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The Jefferson Journal is JPR's members' magazine featuring articles, columns, and reviews about living in Southern Oregon and Northern California, as well as articles from NPR. The magazine also includes program listings for JPR's network of radio stations.

R&R For Carl

Photo: Tony Nagelmann
When Carl Kassell talks, Peter Sagal listens,

After waking up well before dawn for 30 years and flying every week to Chicago for the past 15, Carl Kasell is ready for some well-earned R&R and has announced he’s retiring this spring after a five-decade career in broadcasting. Carl will record his final broadcasts for Wait Wait ... Don’t Tell Me! this spring during shows that are being planned to celebrate his career in Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Carl’s relationship with public radio audiences dates back to his 30 years as the newscaster for NPR’s Morning Edition. He was the voice people woke up to. They opened their eyes, and for 30 years, he was there, reassuring them the world was still in one piece (even during times he may have doubted that himself). In 1998 he was recruited to provide gravitas to NPR’s new news-quiz, where his title, Official Judge and Scorekeeper, belied his key role as the show’s straight man. Carl delighted in the role, and listeners delighted in him.

Carl became an audience favorite during one of the program’s most popular quiz segments built around Carl impersonating newsmakers and celebrities from the week’s headlines. “All of his imitations sounded exactly the same,” says Executive Producer Mike Danforth. “But the audience loved it. Everyone from Vladimir Putin to Zsa Zsa Gabor sounded exactly like our beloved Carl Kasell.”

After Wait Wait “road shows” host Peter Sagal says Carl was the rock star. “Whose autograph do they line up for after each show?” asks Sagal, sounding slightly envious. “Carl’s. The 50-year-old computer programmers are in my line telling me c++ jokes, and the 20-something women are beside themselves posing for pictures with Carl.”

In announcing his retirement, Carl said, “My favorite time at NPR has been Wait Wait... Don’t Tell Me! It was loads of fun and gave me a chance to meet and talk to in person the audiences that I felt I had known for so many years on the air … It’s truly been a joy for me.”

In retirement, Carl will become Scorekeeper Emeritus of Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!, and continue to record custom voice mail greetings for the show’s lucky winners while he will also make occasional guest appearances on the program. Thanks to the long-standing and much-coveted prize, more than 2,200 people have Carl’s voice on their home answering machines and cell phones where he’s performed everything from “What’s New Pussycat” to “Rapper’s Delight.”

As a fitting tribute to Carl’s illustrious career, NPR is inviting listeners around the country to do for Carl what’s he’s done for so many, record a voice mail message for him. Wait Wait fans are invited to leave Carl a farewell message by calling 1-888-Wait-Wait (1-888-924-8924) and selecting the second option.

We hope fans here in the State of Jefferson will join the entire national public radio community in thanking Carl for leaving such an indelible mark on public radio.

Paul Westhelle, Executive Director,
Jefferson Public Radio

Paul Westhelle oversees management of JPR's service to the community.  He came to JPR in 1990 as Associate Director of Broadcasting for Marketing and Development after holding jobs in non-profit management and fundraising for a national health agency. He's a graduate of San Jose State University's School of Journalism and Mass Communications.