Linh Pham

  • Taking a Look at the Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! Panel Gender Mix

    Ever since Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! started back in 1998, even when Peter Sagal was a panelist on the show and not the host, the panel consisted of three panelists. There would always be at minimum one female panelist on the panel, sometimes two. It wasn’t until the Wait Wait that aired in September 12, 2015 did the show have an all female panel consisting of Faith Salie, Roxanne Roberts and Paula Poundstone.

    Roughly one year and nine months later, on the June 10, 2017 show, Wait Wait would have their second all female panel, featuring Paula Poundstone, Faith Salie and Tracy Clayton.

    After the show aired and I finished collecting notes, I started to what the panel looked like in terms of how many male and female panelists were on each show’s panel. So, I started figuring out what database queries I would need to write, validate the results and collected the data onto a spreadsheet (to the TBTL listeners out there, the last “t” is silent).


  • Getting a Shout Out From Paula Poundstone on Late Show with Stephen Colbert

    Paula Poundstone was one of the guests on the Friday night edition of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Stephen Colbert has been on Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! as a guest twice and is a very regular listener to the show, he brought up the topic of Wait Wait with Paula. The Wait Wait talk starts at the 3:29 mark in the video below:

    Paula said that she didn’t know how many times she has been on the show and Colbert said that his research department noted that she has been on 201 times. Paula then mentioned that I keep stats on everything Wait Wait. She also states that she holds the record for losses on Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me.

    Looking at the panelist stats, for the show data that I have recorded, Paula does hold the honor of coming in third place the most number of times, 87. That said, of the regular panelists on Wait Wait, P.J. O’Rourke holds the honor of having the highest percentage of appearances in which he came in third, at 46.43% of the time versus Paula’s 43.28% of the time.

    If you widen the scope and include times in which panelists lost by not coming in first place or tied for first place at the end of the Lightning Fill-in-the-Blank round, the numbers do look better for Paula Poundstone with a split of coming in first or tied for first 23.39% of the time and not coming in first or tied for first 76.61% of the time. P.J. O’Rourke fairs a little worse with a split of 19.05% and 80.95% respectively.

    Adding in panelists that have appeared on the show at least 25 times, Alonzo Bodden (20.00% / 80.00%), Brian Babylon (17.78% / 83.23%) and Paul Provenza (20.58% / 79.40%) have had a bit worse of a record compared to Paula Poundstone.

    So, there is a little bit of a silver lining for Paula Poundstone’s record on Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!

  • Lowest Scoring Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! Show

    During the Lightning Fill-in-the-Blank segment on the show that aired on April 29, 2017, Amy Dickinson commented that that show was lowest scoring show ever. At the start of the segment, Roy Blount Jr. had two points, Amy Dickinson had one, and Tom Bodett had four. When Amy made the comment, both Amy and Roy had correctly answered four questions each for a combined score of 19. Tom Bodett blitzed through his questions and had answered six correct; thus, bringing the grand total to 35 points.

    I was curious to see what is the lowest scoring show in Wait Waist… Don’t Tell Me! history; well, shows that included a Lightning Fill-in-the-Blank type round anyway. So, I started querying the database to weed out shows that I do not have panelist scores for, as well as Best Of and repeated shows.

    Database query result showing each show’s total score in descending order

    Based on the result of the above query, the show that actually has the lowest score was the one that aired back in November 23, 2002, which had a combined score of 21 points.

    Show information for 2002-11-23

    The November 23, 2002 show is made famous by the fact that it was the first time a panelist did not answer a single Lightning Fill-in-the-Blank question correctly. That (dubious) honor went to Paula Poundstone; who, repeated that same feat on the show that aired on March 29, 2008.

    Show information for 2008-03-29

    The March 29, 2008 show is one of the six shows that are tied for second lowest scoring show, with a combined score of 25 points.

    In summary, even if the April 29, 2017 show finished without Tom Bodett answering any of his questions correctly, the combined score of 23 would end up being the second lowest scoring show; but, it would not be the lowest scoring show.

  • How Often Do Not My Job Guests Answer All Three Questions Correctly?

    After Michael Giacchino correctly answered all three of his Not My Job questions, Bill Kurtis mentioned that doing so was “a bit rare”. I wanted to go back and see how often Not My Job guests correctly answered all three Not My Job questions correctly.

    Thankfully, querying the Stats Page database for that wasn’t a very difficult task. The following is the query that I used to pull the data, grouping the results by year:

    Querying Stats Page Database for Not My Guest correctly answered all three questions

    Before I ran that query, I checked to see how many questions Bill Oakley answered correctly, as he is a bit of an exception to Not My Job guests. Earlier in 2016, Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me taped two shows when they visited Portland, Oregon; in which, Bill Oakley was the Not My Job guest for the second taping. Since the second show was not aired as a normal Wait Wait show, they aired Bill Oakley’s Not My Job segment as part of a Best Of show on 2016-08-27. The query above excludes Best Of shows to eliminate duplicate entries.

    Bill Oakley had answered two questions correctly; and, thus, would not have altered the results.

    Year Occurrences
    2004 3
    2005 1
    2006 2
    2007 5
    2008 2
    2009 5
    2010 2
    2011 6
    2012 8
    2013 7
    2014 7
    2015 8
    2016 7

    As the results show, there are more Not My Job guests that had correctly answered all three of their Not My Job questions starting in 2011. This is partially due to an increasing trend of Peter Sagal dropping not-so-subtle hints of which the three choices is correct. There are also instances where the panelists and/or the audience provide some nudging as well.

    Another note is that Bill Kurtis started guest-scorekeeping the show starting in 2012-08-18 and step in full-time starting on 2014-05-27. Since then, Bill Kurtis has been on 25 shows in which the Not My Job guest(s) have scored 3 points.

    Show Date Scorekeeper Not My Job Guest Score Exception
    2012-09-08 Bill Kurtis Bonnie Raitt 3 0
    2013-03-23 Bill Kurtis Apollo Robbins 3 0
    2013-06-15 Bill Kurtis Buzz Aldrin 3 1
    2013-06-29 Bill Kurtis Jackie Joyner-Kersee 3 0
    2014-05-24 Bill Kurtis Toni Braxton 3 0
    2014-05-31 Bill Kurtis Alicia Silverstone 3 0
    2014-06-21 Bill Kurtis Nick Hitchon 3 0
    2014-07-12 Bill Kurtis Mikaela Shiffrin 3 0
    2014-11-22 Bill Kurtis Andy Cohen 3 0
    2014-12-13 Bill Kurtis Sir Patrick Stewart 3 0
    2015-01-31 Bill Kurtis Jon Tester 3 0
    2015-05-02 Bill Kurtis Jonathan Adler 3 0
    2015-05-23 Bill Kurtis Clay Aiken 3 0
    2015-07-11 Bill Kurtis Terry Gross 3 0
    2015-09-19 Bill Kurtis Tom Ricketts 3 0
    2015-09-26 Bill Kurtis Jewel 3 0
    2015-10-31 Bill Kurtis Jake Tapper 3 0
    2015-12-05 Bill Kurtis Jeff Daniels 3 0
    2016-01-16 Bill Kurtis Sutton Foster 3 0
    2016-02-13 Bill Kurtis Mark and Jay Duplass 3 1
    2016-07-23 Bill Kurtis Charles Bolden 3 0
    2016-09-03 Bill Kurtis Bill "Spaceman" Lee 3 0
    2016-10-29 Bill Kurtis Steve Young 3 0
    2016-11-12 Bill Kurtis Joe Buck 3 0
    2016-12-24 Bill Kurtis Michael Giacchino 3 0

    There have been two exceptions, as noted by the “1” in the column named “Exception”. The first exception was Buzz Aldrin, who only answered one Not My Job question correctly; but, Bill Kurtis gave Buzz all three points and won Carl Kasell’s voice for a listener. I got confirmation of the score from the Wait Wait team on Twitter:

    Confirmation tweet from the Wait Wait team regarding Buzz Aldrin’s Not My Job score

    The second exception was when the Duplass Brothers (Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass) were on the show and Mark and Jay were split on their answers for the third Not My Job question. Since they had already answered the first two questions correctly, and one of the two brothers got the correct answer, Bill accepted it and gave them three points, but with an asterisk. As such, I have noted it as an exception in the database.

    In closing, it has been a little bit less rare for Not My Job guests to answer all three questions correctly (or get a scoring exception) in recent years.

  • The Tale of Two Wait Wait Shows in Portland

    Back in February, I learned that Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! was coming back to Portland, Oregon to do a taping of the show in June. The last time Wait Wait was in Portland was in September 2011 and there had been a large demand of tickets; so, Wait Wait decided to have two tapings in Portland to feed the strong hunger for a local, live taping. When I found out that tickets we going to be on sale, I reached out to the Wait Wait gang to see if I snag a pair of tickets for the show. I later learned that there was going to be a second show in Portland that next night. I was lucky enough to get tickets for both shows and anxiously awaited for the days and weeks to pass, until it the night of the show. As with the previous tapings in Portland, both shows were taped at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland.

    Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
    Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall

    The first show was taped on Thursday, June 23rd and featured Terry Porter as the Not My Job guest, along with Roxanne Roberts, Maz Jobrani and Bobcat Goldthwait on the panel. On the way to the show, I had to stop by and pick up a notepad and a pen, as I forgot my usual set at home, so that I could take notes. For the most part, it was your typical on-the-road taping of Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!; but, due to the timing of when the show was being taped, voting for/against the Brexit was still in progress.

    Coincidentally, the last Wait Wait taping that I had gone to was the taping in Seattle back in September 2014, which was taped during the Scottish independence voting. For both of those shows, they had to tape two versions of some of the questions and/or segments to cover either voting result. Once taping and the usual Q&A with the audience were completed, Peter Sagal introduced the members of the Wait Wait crew, working behind the scenes; or, in front of the scene in the case of Lorna White due to microphone technical issues during taping.

    OPBs April Baer on stage before the show kicked off
    OPB’s April Baer on stage before the show kicked off
    2016-06-23 19.41.19
    On the panel: Maz Jobrani, Roxanne Roberts and Bobcat Goldthwait
    Former Blazers player and current University of Portland mens basketball coach
    Not My Job guest Terry Porter, former Blazers player and current University of Portland men’s basketball coach

    After he finished introducing all of the crew, he finished up with a little bit about people saying that they are the biggest fan of Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!; at that point, Peter, knowing where I was sitting, directed everyone’s attention to where I was sitting and introduced me as the biggest Wait Wait fan and mentioned the Wait Wait Stats Page. I stood up, did the “I’m not worthy” bow a few times and sat back down. The mix of adrenaline and anxiety made me feel a wee bit woozy for the next hour or so.

    Notebook with initial notes jotted down before doors opened for Thursdays show
    Notebook with initial notes jotted down before doors opened for Thursday’s show

    Normally, Wait Wait will do one taping per city when they are on-the-road, with a couple of notable exceptions; including, a series of consecutive tapings from the Nourse Theatre in San Francisco back during the summer of 2014, while Chase Auditorium was being renovated back in Chicago. In the past, the first of the series of shows would be a normal taping of the show that would be aired that weekend; while, the second show would become a specially-themed show with special guests. In this case, the second Wait Wait show in Portland would be something new. There would be a different set of panelists (Jessi Klein, Alonzo Bodden and Luke Burbank), a new Not My Job guest (Bill Oakley) and a new set of listener contestants trying to win Carl Kasell recording a message for their voicemail.

    Due to the segments that were recorded during the second show not hitting the air for some time, I did not want to spoil some of details of that taping until a few segments were released. With the Not My Job segment and the Bluff the Listener segment released as part of the Best Of show that aired on 2016-08-27, I can divulge some of the details of the show. Many of the questions were re-used for the Who’s Bill This Time? and Lightning Fill-in-the-Blank segments; along with, and the limericks from the Listener Limerick Challenge segment. The listener contestants from the Thursday and the Friday tapings had difficulties with the second limerick, taking a good amount of time until Peter and Bill gave them the correct answer.

    On the panel: Luke Burbank, Jessi Klein and Alonzo Bodden
    On the panel: Luke Burbank, Jessi Klein and Alonzo Bodden
    Not My Job guest Bill Oakley
    Not My Job guest Bill Oakley, writer for The Simpsons

    Being up at the front row for that taping, I was so, so close to blurt out a few of the answers during the Lightning Fill-in-the-Blank round to help out the panelists; alas, I thought better of it and kept quiet. Also, knowing that not all of the taping would be used in their original form, Bill Kurtis had a lot of fun with the sponsor messages during Friday’s taping, including a few that were definitely beyond what NPR could broadcast.

    Full show notes from the Friday show taping
    Full show notes from the Friday show taping

    The second taping ended after Peter, Bill and the panelists had to do a couple of pick-ups. I’m guessing they either ran out of time or thought that those attending the second show didn’t need to know the people working behind the scenes. I was able to head backstage after the taping and said hello to Luke Burbank (who probably sees me enough already at the numerous Live Wire Radio tapings that I’ve been to).

    I wanted to thank the guys and gals at Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! for tickets to the Thursday show and urge them to come back to Portland more often!

  • Déjà Vu #FactCheck: First Three-Way Tie Going Into Lightning Round

    On the Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! show that aired on 2016-06-11, Bill Kurtis made a statement at the beginning of the Lightning Fill-in-the-Blank round stating that, for the first time in his tenure, that all three panelists were tied going into the Lightning round. The claim that it was the first time in his tenure as official judge and scorekeeper caused all of the mental alarms to go off. I knew that Bill has made that statement in the past and remembered that I wrote about it when happened, all the way back in 2015-08-01.

    In that blog post, I found that it had already happened two times, 2015-02-28 and 2013-03-09, while Bill Kurtis was judge and scorekeeper. Of the four total times there has been a three-way tie going into the Lightning round with Bill Kurtis was judge and scorekeeper, Brian Babylon was on the panel three times and Faith Salie twice; both of which, were on the 2016-06-11 show.

    I’m not sure if it was discussed during the taping of the live show and edited out; but, I wonder if Brian Babylon and Faith Salie any thoughts or comments about it.

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