We were there when the jokes were being hashed out for Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me’s stop in Dallas a few weeks back – and you can be, too. Watch a mini-documentary produced by KERA’s Dane Walters, and learn the secrets behind the trivia show’s news comedy.
Peter Sagal was working hard onstage with his producers, telling jokes about how Secretary of State John Kerry just isn’t funny. The venue: the Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center. And at that point, the 2,500 seats were empty. It’s the read-through for Wait Wait ... Don’t Tell Me. Three staffers were seated where the panelists would post up for that night’s show: Executive producer Mike Danforth, senior producer Ian Chillag and associate producer Emily Ecton. And in the guest’s chair was assistant producer Eva Wolchover. Host Carl Kassel looked on at a podium beside Sagal.
In this two-hour rehearsal, we heard some gold that didn’t make it on the air – whether because of a time limit or a labored-over veto. Here are a few safe-for-work keepers worth mentioning.
- The Pakistani town of Abbottabad is where the CIA found Osama bin Laden. In an attempt to refresh the city’s associations, Abbottabad is building an amusement park. Sagal & Co. imagined rides like Zero Dark Thrilly, which made the show. One that didn’t: “Waterslide Boarding.”
- For the first time in two centuries, it is now legal for the women in France to wear pants. The anti-pants rule was stuck in the books since the French Revolution, and the Wait, Wait crew tried their darnedest to make the perceived struggle of French women in skirts and dresses come alive. (You see some of this in the video.) They spent more time on this single joke than on any other news item. But the topic didn't make the radio cut! Some of the choice lines:
- “If you got locked up for wearing pants, is the prison uniform a dress?”
- The oppressive law could spawn black-market pants. And you wouldn't want to be caught wearing them: “That denim’s cut with burlap.”
- And, our favorite, finally, on French women who've worn dresses and skirts in lieu of sweatpants for centuries: “That’s why French women don’t get fat. They have nowhere to go!”
Learn more about who works on the show at Wait, Wait’s site. Psst: Mike and Ian have their own podcast. It’s called How To Do Everything, where they help listeners make the best ponytails known to man, love baseball, act like a local in Russia, et al.