Carl Kasell, the longtime NPR morning newscaster who found a second career at the NPR comedic news quiz Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!, died on Tuesday. He was 84, and his wife, Mary Ann Foster, gave the cause as complications of Alzheimer's disease, which Kassel discovered he had in 2012.
Kasell was born in Goldsboro, North Carolina, in 1934, and he was interested in radio from a young age. His drama teacher at Goldsboro High School, future TV star Andy Griffith, urged him to pursue theater, but Kasell worked part time at a radio station during high school, then helped start the college station at the University of North Carolina. After he returned from World War II, Kasell dropped disc-jockeying for the world of news radio at WAVA-FM in Arlington, Virginia, where he gave Katie Couric her first broadcasting job. He started part-time at NPR in 1975, joined full-time in 1977, and he read the news on All Things Considered and Morning Edition until he retired in 2009.
In 1998, Kasell started his improbable second career in comedy, joining the fledgling NPR call-in news quiz Wait Wait as judge and scorekeeper — and since the show had no budget, it's prize: Kasell's voice on the winning callers' answering machines. Here's one example, and you can find more at NPR.
"Carl has always been the heart of this show," Wait Wait host Peter Sagal told The New York Times. At first, "we needed him because he was NPR in the same way that Walter Cronkite was TV news," he said, but then "we found out that Carl is very hysterically funny." Frequent guest Paula Poundstone posted an homage for Kasell on Tuesday.
Kasell shared a Peabody Award with Morning Edition in 1999 and was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2010. He is survived by his wife, Foster, a son and stepson, one sister, and four grandchildren.