Stepping down this spring
1:15 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Carl Kasell To Retire From 'Wait, Wait...'

Carl Kasell is retiring from "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!" and moves into his new role as Scorekeeper Emeritus of the NPR news quiz.

 

Carl Kasell, newsman, quiz judge, and magician, tells WNIJ staffers that Nina Totenberg was the first person he ever cut in half, during a 2011 visit to DeKalb.
Carl Kasell, newsman, quiz judge, and magician, tells WNIJ staffers that Nina Totenberg was the first person he ever cut in half, during a 2011 visit to DeKalb.
Credit Diane Drake / WNIJ

Carl Kasell, the famed voice of NPR News for three decades turned comedy star of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, has announced he's stepping down this spring after a five-decade career in broadcasting. Kasell will record his final broadcast for Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! this spring; celebration shows are planned in the show's home city of Chicago, and in Washington, D.C.

After a three-decade career as a signature voice of the network's newscasts, Kasell became an audience favorite in an unexpected comedy role, as the Official Judge and Scorekeeper of Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! Among the program's most popular quiz segments were those built around Carl impersonating newsmakers and celebrities from the week's headlines. "All of his imitations sounded exactly the same," says Executive Producer Mike Danforth. "But the audience loved it. Everyone from Vladimir Putin to Zsa Zsa Gabor sounded exactly like our beloved Carl Kasell."

Leave Carl A Message

In a reversal of a popular show prize, NPR also welcomes fans to leave the prized Official Judge and Scorekeeper voice mails by calling 1-888-Wait-Wait (1-888-924-8924; select the second option).

 

Peter Sagal and Carl Kasell
Peter Sagal and Carl Kasell
Credit Anthony Naglemann / NPR

Every week, Kasell, with Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! host Peter Sagal, plays to sell-out crowds at the show's home base in Chicago and in "road shows" around the country. "And whose autograph do they line up for after each show?" asks Sagal, sounding slightly envious. "Carl's. The 50-year-old computer programmers are in my line telling me c++ jokes, and the 20-something women are beside themselves posing for pictures with Carl."

Credit Anthony Naglemann / NPR

   

Kasell's relationship with the NPR audience dates back to his 30 years as the newscaster for NPR's Morning Edition. "He was the voice people woke up to," says Eric Nuzum, NPR Vice President of Programming. "They opened their eyes, and for 30 years, Carl Kasell was there, reassuring them the world was still in one piece." In 1998, he was recruited to provide gravitas to NPR's new news-quiz, where his title, Official Judge and Scorekeeper, belied his key role as the show's straight man. Kasell delighted in the role, just as the audience delighted in him.

"My favorite time at NPR has been Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! It was loads of fun and gave me a chance to meet and talk in person to the audiences that I felt I had known for so many years on the air," says Kasell. "I can honestly say I am the luckiest man around to be able to have worked at a job I love for so many years. It's truly been a joy for me."

In retirement, Kasell will become Scorekeeper Emeritus of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! He will continue to record custom voice mail greetings for the show's lucky winners and continue to occasionally appear on the program. Thanks to the long-standing and much-coveted prize, more than 2200 people have Kasell's voice on their home answering machines and cell phones – where he's performed everything from "What's New Pussycat" to "Rapper's Delight."

A veteran broadcaster, Kasell's radio career spans half a century. For 30 years, Kasell provided newscasts for NPR's daily newsmagazine Morning Edition, a role he held since the program's inception in 1979 until 2009. He hosted NPR's Early Morning Edition, a one-hour news program created in 1997 and incorporated into Morning Edition at the start of 1998.

Kasell joined NPR in 1975 as a part-time newscaster forWeekend All Things Considered. Prior to that, he spent 10 years at radio station WAVA in Arlington, Va., first as morning anchor, then as news director. Before moving to the Washington, D.C., area in 1965, Kasell was morning deejay and newscaster at WGBR-AM in Goldsboro, N.C. He worked at a local radio station part time during high school, and was an actor in local theater.

Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!, produced in Chicago, goes on the road to tape in a number of cities around the country each year. Now in its 16th year, the Peabody Award-winning show has an audience of more than 3.8 million listeners weekly on almost 660 NPR Member public radio stations, and surpasses two million podcast downloads each month. The radio show is a co-production of NPR and Chicago Public Media. You can hear "Wait Wait" Saturday mornings at 10:00 and Sundays at 1:00 on WNIJ.