C A R L KASELL ' 56
of his career and to his talent as a broad-
"He's so solid and so good that he
makes the rest of us sound better," said
Edwards. "It's done a lot for the program
to have him stay around this long. There's
something about getting up in the morn-
ing, and rolling out of bed when you feel
groggy, and then you turn on the radio
and there's this voice - no matter ifit's
me or him - that you're happy to hear.
'Oh, it's those guys again.'
"We share a love for radio and an
exasperation at training young people."
"Only the strong survive," said Kasell,
echoing the battle-worn pride ofan early
morning warrior. "We've seen a lot of the
younger ones come dragging themselves
in in the morning, and dragging them-
selves right back out."
That includes his own son.
"It's all I ever knew," said Joe ofhis
father's nocturnal career. He remembers
that, even when his father worked two
jobs, he always made an effort to get to
his Little League games by planning his
naps accordingly. "From the days when
we were living in Goldsboro, when he
was doing the morning program there,
through high school, I got up, had break-
fast with my mom and listened to my
dad on the radio. It seemed odd when he
was in tlle house in the mornings."
Once while at George Mason Uni-
versity,Joe decided to go into work with
his father and see what this was all about.
"Awakening at 1: 30 a.m. - which, in
college, is quite a shock - and riding in
with him, passing by bars in Georgetown
as people were closing up and going
home ... " Joe recalls, "boy,
that was a long day."
"By mid-morning," said
his father, "his ear was
slmnped to his shoulder.
Gone. So I don't know ifiliat
killed his interest or not, but
he eventually went to law
school. And now he's in com-
puters. Makes sense, right?"
Sinlply put, in a world
of flashy images, it ain't easy
Nove lli b e r / 0 e ce lli b e r 2 0 0 1
to be a radio man. But when it works,
there's nothing better.
"Alistair Cooke put it very well,"
Kasell said. "He told a story about a little
girl who loved radio. He asked her why,
and she said, 'Because the pictures are
better.' It's the theater of tlle imagination.
That's what old-time radio was about:
creating visions, images of what you see
in your mind. That is the power of radio,
when it is done well."
And when it's done well, as with
Wc!it, Wait..., suddenly having a semi-
well-known newscaster from public radio
record your home answering machine
message gives you cache at dinner parties.
Kasell records about a dozen messages
each Thursday, including this favorite:
"With this call, $10 has just been
deducted from your checking account."
It's a shame that fans of the show
don't each have an opportunity to pull
up a chair and li ten to the taping. The
60 minutes that air - funny as they are
- are but a whittling of the some two
hours of hysterical banter that often
comprises the program's making. Not a
bad way to make a living, laughing. Kasell
hopes that taking Wait, Wc!it... and shows
~listair Cooke put it very
well. He told a story about
a little girl who loved radio.
He asked her why, and
she said) ((Because the
pictures are better. )) )
like it on the road to perform them
before live audiences will spur a rebirth
in radio's popularity and in how people
use their inuginations.
"Lots of times, people will say, 'Can
you believe a serious newsman is doing
all this stum'" said Kasell, who also brings
out his amateur magician's wand at NPR
fundraisers."But they like it. It gets them
to see another side ofyou, railier than the
serious" - deep voice - "side.
"I could get up there and be quite
boring for a half-hour. But why?You
know? Why?" he said, trailing a smile off
his lips. "And I've only really had one or
two people come up to me and be
critical of my appearance on Wait, Wait ...
They thought it was 'beneath my dignity'
as a newsman to go on a show like that."
At this idea, Kaselliets out a muffied
chuckle of disbelief. Mter all, he's not
reading The New York Times or trading
stocks in between newscasts. He's surfing
goheels.com and complaining about Joe
Forte's early exit. Yeah, you'd think you
knew a guy when you've woken up
with him in your ear for 20-odd years.
But that's the beauty of radio. All you
know is a voice. Everything else is just
As for Edwards' jealousy over his
friend's "malmnoth discretionary
income," it seems he's going to have to
get used to it. Kasell plans to keep giving
folks the news seven times a day on the
hour for as long as that old Tar Heels
thermos holds out - and as long as
Edwards, a Louisville graduate, can take
his good-natured ribbing during college
"You can't retire from
something you don't consider
to be work," said Kasell,
quoting a line he borrowed from
the Smothers Brothers. "I don't
even think about it. I still feel
like I'm in my 40s. As long as
I can get up in the morning at
1 a.m., I'll keep doing it." m
BETH M c NICHOL ' 95 is
assistant editor of the Review.