For the next few weeks, NPR game show favorite Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me! will be in residence at the Nourse Theatre in San Francisco, taping shows every Thursday night. If this is the first you're hearing of it, sorry, tickets sold out in a record six hours. The Peabody Award-winning program has never before undertaken an extended residency in any city outside their native Chicago, but as host Peter Sagal summed up backstage after the show, "How could we not want to be here? It's San Francisco!" It was acknowledged throughout the night that Northern California, and San Francisco especially, is fertile ground for public radio listeners, as evidenced by the NPR devoted groupieship in attendance. There haven't been so many tote bags in one place since the last National Archivist Association picnic.
The hour-long show, hosted by Sagal and announcer Bill Kurtis (the narrator of every A&E true crime program worth its salt) features a rotating panel of three who are quizzed on a variety of topics in the news that week or are occasionally called to the aid of phone-in guests from around the country. Last Thursday's panel consisted of the Washington Post's Roxanne Roberts, humorist Roy Blount Jr. and comedian Bobcat Goldwait. The Not My Job guests for the next few weeks will be pulled from the local luminary population. Last week, Chef Thomas Keller (The French Laundry) filled the slot, dressed in what Sagal remarked were "the most pristine chef whites ever...even for radio."
Here are some highlights and behind-the-scenes dish on the premiere taping and a look ahead to what's coming up in the next two weeks.
The best thing about any game show is sitting in the audience. If any contestant or panelist contemplated the question for a moment too long, the crowd at Nourse was ready to help them. 80 percent of the time they were right, which I suppose speaks well of our local news habits. A tip for anyone attending: Study up before the show so you can get the nuances of the joke about the Iranian election. Even at the taping of brainy NPR game shows, people get extremely excited, so watching the fervor amp up as we get to the fill-in-the-blank round or as a panelist struggles to recall the name of the head of the CIA's kitchen is something to behold.