Peter Sagal discusses 'Wait, Wait … Don't Tell Me's' arrival on TV

December 22nd, 2011

Los Angeles Times
By Robert Lloyd
Dec. 22, 2011

“I got a phone call from a friend,” Peter Sagal told me recently, remembering a day in 1997, “who said, ‘I know these people who are putting together a new show on public radio. They’re looking for funny people who read a lot of newspapers, and I thought of you.'”

That was “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me,” the popular NPR current-events comedy panel show Sagal has hosted for nearly 14 years. It will come to television Friday, when BBC America airs a special Anglo-American video edition subtitled “A Royal Pain in the News.” Regular contributors Paula Poundstone and Alonzo Bodden and “official judge and scorekeeper” Carl Kasell will appear; guests Nick Hancock (a U.K. game-show host) and author Neil Gaiman (“Coraline”) bring the Britishness.

Is this the first time you’ve tried to translate the show to television?

In 2008, CBS came to us with real enthusiasm, and we taped a pilot at the Wilshire Theatre [now Saban Theatre] in Beverly Hills. And that never saw the light of day. We built this huge set, we had a huge TV screen to show images to the audience, but we lost the intimacy. When we do our show we’re not very far from each other physically, and we sound, I think, on the radio, like we’re just hanging around a table. Basically all it is is a bunch of guys who amuse each other trying to do just that — that’s our show. And with the CBS pilot, we kind of ruined that by blowing it up: I was 20 feet away from the panel, I was talking to our guests on a huge screen way in the distance, and we lost that connection and that sense of spontaneity that is part of our appeal.

Read more