Trust me

My favorite part of “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me” is always the “Bluff The Listener Game,” in which each of the three panelists tells a call-in player an outlandish news story, and the player must figure out which one is true.

That’s the exact concept behind “Trust Me, I’m A Game Show Host,” a new game show on TBS. I’d seen bits and pieces for several weeks but finally got to see a whole episode tonight.

The show is hosted by D.L. Hughley and Michael Ian Black. It’s a single-contestant show (like “Deal or No Deal”), in which the contestant is not trying to beat other contestants but simply to win the most money possible. In each round, both Hughley and Black each try to sell the contestant a supposed fact, and the contestant must guess which of them is telling the truth. Both men are funny and fast on their feet, joking and interacting with the contestant like used car salesmen.

It’s worth a look, especially if you’re a fan of either actor/comedian.

Wait wait … I should have told you

It occurs to me that I should have posted something last week about “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” in advance of the BBC America TV special, for those of you that aren’t already familiar with the show. There may yet be a few additional airings of the special on TV; check your listings. But in any case, even if you missed the chance to see the show, you’ve always got the chance to listen to it.

I told the folks at Mountain T.O.P. last summer that it’s proof of how much I love Adults In Ministry that I attended two weeks last summer. The first week I attended AIM, I missed the first local concert in decades by my favorite band, Daniel Amos. The second week I attended AIM, I missed a taping of “Wait Wait” in Nashville, the first chance I’ve ever had to hear the show in person.

“Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” is a public radio panel quiz show based on a humorous take on the week’s news. it airs each weekend on public radio stations nationwide, or you can listen to it or download it from http://waitwait.npr.org. If you like “The Daily Show,” there’s a good chance you’ll like “Wait Wait,” although “Wait Wait” makes fun, not just of political news, but also of quirky little offbeat news stories. “Wait Wait” has been compared to the great British tradition of panel quiz shows, which may be what attracted BBC America’s attention to the show. There’s only one prize, and it has no monetary value. I’ll get to the prize in a moment.

“Wait Wait” is hosted by writer Peter Sagal, with Carl Kasell as announcer. (His title is “official judge and scorekeeper.”) For most of the show’s history, Kasell did double duty; he was the newscaster for the news breaks during NPR’s “Morning Edition,” and the show gets a lot of mileage out of having him say or do things that aren’t in keeping with his authoritative, voice-of-the-news image. Kasell has since retired from “Morning Edition.”

The show has a three-member celebrity panel. Most of them are not household-word celebrities; rather, they’re mostly writers or quick-witted comedians. Frequent panelists include Tom Bodett (the voice of the Motel 6 “We’ll leave the light on for you” ads), P.J. O’Rourke, Roy Blount Jr., Paula Poundstone, Kyrie O’Connor, Paul Provenza, Alonzo Bodden, Charlie Pierce, Amy Dickinson, Luke Burbank, Adam Felber, Maz Jobrani and Mo Rocca.

The show has several different segments. In some of the segments, the panelists are answering questions. In other segments, call-in listeners answer questions. There’s also a “Not My Job” segment in which a well-known celebrity (as prominent as, say, Tom Hanks) is asked multiple-choice questions about a topic designed to be as far as possible from that celebrity’s normal personality or profession. For example, Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” was asked trivia questions about the advertising mascot Mr. Clean.

The call-in listeners, as well as a designated listener on whose behalf whom the “Not My Job” celebrity is playing, receive a special prize if they win their segment. The prize is that Carl Kasell will record the outgoing message on their home answering machine or voice mail. The show’s writers usually come up with some funny message to take advantage of the situation; you can hear some of the past messages at the show’s website.

My favorite segment on the radio show is the “Bluff the Listener” game. In this segment, each of the three panelists relates a bizarre news story, but only one of the stories is true. The call-in contestant must guess the true story.

Last weekend’s BBC America special was a pretty good translation of the show into TV. They used the same taping session to create both the TV special and this week’s radio show, although the content isn’t exactly the same. For example, the “Bluff The Listener” game is on the radio show but not the TV special. The one thing people have commented on about the TV show is that everyone is wearing headphones, just as they normally do for the radio show tapings, which looks a little funny on TV. But for me, that just added to the charm, a reminder of the show’s origins.

If you get a chance this week to see the TV special on BBC America, do it, but in any case be sure and check out “Wait Wait” online or on your local NPR station. It’s always good for a laugh.

Mountain T.O.P. experience

Okay, now, this isn’t even funny.

As I blogged last week, my all-time favorite band, Daniel Amos, which hasn’t been on tour in a decade, will be in Smyrna on June 13 – when I can’t go to see them, because I’ll be in Altamont for one of the two Mountain T.O.P. Adults in Ministry weeks I’m doing this summer.

Well, guess what? My favorite public radio program, the Chicago-based “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me,” is going to do a show from Nashville this summer.

On June 30.

During my other Mountain T.O.P. AIM week.

Ed, Jay, Julie, Kim, Sam, Bo and Buddy, I just hope you guys know how much I love you. Because if I didn’t love you ….

Wait, wait — it’s Dick Van Dyke!

NPR may be having a bad week, but my favorite NPR program had a very, very good week. The “Not My Job” guest on “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” is the legendary Dick Van Dyke — a man who has done so much for entertainment that host Peter Sagal joked that the DVD was named after him.

The very clever “Not My Job” quiz they concoted for him included a question about “Dick” Nixon, a question about a new Chrysler van, and a question about the world’s largest dike.

But the highlight comes at the very end of the segment. As Peter is wrapping things up, Mo Rocca begins cheerily humming the “Dick Van Dyke Show” theme song, which leads Dick to reveal that it has lyrics — and then, he offers to sing them.

Listen to the whole show at the NPR web site or your local station, or listen to just the Dick Van Dyke segment here:

By the way, I think I’ve passed along this story here before, but the “Star Trek” theme also has lyrics — but for a mercenary reason. When creator Gene Roddenberry hired Alexander Courage to write the theme, the contract reserved the right for Roddenberry to write lyrics for it later. Once the show had become a modest success, Roddenberry exercised that right — not so that the lyrics could be used on the show, or even used at all, but because writing the lyrics made Roddenberry the co-writer of the song and entitled him to half of the royalties! Courage resented this maneuver and, reportedly, refused to write any incidental music for the show after that.

Ring-Ding smackdown

Normally, I’m disappointed when “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” is on break and runs a “best of” episode — after all, it’s a topical news quiz — but this week’s compilation, based on listener favorite suggestions, is pretty darn good, and a great introduction to the show if you’ve never listened to it.

In one of the repeated segments, they ask TV’s Craig Ferguson — who is open about being a recovering alcoholic — three questions about a man who has a more literal monkey on his back.

But the highlight of the package is an appearance by healthy food expert Michael Pollan — who gets into a hysterically-funny argument with panelist Paula Poundstone over the importance of comfort foods like Twinkies and Ring-Dings. Even if you don’t listen to the whole show, skip ahead in the NPR player to this segment.

They might be guests

For some reason, the audio for this week’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” didn’t get posted to the web site until this morning, but it was worth waiting for: John Flansburgh and John Linnell of They Might Be Giants are the guests this week on the “Not My Job” segment.

They have to answer three trivia questions about … wait for it … Andre The Giant. You will be stunned at who used to drive Andre to school as a boy, at least according to Cary Elwes on the “Princess Bride” DVD commentary track.

A good episode all around.

Just what the Docter ordered

Pete Docter of Pixar, the director of “Up,” is the “Not My Job” guest on this week’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!”

Happily, even though Carl Kasell is retiring this month from his role as the newscaster for NPR’s “Morning Edition,” he will remain as the announcer, scorekeeper, and prize (he records a message on the winners’ answering machines) for “Wait, Wait.”

Save it to your Bri-Pod

Brian Williams — who could probably have a career as a comedian if the news thing ever stops working out — is, as expected, a very, very funny guest on this week’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” If you’ve seen Williams as a guest on “The Daily Show,” this will seem familiar — the same weary tone of mock offense as the host tries to put him in the middle of a silly premise or situation.