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Tue June 17, 2003
Q&A With Adam Felber
Getting to know the oddly informative Adam Felber, panelist of NPR's Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!, which will be featured as a part of this year's Ann Arbor Summer Festival.
Since improvising comedy for over 15 years, Adam Felber has much to contribute to NPR's ever-quirky weekly news game show, Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!. From writing for PBS?s Wishbone to comprising one half of the sketch comedy duo, the Irwin Smalls Trio, Adam's varied career as an entertainer even spills over into the vastness of the World Wide Web, and into the wild world of blogging. Contributing to a series of Q&A's featuring the faces of Wait Wait, Adam spared a few moments to discuss the dynamics of the Wait Wait cast, his secret to staying up to date on the tricky and obscure news bytes, and even gives us a little insight into what blogging really is.
Q: We hear you're an experienced blogger in addition to being a writer and improvisational comedian. How do all of these skills contribute to being a successful Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! panelist?
My improv experience has probably served me best. If I bring anything to the show besides badly sung impromptu songs and the occasional inexplicable "Lightning Round Meltdown," it's probably the whole works-well-with-others bag of tricks that comes with a lot of improv. Although I do enjoy winning, I often harken back to the maxim of my days with TheatreSports, the competitive improv show: "It's not a competition; it's a show about a competition."
Sure, being a writer helps, especially for the "Bluff the Listener" game. But as for being a blogger - that's more a symptom than a cause. Wait Wait made me a blogger: I just felt that all that information I was taking in while preparing for shows needed somewhere to GO, or else it'd be stuck inside my head forever.
Q: How do you stay up-to-speed for the tricky and obscure news questions on Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! Do you find yourself searching the back pages of newspapers and magazines for the bizarre and quirky, or reading supermarket tabloids?
It's all about the Web for me. I have a collection of bookmarks that take me to the most bizarre real stories to come across the wires. And then there's your standard news reading, which is a must because for some reason stories like Dick Cheney's oil company landing massive contracts in the rebuilding of Iraq is reported as "straight news."
Q: Is there a lot of competition among Wait Wait panelists to win? Do you have a good luck charm or a ritual that you do before each taping to ensure good luck?
We all like winning, I guess. But at the end of the taping, I'd prefer to have lost and helped make the show funny than win a less-interesting show.
Q: You've been a panelist for several of the live shows - what's the best part of doing the show live? Is it true, as reported by The Boston Globe, that Wait Wait fans are as wild as teens at a Britney Spears concert? Do you have any particularly funny stories to share?
The absolute best part of doing the shows live is the audience. Having a live, laughing, appreciative crowd makes everything more fun. A close second, though, is getting to see all my Wait Wait pals - Peter, Carl, the panelists, and the staff. These folks are all good friends, I talk to them and perform with them all the time, and yet I only get to actually see them when we're off doing the live shows together. As for the wildness of the fans, it depends on the city; our fans tend to span a pretty wide demographic. But yeah, they're pretty wild. Not E! "Wild On!" wild, but still...
Q: What's your favorite game (segment) on Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! and why?
Call me old-fashioned, but I like the "Who's Carl This Time?" rounds. They've got everything: News stories to riff on, a listener contestant to talk to, and the fine work of master impressionist Carl Kasell.