Peter Sagal to bring laughs to MU

Sagal will perform Friday in Jesse Auditorium.

“Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me” is not your typical radio show. It’s loud, it’s irreverent and much of it has nothing to do with news.

“We’re very different, I think, from anything else on NPR because anything else on NPR is serious and important and good for you,” the show’s host, Peter Sagal, said. “We are goofy, stupid, rude and bad for you. We fill people’s heads with nonsense.”

Sagal will perform Friday in Jesse Auditorium. He said those who attend his program should expect an experience similar to the normal show with a few added bonuses.

“I talk about current events as I see them, in depth,” he said. “I play ‘Peter Sagal’s top 10 ‘Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me moments,’ which are particularly interesting or funny. I also just take questions and generally goof around.”

Sagal said he never expected he would be involved with a show like ‘Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me.” His degree from Harvard didn’t offer him a direct career path so he spent years dabbling in a variety of trades: from playwright, to travel writer to author.

“I was an English literature major, which as many people know is a major for people who don’t want to major in anything,” he said. “I always thought I’d end up in theater; I wrote a lot of plays and spent a lot of time in the theater at Harvard.”

His broad selection of jobs ended up preparing him for being host of the show, a position he's held since May 1998.

“My job requires me to know a little bit about an awful lot of things which is basically what our show is,” he said. “My depth of knowledge is broad but shallow.”

Sagal explained that getting to know celebrities personally and in a different context is one of the most entertaining aspects of hosting the show.

“One of the great things about this show is that you know people through their work and they seem like wonderful people so it would be extremely disappointing if they didn’t turn out to be wonderful people — so it’s great when they turn out to be lovely like Dick Van Dyke, for example,” he said.

“Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me” has featured celebrities from Tom Hanks to Barack Obama to Stephen Colbert. Sagal said that often these celebrities are encouraged, by the laid back nature of the show, to show a side of themselves that others rarely see.

“I love it when people show up on the show and are really funny for reasons we don’t expect,” he said. “For example, Madeleine Albright usually talks about important things but when she came on our show she talked about goofy things and actually ended up being hilarious.”

Although Sagal loves getting to know famous people, it is the everyday person who inspires him to try his best to produce a great show.

“I find it kind of astonishing that I have three million viewers that listen every week,” he said. “They’re just the best people; terrific, intelligent, and educated.”

He said his show’s fans are his favorite part of his job, and he tries to repay them by giving them the best show he can.

“It really is a privilege to have fans say ‘I was going through a hard time and your goofy show helped me get through it,’” he said. “We are just trying to make the world a little easier to take every week.”

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