BWW Reviews: 'Wait, Wait' Marathon Leaves San Diego Howling
The masterful comics of NPR's Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me! http://www.npr.org/programs/wait-wait-dont-tell-me/ delivered a panoply of laughs, hoots, howls and giggles to a sold-out audience at the San Diego Civic Theatre on Thursday. The two-plus-hour May Day marathon, hosted by Peter Sagal and led by a consummate panel of comedians that included Alonzo Bodden, Paula Poundstone and Adam Felber, brought the house down - to their knees - in uncontrollable laughter. With the behind-the-scenes panel of producers hovering in the background, the spectators were left begging for mercy and panting for more.
Described as "The oddly informative news quiz from NPR" on Twitter, where Sagal is depicted as a sanguine-looking Samurai https://twitter.com/petersagal, the show's sweeping popularity belies the unpretentious attitudes of the participants. Their deadpan delivery of even the most passionate declarations, with humor and without putting on airs, endears them to their countless salivating fans.
What made this segment extra special was the fact that it was one of the show's final appearances for fifty-year broadcasting veteran and Wait, Wait... judge and scorekeeper Carl Kasell. He and Sagal have become "walking on water" cult figures to their followers: not just Public Radio geeks, but an almost unlimited variety of kids, senior citizens, "trivia nerds," and listeners hungry for generous doses of witty jocularity to spice up their weekly news reports. It's been said, only partly humorously, that Kasell "sprinkles magical humor dust on the script." No doubt everyone in the audience felt privileged to have witnessed one of the last stanzas of his swan song.
As a long-time Wait, Wait... addict, I was eager to discover how a live taping of the show differed from a weekly broadcast, and to see what really makes the show tick. Apart from the obvious dissimilarity in overall length, I was fascinated to learn that the comic riffs extend much beyond the scope of the usual short bytes heard on the radio, and that the almost flawless host, alternatively a writer, actor and director, does make very occasional biffs that need correcting. But I was not at all surprised at the panelists' priceless facial gestures and brazen bons mots, that the narrative was sprinkled with "in" jokes to please San Diegans, or at the fact that Sagal and the show's producers rehearse meticulously to create the effortless spontaneity that leaves fans breathless with delight.