Carl Kasell — the official judge and scorekeeper of the NPR quiz show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! — is stepping down after more than 60 years in radio. While you'll still hear him from time to time as he eases into the role as scorekeeper emeritus, his final broadcast airs on Saturday and Sunday.
Kasell recently had a cameo on The Simpsons, and since that's the pinnacle of any career, this seemed like a good moment to look back on his many decades in broadcast.
Kasell dreamed of being on the radio since he was a kid. "I sometimes would hide behind the radio — which would be sitting on a table — and pretend that I was on the air and try to fool people who came by to listen," Kasell told NPR's Renee Montagne in 2009.
Kasell got his first radio gig when he was 16; he hosted a late-night, easy-listening music show on WGBR in Goldsboro, N.C., playing romantic songs and waxing poetic about young lovers all through the evening. (You'll want to click the listen link at the top of this page to hear a clip of that!)
Once he got a job on-air, only one thing kept him off: He was drafted in the 1950s. After his Army service, WGBR welcomed Kasell back by giving him his very own morning drive-time music program, The Carl Kasell Show.
Kasell eventually migrated into the news business. He joined NPR in 1975 as a part-time weekend newscaster and went on to Morning Edition in 1979, where he stayed for 30 years. While many of the Morning Edition staffers start their day before dawn, Kasell used to wake up at 1:05 a.m. because, he explained, "1 o'clock was just too damn early."
In 2009, he stepped away from the Morning Edition routine to devote more time to his other job, as official judge and scorekeeper on Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! Kasell's been with that show since it debuted in 1998.
Over the years, Kasell has recorded more than 2,000 voice mail greetings for winning contestants — that's something he plans to continue in his role as scorekeeper emeritus. (Click here to read host Peter Sagal's reflection on the time he spent working with Kasell — and to hear some very funny voice mail greetings.)
It is sometimes said about radio newscasters that although the news may be bad, just hearing their voices every day lets listeners know that things are all right. Throughout the years, millions of NPR listeners have felt that reassurance.
"I have enjoyed every minute of it," Kasell says. "I never consider what I do as work. It has been fun, it's been rewarding and very fulfilling. ... I love my work. It's been good to me."