I had the chance to sit in with my friends from Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! Thursday as they prepared for their weekly live show at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago.
A few hours before every show, they ready the script and have a table read for last minute edits and additions. The whole writing and producing staff join Carl Kassel and Peter Sagal to run through all the bits. Senior Producer (and head writer) Michael Danforth types away as the jokes fly, preparing for what is going to be a tremendous amount of work before showtime. It’s 4pm. The show starts at 7pm and the team has run through about 30+jokes. Most of them will require some punch-up.
I sat in to play all the contestants. My job was to answer the questions and to give the writers a feel for if the questions are too hard, too easy or too confusing. I then proceeded to FAIL at just about every question thrown my way. I thought I would know news trivia. And boy, I did not. Royal wedding, Taliban, Haley Barbour, Mac/PC users - I knew none of the answers.
And then came the limericks. Boy, did I bomb. I didn’t even know what was happening. I threw a big wrench into their plans because it went from “does this question work?” to “does Justin have a clue?”
Finally, I got a limerick right. Here is the footage to prove it. You can tell how bad I was previously by their jubilant response to my correct answer:
All in all, it was a great process and I have tremendous respect for the writers, producers and talent involved in that show. That was work, and lots of it. I was exhausted from listening (and laughing). Knowing how much work the team still had to do before showtime? Intense.
Can’t wait to listen to the show. I heard the Where’s Waldo joke worked and the nude limerick killed.