Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!

Behind the scenes at Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!: Taping draws lots of laughs and out-of-this-world guest

Behind the scenes at Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! Taping draws laughs

Wait Wait Don't Tell Me Sunita Williams Peter Sagal
The segment's "Not My Job" guest was astronaut Sunita Williams, who spent nearly a year aboard the International Space Station. Houston Public Media / Craig Hartley
Wait Wait Don't Tell Me Maz Jobrani Paula Poundstone Alonzo Bodden
Maz Jobrani, from left, Paula Poundstone and Alonzo Bodden served as the show's hilarious panel. Houston Public Media / Craig Hartley
Outside of Jones Hall before taping of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me
The taping of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! drew 3,000 fans to Jones Hall. Houston Public Media/Craig Hartley
Wait Wait Don't Tell Me Lisa Shumate, Peter Sagal, Sunita Williams
Houston Public Media’s executive director and general manager Lisa Shumate, from left, with host Peter Sagal and ‘Not My Job’ guest, astronaut Sunita Williams after the show. Houston Public Media / Craig Hartley
Wait Wait Don't Tell Me Bill Kurtis and Peter Sagal
Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! announcer Bill Kurtis, left, with host Peter Sagal. Houston Public Media / Craig Hartley
Wait Wait Don't Tell Me Sunita Williams Peter Sagal
Wait Wait Don't Tell Me Maz Jobrani Paula Poundstone Alonzo Bodden
Outside of Jones Hall before taping of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me
Wait Wait Don't Tell Me Lisa Shumate, Peter Sagal, Sunita Williams
Wait Wait Don't Tell Me Bill Kurtis and Peter Sagal

Nearly 3,000 excited Houstonians filled Jones Hall to capacity on Thursday night to watch the taping of Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me!, NPR's wildly popular weekly news panel game show.

Host Peter Sagal, along with announcer Bill Kurtis and panelists Maz Jobrani, Alonzo Bodden and Paula Poundstone, had crowds howling at topical gaffs during the nearly three-hour taping, which was followed by a brief question-and-answer session and a reception.

The night was full of laughter, and if you weren't lucky enough to score tickets ― even the pricey "premium seats" sold out in only a few weeks ― the show will air on Houston Public Media's News 88.7 Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m.

There was plenty to note during the taping (some parts will be edited out to fit the 1-hour broadcast), but here are five things that captured my attention:

1. Sagal does not like June weather in Houston

While high temperatures in the low 90's don't sound like much to a vetted Houstonian, it's a different story for a Chicagoan like Sagal. He apparently ran along Buffalo Bayou in the morning before the performance and said it was nothing but "desiccated bull skeletons and random members of the Bush family."

Of course, Poundstone disagreed with Sagal’s assertions: "I thought it was nice."

During the question and answer session following the show, one audience member had a biting response to Sagal's disparaging comments about Houston’s weather: "Can I have your number so I can call you in Chicago in November?"

2. It's fun to make jokes at the expense of conservatives

"This might be the most exciting night for liberals in Houston," Sagal rightfully stated as he welcomed the NPR-loving crowd. Whether it's making fun of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia's use of phrases like "jiggery-pokery" and "pure applesauce" to describe the recent healthcare ruling or mocking Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal for hiding a camera in a tree in his yard to capture his family's reaction to his decision to run for president, conservatives were certainly the butt of many jokes — much to the delight of the audience.

3. The questions aren't as hard as you might expect

While you might expect the questions on an NPR news quiz to be extremely difficult, they are fairly easy if you keep even a wandering eye on current events.

"One of my standard jokes is that one of the reasons our quiz is so easy — our questions are not hard — is because we want the people at home to be able to know the answers because in focus groups, the No. 1 hobby among public radio listeners is feeling smug," Sagal joked to CultureMap.

Although some of the questions were tricky ― who knew bees contribute more to the British economy than the royal family? ― many were related to broader current issues like the Supreme Court ruling on health care and retailers refusal to sell anything bearing the image of the Confederate flag.

4. Houstonians love our NASA ties

The show paid special tribute to Space City as astronaut Sunita Williams appeared as the guest for the "Not My Job" segment. Williams, who spent nearly a year in total on the International Space Station, holds records for total space walks by a woman and most space walk time for a woman. Williams enlightened the crowd on her out-of-this-world experiences, ranging from living in close proximity with hyper-intelligent spiders to her unfortunate incident with a container of wasabi mayo that exploded all over her ― and the station.

5. Everyone loves Sagal ― and with good reason

From the moment Sagal stepped out onto Jones Hall's enormous stage, you could feel the crowd hanging on his every word. Whether he was interacting with the panelists, Kurtis or even the call-in contestants, it was clear that the Wait! Wait! host knows how to hold an audience. At several points during the taping, audience members clapped and hollered so loudly following the announcement of his name that he used hand signals to quiet the raucous crowd. 

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Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!  airs at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday on Houston Public Media's News 88.7.