How many people woke up to Carl Kasell? To public radio nerds, like me, Kassel was royalty, not just because of his years doing the news on Morning Edition, but for his quirky turn as announcer on Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me.
Years ago, I appeared as a contestant on Wait Wait — so long ago that WAMC didn’t even air the show at the time. It was 2001, and though streaming was still a crude and unreliable technology, I’d manage to hear the show online. Anyway, I called the toll free number and within a few weeks I was playing Bluff the Listener.
The show aired that weekend. My segment was heavily edited — which I managed not to take personally — and like most contestants, I won.
The story of not collecting on the prize, Carl Kasell’s voice on my answering machine message, is more complicated.
As it happened, this episode of Wait Wait aired on the weekend right before September 11. Most of us were stunned by that day, and in a lot of cases, trivial things suddenly seemed a lot less important. Getting my prize just fell off the radar.
It’s a tiny thing, of course, but interesting how the shock and horror of that day affected people.
It felt like that was the week when news stopped being funny, but thank God we were all wrong. Wait Wait and other shows help us deal with difficult times, now more than ever.
I like to think that Carl Kassel may be standing next to St. Peter when (if?) I make it upstairs. He’ll offer up a wry remark in that sonorous voice of his, and maybe I can still get him to record my voice mail message.