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‘Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me’ host Peter Sagal returns to St. Louis for solo show

Peter Sagal, right, is the host of WBEZ and NPR’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!”
Rob Grabowski
Special to Chicago Public MediaOet
Peter Sagal, right, is the host of WBEZ and NPR’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me.”

Peter Sagal has experienced St. Louis like few others have. The longtime host of NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me” has run through the downtown streets in only his underwear, a pair of shoes and a heart shaved into his chest hair.

Sagal vows to do the same (or maybe not) when he returns to St. Louis on Friday for a show at the Sheldon Concert Hall. But don’t expect “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me” panelists, comedians Paula Poundstone or Maeve Higgins.

“I wish I could bring them but there's a luggage limit on the airline, and I couldn't fit them in,” Sagal said on St. Louis on the Air. The solo show allows Sagal to talk about things he doesn’t get to talk about on the NPR show.

“I've been doing this for a long time, and one presumably exchanges the years in your life for wisdom,” Sagal said. “We've been watching the news and making fun of the weirdest parts in the news for a very long time — for more than, you know, the 21st century so far. … So that's what this evening is, it's the lessons that I've drawn, not just from my own life, but also from a quarter-century of watching people in very prominent places be very, very silly.”

Sagal promises that he’ll reveal the real difference between Republicans and Democrats. He paraphrases his late friend, P.J. O’Rourke, the writer and political satirist, who would joke that Republicans don’t believe government works, and they get elected to prove it.

Even so, Sagal said the show won’t be too political. And, he’s likely to tap into some of the elements that have made “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me” a success.

“We never, or we try never, to make fun of anyone who came into any kind of misfortune, through no fault of their own,” Sagal said. He also never tries to be funny about stuff that makes him angry.

“We try not to do stuff that's more angering than silly. And as you can imagine, in the news of the day, these days, there's a lot of stuff that is rather upsetting,” he said.

Running in underwear

“Knickers of glory.”

That was what one person requested Sagal wear on a mid-February day in 2013 for the Cupid’s Undie Run in downtown St. Louis. So, in a pair of red boxer briefs with “Knickers of Glory” emblazoned on the butt, red feathered wings, a Cupid’s bow and arrow, and a heart shaved into his chest hair — Sagal ran through the streets of St. Louis.

He was also the top fundraiser — about $4,000 — for the charity run that raises money for research on neurofibromatosis, a rare genetic disorder that causes tumors to form in the brain, spinal cord and nerves.

“It was fun,” Sagal said. “It's part of my tradition that every time I come to St. Louis, I strip down to my underwear, shave a heart into my chest hair and run through the streets.”

Sagal’s experiences in St. Louis aren’t limited to running in his underwear. In 2013 and 2019, he came to town to host “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me.” He got the chance to see longtime “Wait Wait” scorekeeper and NPR newscaster Carl Kasell throw a ceremonial first pitch at Busch Stadium. He also adores City Museum and looks forward to taking his family there in the coming years.

“St. Louis, like a lot of cities in this part of the country, is far more fascinating and vibrant and exciting and fun than people, shall we say, on the coasts might ever give it credit for,” he said.

To hear more from Peter Sagal, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify or Google Podcast, or by clicking the play button below.

‘Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me’ host Peter Sagal returns to St. Louis for solo show

Related Event

What: An Evening with Peter Sagal
When: 8 p.m. March 15
Where: The Sheldon, 3648 Washington Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63108

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Roshae Hemmings is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org.

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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.