Carl Kasell, a career radio man who anchored NPR newscasts for more than 30 years and was a longtime fan favorite on its quiz show Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me, died today of Alzheimer’s complications in Potomac, MD. He was 84.
Starting out at 16 as a late-night music DJ on his hometown station, Kasell spent a lifetime behind the microphone. He liked to tell the story of how he’d hide behind the family’s radio and try to fool people into thinking he was on the air. He joined NPR in 1975 as a part-time announcer for Weekend All Things Considered and made his weekday-mornings debut four years later on the then-nascent Morning Edition, where he remained until 2009. During those decades, Kasell became one of the pubcaster’s most familiar voices.
In early 1998, the usually stoic Kasell took a lighter turn, becoming the judge and scorekeeper for a wacky new NPR game show called Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me! Recorded live in Chicago, the weekly hourlong show continues to feature a panel answering current event questions. Kasell remained in that job until his retirement in May 2014, with Bill Kurtis taking on his duties.
CBS and NPR created a TV pilot for the Wait Wait in 2008, which Kasell and then-host Peter Sagal were in, but it was not picked up to series. The program also was imitated/parodied as “Wait Wait … Don’t Lie to Me,” a popular segment on pre-politician Al Franken’s Air America radio show in the 2000s.