Carl Kassell has been the voice of bemused gravitas on NPR's Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! since 1998. This spring, he's retiring from the show, taking his iconic voice with him into whatever the radio equivalent is of a sunset. Regular NPR listeners will know what a big deal this is: Kassell was the newscaster for 30 years on NPR’s Morning Edition, and his voice has helped to define a generation of the station's sound. Fortunately, he won't disappear completely from the show: according to NPR's release, Kassell will continue to record voicemail messages for winning contestants on the show, and he'll "occasionally" appear on air as Scorekeeper Emeritus.
Kassell's decision to take more time for himself makes sense: he's turning 80 in April, and he's worked in broadcasting for nearly half a century. In away, he's sort of eased himself off of the air over the years. He retired from Morning Edition in 2009, and has spent the ensuing years mainly devoting himself to his Wait Wait! contributions, which basically come down to the writers getting him to use his wonderful newsreading voice to say really dumb things. That being said, Kassell seemed to be more than up to the task. Here's is statement, via NPR:
My favorite time at NPR has been Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! It was loads of fun and gave me a chance to meet and talk in person to the audiences that I felt I had known for so many years on the air. I can honestly say I am the luckiest man around to be able to have worked at a job I love for so many years. It’s truly been a joy for me.”
Wait Wait's host Peter Sagal responded to the news by, predictably, tweeting a bunch of quick-fire jokes about Kassell:
Not having to fly to Chicago (or where ever) EVERY WEEK will give Carl a chance to pursue his hobbies: travel, intrigue, crimefighting.— Peter Sagal (@petersagal) March 4, 2014
I met Carl on May 29th, 1998, in a restaurant in SF. He gripped my hand and smiled and said "Hello, Peter" and didn't let go for a while.— Peter Sagal (@petersagal) March 4, 2014
In re: a FAQ. We haven't decided on a replacement, yet. Hardly thought about it. Want to take our time, not go for a rebound host.— Peter Sagal (@petersagal) March 4, 2014
Although Kassell's last show won't be until later in the spring, NPR is already inviting listeners to say goodbye to the scorekeeper by leaving him a voicemail message at 1-888-924-8924. They're also planning farewell shows in Chicago and DC, according to the Chicago Tribune. Kassell's retirement comes a couple of years after the retirement of another familiar weekend voice: the "Car Talk" brothers Tom and Ray Magliozzi stopped producing new versions of their program in 2012. It started airing on NPR in 1987.