NiteTalk: Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me – it’s Peter Sagal!

Peter Sagal Resized

For the past 13 years loyal NPR listeners from around the country have been tuning in to laugh out loud at the more hilarious events of the day. The show, of course, is called Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me, and leading the proceedings is host Peter Sagal. This week the Chicago-based radio riot will be holing up at The Arsht, so Niteside decided to see what's what.

For the few people who don't know - what's Wait Wait all about? Wait Wait Don't Tell Me is a comedy show disguised as a news quiz, although some people think it's a dinner party disguised as a comedy show disguised as a news quiz disguised as an NPR program. Without any food.

Can you name some of the show's most startling guests? Well, I remember when Barack Obama came into the room in the summer of 2005, I jumped. But probably the answer is first, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, and second, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, because one just doesn't expect to hear serious people like that on a silly show like ours.

Is there one thing you wished you would've asked/said to one of those guests but never got the chance? "Please sign this binding contract requiring you to return whenever we want."

Who's on tap to guest in Miami? Two of the men most responsible for Miami's wonderful reputation as a healthy, functional paradise: Carl Hiassen (on Thursday night) and Dave Barry (on Friday.)  We would have had Dexter, the serial killer, but he's fictional.

Will this be your first time in our fair town? Not at all: we've been to South Florida twice before, although it's been a few years... I believe we were in Fort Lauderdale in 2007.

You've got a bit of a past with the Sunshine State and its most vocal immigrant community. Wanna fill us in? Indeed. Before becoming a beloved radio host I was a playwright and screenwriter, and one of my artistic homes was Florida Stage, under the leadership of Louis Tyrrell. They produced two of my plays, Denial and What to Say, and I think of those experiences as among the highlights of my theatrical career. There are very few theaters in America doing as much new work, and doing it as well, as Florida Stage, and that's a credit to the theater and to its audience.

And: I am, though I didn't mean to be, one of the screenwriters responsible for Dirty Dancing II: Havana Nights. When I wrote the original screenplay, it was a relatively serious drama about the Cuban Revolution, and I did research into the history of the time, including the Cuban exile community in Miami. Of course, by the time Hollywood finished with it, it was neither serious, historically accurate, or a drama, but it did have some amazing dancing.

Any other personal Florida stories we need to know about? Like all Jewish people from the Northeast, I spent a fair amount of time in Florida while growing up, mostly, but not exclusively, on the Gulf Coast. I remember a lot of happy old people strolling up and down the beach, sunrise to sundown. Are they still there?

Probably. Happy to be down here during one of the worst winters in history? How will you be taking advantage of the weather? Two words: Beach volleyball!

If all goes well with the show and the extra-curriculars (and we see no reason why it wouldn't), might you consider coming down annually? Frankly, it all depends on you guys. If you show up in force, cheer lustily, and hurl underwear onto the stage (I wear men's size medium, and prefer boxer briefs) we'll of course come back.

It appears that after this you'll be heading straight back to Chicago. Why not stick around awhile? I am! I have to go back to Chicago for the weekend, but the next week I'm returning to Florida with my whole family to check out Universal Studios in Orlando (we did Disney a few years ago) and then to -- yes -- the Gulf Coast to visit with my parents. I think they're walking up and down the beach.

After 13 years with Wait Wait, surely you've come up with a few words of wisdom. Care to share? Wisdom, huh? Nobody's ever asked me for that before. Okay, here goes:

People just don't like to laugh, they need it.

For comedians who specialize in current events, there will never be a shortage of raw material.

All animals in Creation will eventually be found at Customs at Miami International, smuggled inside somebody's pants.

If you need something to be funny, the easiest way is to have [official judge & scorekeeper] Carl Kasell try to say it with an accent.

Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me will be at the Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Arsht Center on Thursday February 3 and Friday February 4. For more information call 305-949-6722 or log on to

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