What To Expect at a Taping of Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me

logo for Wait Wait Don't Tell MeAttending a taping of  Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, NPR’s ridiculously funny news quiz, had been a goal of ours for years. The radio show is the highlight of our weekend and a primary reason we write a check to our local NPR affiliate each year.

Finally, the stars aligned and we were able to fly to Chicago on a Thursday, which is when the show is taped. And, even more miraculous, we were able to get tickets.

It was my husband’s birthday gift. Score points for a great wife!

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MayoChup by HeinzThe week we attended a taping of Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, the Heinz Corporation had just released a product they call Mayochup.

It was the answer to a question posed to the panelists and much debate followed as to the necessity of another condiment in our lives, and if we were going to combine mayonnaise and ketchup, shouldn’t we also combine mayonnaise and mustard and call it mayotard. Otherwise, it would be mustard discrimination, wouldn’t it?

If you know Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, you know that this was a rather sane and rational conversation compared to some among panelists and host Peter Sagal.

Attending a Taping of Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me

Chase Bank AuditoriumWait Wait Don’t Tell Me has a weekly listening audience of more than six million people. Nonetheless, I was surprised and delighted to see audience members in the Chase Bank Auditorium identify from all across North America.

The auditorium seats 500 people and while tickets are not that expensive — $30 each — it’s almost like winning the lottery to get through the online cue to snag them. People in the first two rows of the auditorium pay $85 for their tickets, plus they get a goodie bag.

Note: Since our experience, Wait Wait Don’t Tell has moved to taping its shows at the Studebaker Theater, a historic property in Chicago, but I’m told, the experience is much the same, ie goodie bags and such.

Bill Kurtis and Peter SagalI bought tickets for my husband’s birthday, which meant that on a Friday six weeks ahead of the date we wanted to go, I was at my computer at 10 a.m. That’s when tickets go on sale and how I scored pretty decent seats smack dab in the middle of the auditorium.

The red Carpet at Wait Wait Don't Tell MeThe show tapes in downtown Chicago almost every Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. If you don’t have tickets, you can show up as early as 5:30 with the hopes of grabbing seats from the no-shows. Plus, you want to get there a little early to shop for NPR souvenirs and get your photo made on the red carpet.

Way back in my career, I worked part-time at a radio station and Bruce still works in broadcasting, so we’re somewhat familiar with the behind-the-scenes magic of such programs. But it was still so exciting to watch and listen, figuring out how they were going to edit some of that nonsense. And of course, we laughed so hard that our sides still hurt.

Even more interesting was on Saturday when we listened closely to the broadcast and appreciated the smooth job the editors had done in post production. I swear we could hear ourselves laughing.

After the show ended, Peter Sagal answered questions from the audience for about 30 minutes. There were some serious opinions about condiments in the Q&A period. Then Peter, Bill Kurtis and the panelists were all available for autographs and selfies in the lobby.

Souvenirs from Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me

Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago Illinois

Where to Stay in Downtown Chicago

It had been years since we had been to downtown Chicago, so the first challenge, after scoring tickets to Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, was to find a hotel. Fortunately, the Chase Bank Auditorium is right in the middle of the theatre district and there are plenty of hotels to choose from within easy walking distance of the auditorium.

The hotel we stayed at on LaSalle Street is now something else, so I can’t really recommend it. But most of the hotels above are also within walking distance of the American Writers Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago and, of course, the Bean.

The Bean in Chicago's Millennium Park

We spent just two days/nights in Chicago but it was one of the best getaways we’ve had in a long, long time. We’re keeping our eyes on shows and other events for another Chicago getaway, but I can’t imagine we would enjoy it more than Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!


Tip: If you like cabaret, read about the cabaret weekends possible in Indianapolis.