A news junkie who finds “The Daily Show” a wee too sharp can take comfort in NPR’s “Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” a humorous news quiz show taped before a live audience each week. Host Peter Sagal is sardonic but rarely nasty. He can be sarcastic and ironic but not really bitter or derisive. His rotating panel of comics fit that mold as well.
For the 4,000 fans who saw the show live this past Thursday night at the Fox Theatre (to air Saturday morning locally at 11 a.m. on 90.1/WABE-FM), they got to see a lot more show. In fact, they taped more than 90 minutes to be trimmed to 60. Plus, Sagal gave a warm-up monologue, spent several minutes re-taping comments he made earlier to make them sound clearer and had judge and scorekeeper Carl Kasell offer a special limerick just for the Fox crowd, which each took home a tape measure from the sponsor Angie’s List as a parting gift.
Sagal noted on stage that the show last came to the area in Cobb County (Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in December, 2009). The crowd good-naturedly booed. “They hate you, too,” Sagal said.
He then referenced the AMC show “The Walking Dead,” which was shot in the heart of Atlanta season one in 2010. “The streets were filled with shambling zombies,” he said. “I came down here. It’s not like that at all. In fact, there is no one on the streets at all. Where is everybody?”
He made the obligatory combo Peachtree/Sherman joke: “We went for a walk. We walked down Peachtree, turned right onto Peachtree, then a left onto Peachtree. Got hopelessly lost. If you guys had tried this scheme on Sherman 100 years ago, he would have given up and gone home!”
Sagal then noted that two of the three panelists are from the area: Roy Blount Jr. is a native Decatur resident and Faith Sailie graduated from North Springs High School. (The third panelist Mo Rocca didn’t feign any connection at all to the area but noted that his home state of California produces more peaches than Georgia.)
Sailie said her high school senior prom was at the Fox Theatre. Unfortunately, she didn’t go. So she got a boutonniere for Kassel, who received the biggest applause when he entered. She also recalled seeing “West Side Story” at the Fox as a kid. “I was so mad at the ending,” she said. “I guess I hadn’t read ‘Romeo & Juliet.’ ”
Sagal was happy to see all the attendees “who paid good money to hear something they could get for free this weekend… What are you going to do next? Go to the Georgia Dome to watch someone write a novel?”
The topics you’ll hear include Mitt Romney’s secret video, the Kate Middleton nude shots, striking NFL referees and Jesus possibly having a wife. “Some married men already think they’re god’s gift to women!” Sagal cracked. Then he added: “Dinner with the inlaws, you’re not supposed to discuss religion, right?”
When Sagal posed a quiz question to Blount Jr. : “What did Halliburton displace?” the humorist threw out a couple of jokes. “Dick Cheney?” And then “Our innocence?” The answer: “A nuclear fuel rod.”
I won’t give away which fictional story is fake but the thematic is subjects debunked, as in cowboy hats, Emily Dickinson and panties thrown at Tom Jones. (I guessed that one right.)
Thomas Frieden, who runs Atlanta’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, came by to endure more “Walking Dead” jokes.
After he sat down, there were some sound problems so Sagal and Co. tried to riff with Frieden about nothing much in particular because they were trying to save the good questions for the live taping. At one point, there was awkward silence, so Blount offered his Varsity chili dog. (He later gave him his peach fried pie, when Frieden admitted as a guilty pleasure a love for pies.)
One observation from Rocca that will certainly make the cut: “Why don’t all those people move to the east side of the Nile?”
And after Frieden described all the efforts of the CDC to improve the health of Americans and people all over the world, Sagal cracked, “Sounds very nanny state to me. Where’s my right to die of consumption at the age of four?”
And apparently, Frieden did not clear a facetious press release by the CDC saying there is no zombie outbreak. He tried to justify it by saying, “If you’re prepared for zombies, you’re prepared for a hurricane or a tornado.”
Sagal: “So all those folks in Florida facing down a hurricane should stand in their front yard with a shotgun?”
After Frieden left, Sagal sneezed and everybody laughed. Frieden “gave it to me,” Saga said. “Cover your mouth!” Rocca said, faux appalled.
And without giving too much away, there will be a not-so-serious discussion about emoticons, which were invented 30 years old this week, and ways to make vegetables more palatable to little kids by calling them something else. Rocca’s exciting kid name for brussel sprouts? “Yucky balls.”
“Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me,” 11 a.m., 90.1/WABE or you can here it on demand later here.
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk