Carl Kasell: Newscaster, Scorekeeper, Legendary Hugger

Sep 19, 2013

Carl Kasell
Credit NPR

Carl Kasell spent 30 years delivering newscasts every hour in the morning for NPR. But it's his role as the official judge and scorekeeper on the quiz show Wait, Wait… Don't Tell Me! that made him a public radio icon.

In The Wall Street Journal, Wait, Wait Host Peter Sagal called Kasell the world's greatest straight man.

But now that he's retired from newscasting, how does he keep up with the news?

Carl Kasell will be in Baton Rouge along with the rest of the cast for a live show at the River Center Thursday, Sept. 26. For ticket information, click here.



JEFFRIES: How do you keep up with the news now? ... I'm imagining that you cram with Paula Poundstone every week…

KASELL: Every week. Paula is really up to date on the news. We were talking a couple of months ago about DNA, Paula says, "DNA, what a wonderful subject to analyze and to follow on. I'm going to write that down. How do you spell D-N-A?" That's a Paula Poundstone joke.

JEFFRIES: Over the years you've had to share a lot of heavy stuff on the air…

ARCHIVAL AUDIO: From National Public Radio News in Washington, I'm Carl Kasell. Police in Los Angeles now says that nine people were killed in overnight rioting following… Vice President Al Gore has suspended the activity of his recount committee and will address the nation tonight… Details are sketchy, but it appears that a plane has crashed into the upper floors of the World Trade Center in New York City…

JEFFRIES: Did you ever wish, during your life as a newscaster, that there was more levity Monday through Friday?

KASELL: Well, Wait, Wait came along while I was still doing newscasts, and I did both of them for a while until I was finally given a chance to leave the newscasts alone and stay with Wait, Wait… Don't Tell Me! and become also NPR's roving ambassador, which put me on the road quite often to visit NPR stations around the country to help in fundraising or do anything that they wanted me to do. And I like what I'm doing now. And, of course, Wait, Wait… Don't Tell Me! has really blossomed by career quite a bit.

JEFFRIES: Yeah, you're pretty cool now.

KASELL: I would say so, I would say so.

JEFFRIES: When you do come to Baton Rouge for the Wait, Wait show at the River Center, the men in the audience really should be prepared for the women in their company to simply swoon when you come onto the stage.

KASELL: Well, I don't know about that. I'm a pretty old guy right now, not as young as I used to be, but, uh…

JEFFRIES: It's been known to happen.

KASELL: And I have the reputation here at NPR of being one of the best huggers in the building.

JEFFRIES: So, speaking of idols, though, you do a mean impression of Louisiana's most famous pop star. How do you channel Britney Spears?

KASELL: Well, I tell ya, I do my best to kinda get up there in the falsetto area, and I have to look at the script and try to throw in a little southern accent as I do it, because I am a southern boy myself, having grown up in North Carolina.

JEFFRIES: It seems like North Carolina is still home for you, that the South is still home for you...

KASELL: Of course.

JEFFRIES: So I heard that you had a hand, then, in bringing Wait, Wait to Baton Rouge.

KASELL: Of course. Any time we have a chance to come south, go south, let's go guys, they love comedy, they love what we do. And if I have to, I can bring on my southern accent any old time you want to.

JEFFRIES: Carl Kasell, official judge and scorekeeper for Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me! We are really looking forward to having you here.

KASELL: And Amy, thank you very much for having me with you. We're looking forward to seeing you guys in Baton Rouge, pretty soon.

Wait, Wait… Don't Tell Me! is live at the River Center on Thursday, Sept. 26. For ticket information, click here.