Friday, June 22, 2007

Tell Everybody!

Theatre Review: Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me!
Hosted by Peter Sagal
Directed and Produced by Mike Danforth
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Chase Auditorium

I debated whether or not to call this a theatre review. It's the recording of a radio show. But it's in a theater, they charge $20, they have programs, they sell hats and they have boffo lighting effects.


There are very few reliable sources for getting a regular high quality satire fix. There's The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, The Onion and Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me. I think the success of these shows (and newspaper) lie in the assumption that the audience is just as smart as the creators. And for the many of us frustrated by the general quality of our news outlets, these guys all seem like they're telling me the truth while also making me laugh.

For those few that are unfamiliar, WWDTM is NPR's "oddly informative weekly news quiz." It helps, but you don't have to be up on the news to get the jokes. Some of the best humor comes out of the host incredulously explaining the full news stories to us. While the other satire sources named above all deal in delivering the fake news, WWDTM delivers us a fake quiz show. It's really just an excuse to allow Peter Sagal and the panelists an opportunity to riff on today's headlines. The panelists this night were; Luke Burbank, Kyrie O'Connor and Charlie Pierce. Luke was very laid back and had a nice, unassuming quirky humor about him. Kyrie was wonderfully offbeat and reminded me of all the best qualities of Elaine May. Charlie Pierce was the token curmudgeon.

How this show is executed is really an amazing feat of comic dexterity. Peter Segal guides us through all the questions and clearly has a good two or three jokes up his sleeve about the news items. The panelists ad lib responses, occasionally inadvertently stealing what Peter may have had planned. Which is fine. It seems like an ego-less show where the laughs are more important than who gets them. This good-natured delivery helps sooth the pain of the current events being highlighted. If we weren't laughing, we'd be crying.

Michael Moore was the special guest in a segment called It's Not My Job. In it, Peter asked him questions about proper etiquette. Everyone on the stage clearly respects, if not reveres Michael Moore. His good-humored, self-effacing Midwestern demeanor fit right in. Apparently, his new film, Sicko, was having a premiere at Piper's Alley. He opted to be at the taping of WWDTM, because, as he said, he's already seen the movie. He's also clearly a fan of the show

This review would not be complete without mentioning the brilliant, understated Carl Kasell. His voice is one of the most distinct and familiar news anchor voices ever. And, he's very funny. He takes his news-inspired limericks as seriously as if he were delivering bad news about a hurricane.

Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me airs locally on WBEZ, 91.5 FM, on Saturdays at 10am and 9pm. But if you ever have a Thursday evening free, check them out live. It's worth it. In this messed up world, you might think there aren't any sane people left. Well, there aren't, but this comes close. Enough to make you put down those sleeping pills and rope for another week.