasellnever sought out his part
on the show. Rather, the show sought
him. When Kasell took the podium three
years ago at the Public R adio Program
Director's meeting to introduce a gaggle
of NPR stars in attendance, he outshone
them all. H e cracked a few jokes - no
big deal, he thought - but his timing
and performance were impressive enough
to cause NPR's then-cultural program-
ming director, Sandra Rattley-Lewis, to
approach hinl about a quiz show she was
"You're funny," she said, poking a finger in his direction. "We may be able to
When Rattley-Lewis asked ifhe'd like
to do the pilot show for Wc7 it, Wait .. .,
Kasellneeded no convincing. It was the
kind of thing he'd wanted to do from a
young age, when he listened to dramas
and comedy programs on the radio.
In truth, Kasell always has been a stage
performer. A a teenager, he performed in
tbeater, to the point that a young Andy
Griffith '49 urged his Goldsboro High
School dran1a pupil to pursue a career in
theater. Kasell performed in The Lost
CAR0 L,NA AL.UMNIREVlEW