Peter Sagal

Host of NPR's Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!

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At the Podium

Sagal has traveled all around the country with Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! playing to sold-out theaters from Seattle to Miami. As one of the nation’s premier radio humorists and commentators on current events, and the host of Constitution USA on PBS, Peter speaks about the intersections of politics, civics, humor and entertainment, and how they all draw from each other to create the American experience. An adept moderator, Sagal is also the perfect emcee, able to apply his quick wit to esoteric company stories, weaving in jokes for an uproarious and unforgettable evening. Whether providing insightful, colorful commentary on current events or a behind-the-scenes peek at the funniest show on radio, Sagal never fails to inform and entertain.

After hosting Wait Wait… for more than 20 years, Sagal knows a thing or two about telling a joke. In a separate program, Sagal looks back at his career to educate audiences on “the art of joke telling.” With a decades-long career in making people laugh, Sagal shares what he’s learned about jokes, giving audiences a rare behind-the-scenes look at how he writes and delivers them, and explores why humor is the best way to get a reaction from a crowd.

Peter Sagal was absolutely charming, delightful, fun, and just enough seriousness to make his presentation both entertaining and thought-provoking.

- Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center

About Peter Sagal

Peter Sagal is, has been, and perhaps someday will be again, a husband, father, playwright, screenwriter, author, journalist, columnist, marathoner, Jeopardy contestant, dramaturg, podcast host, documentary host, foreign correspondent, wedding officiant, and magician’s assistant.

As a playwright, his work has been produced or commissioned by the Long Wharf Theater, Seattle Rep, Actor’s Theater of Louisville, Florida Stage and many others here and abroad, and he’s won awards from the Lannan Foundation, the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center and fellowships from the Camargo and Jerome Foundations. His screenwriting career began and pretty much ended with Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights which he wrote without meaning to.

In 1997, Peter got a call from a friend telling him about a new show at NPR, which was looking for “funny people who read a lot of newspapers.” He auditioned and appeared as a panelist on the first broadcast of Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me! in January of 1998, and moved with his family to Chicago to become the host in May, alongside our original judge and scorekeeper, Carl Kasell. In the two decades since, he has traveled the country with the show, playing in venues such as the Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park, Red Rocks, Tanglewood, the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House, and Carnegie Hall. He’s interviewed two Presidents, a number of Nobel Prize winners, astronauts and rocket scientists, musicians Elvis Costello, Yo Yo Ma, and Ice Cube, actors Tom Hanks and Scarlet Johansson and many, many others. Wait, Wait… has grown from 50,000 weekly listeners on nine stations at its launch to over five million listeners on more than 700 stations, making it the most listened-to hour in public radio. This, however, has not gone to his head.

In 2008, he accepted a Peabody award on behalf of the panelists, crew and producers of this show. He’s also won the Kurt Vonnegut Award for Humor from the Kurt Vonnegut Library. He’s the author of The Book of Vice: Naughty Things and How To Do Them and The Incomplete Book of Running, a memoir about the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing and other adventures while running long distances. He’s contributed essays to Opera News, Saveur, Finesse, The New York Times Magazine, and was the “Road Scholar” columnist for Runner’s World.

On TV, Peter has made appearances on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and other shows, and hosted Constitution USA with Peter Sagal for PBS, and National Geographic Explorer for the NatGeo Channel. He also appears on a narrowly popular podcast, Nerdette Recaps Game of Thrones with Peter Sagal, because he is a giant nerd.

He has three daughters, Rosie, Gracie and Willa, and lives in the Chicago area with his wife Mara and two dogs, DeeDee and Dutchie, who like to see their names in print.

Speech Topics

  • This I Believe: Twenty Years of Radio, Politics, History, and the Art of Telling Jokes
  • The Secret of the U.S. Constitution
  • Current Events: Why Satire is the Only Reasonable Response to the Times We Live In

Books and Media

Related News

Media Post: 'Constitution USA': The Most Important TV Program You'll See All Year


Peter Sagal: PBS' Constitution USA [Full Episode]: Episode I – A More Perfect Union


Peter Sagal: Time: Coming to a Theater Near You: Radio Shows


Peter Sagal for Runner's World: Eyewitness to Bravery, Horror


PBS Constitution: Hit the road with Peter Sagal


PBS Video: Host Peter Sagal travels across the country to find the U.S. Constitution.


IndieWire: PBS Announces a 'Mister Rogers' Spin-off, More Ken Burns and 'Constitution USA with Peter Sagal'


Peter Sagal for NPR: Ray Bradbury: Finding Our Reflections Where We Didn't Expect Them


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


From radio to television for NPR's "Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me"


Reuters: U.S. radio quiz show "Wait Wait" to get TV debut


Peter Sagal for Chicago Tribune: Who'll take the crown?


Peter Sagal on NPR's Need to Know


"Wait Wait … Don't Tell Me" Host Peter Sagal on "The Interview Show"


NPR Interview: Peter Sagal: Some Political Freedoms Just For Laughs


Sagal Joins PBS’ Need to Know


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