Peter Sagal

A native of Berkeley Heights, N.J., Peter Sagal attended Harvard University and subsequently squandered that education while working as a literary manager for a regional theater, a movie publicist, a stage director, an actor, an extra in a Michael Jackson video, a travel writer, an essayist, a ghost writer for a former adult film impresario and a staff writer for a motorcycle magazine.

He is the author of numerous plays that have been performed in large and small theaters around the country and abroad, including Long Wharf Theater, Actors Theater of Louisville, Seattle Repertory, and Florida Stage. He has also written a number of screenplays, including Savage, a cheesy vehicle for obscure French kickboxer Olivier Gruner, and Cuba Mine, an original screenplay that became, without his knowledge, the basis for Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.

Among Sagal's honors in the theater are a DramaLogue award for directing, grants from the Jerome and McKnight Foundations and a residency grant at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France. He has been commissioned to write new plays by the Seattle Repertory Theater and the Wind Dancer Theater and has been invited to work on his plays at Sundance, the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center and the New Harmony Project.

In 1997, Peter joined the panel of a new news quiz show on NPR, co-produced by WBEZ-Chicago, that made its debut on-air in January of 1998. In May of that year, he moved to Chicago to become the host of the show. Since then, Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! has become one of the most popular shows on public radio, heard by nearly three million listeners on 520 public radio stations nationwide, and heard by a million people every month via podcast.

With Wait Wait, Peter has traveled around the country, playing to sold-out theaters from Seattle to Miami to Boston to Los Angeles, and many points in between, such as, for example, Akron. He's asked Salman Rushdie about PEZ dispensers, Tom Hanks about Hollywood bad boys, then-Senator Barack Obama about the eccentricities of Wade Boggs, and inquired as to Madeleine Albright's weightlifting accomplishments. The show made history in 2007 when, in May, Stephen Breyer became the first sitting Supreme Court Justice to appear on a quiz show, and then, in July, in front of ten thousand fans at Chicago's Millennium Park, Peter conducted the first (and so far, only) personal interview with United States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald since his conviction of White House Aide Scooter Libby.

In 2008, Wait Wait celebrated its 10th anniversary on the air, and was the recipient of a Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting. A year later, in the fall of 2009, Wait Wait made its New York debut with a show at Carnegie Hall, which sold out in the first 90 minutes after tickets went on sale.

In October 2007, Harper Collins published Peter's first book, The Book of Vice: Naughty Things and How to Do Them, a series of essays about bad behavior, which was released in paperback in 2008. He is also a regular columnist for Runner's World, and has completed the Chicago, New York and Boston Marathons. He was named by New Jersey Jewish News as one of the top ten Jewish entertainers from New Jersey.

The Salt
3:13 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Sandwich Monday: The Passover Sandwich

In the time of Exodus, the Hebrews had to travel the desert without reading material.
NPR

Originally published on Tue April 15, 2014 7:06 am

Why is this Sandwich Monday different from all other Sandwich Mondays? In honor of Passover, I introduced my non-Jewish colleagues to the wonders of the Passover lunch.

It's not the Seder meal, but what I might have brought to school for lunch back in the 1970s, when the affluent Jews of suburban New Jersey ate tasteless food to remind themselves that thousands of years ago, they didn't have nice professional jobs like being a lawyer, or maybe a CPA. That's a steady living. I know David Birnbaum does nicely as an accountant; maybe you could look into that?

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The Salt
12:53 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

Sandwich Monday: PB&J Fries

Peter failed to hitch this to the back of his motorcycle and bring it back to Chicago for us.
NPR

Originally published on Mon August 19, 2013 2:55 pm

Canadians have given us so much, from the BlackBerry, a kind of phone your parents' older friends used to use, to Leslie Hope, the lady who played Kiefer Sutherland's wife in Season 1 of 24. But perhaps towering above all is poutine, which translated from the Quebecois is "stuff poured onto french fries." Usually it's some variation of cheese, meat and gravy, but I was told that in Portland, Ore. (naturally), at a food truck (naturally), you can get peanut butter and jelly on fries. So I went, naturally.

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The Salt
2:34 pm
Mon May 6, 2013

Sandwich Monday: Fried Peanut Butter And Banana

Melissa approaches with caution.
NPR

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 2:58 pm

It's strange to find a Fried Peanut Butter and Banana sandwich, famous as Elvis Presley's favorite, on a restaurant menu, given its effect on Elvis. It's like finding a store selling an Isadora Duncan commemorative scarf.

Nonetheless, freelance radio producer Melissa LaCasse and I decided to try the one offered by The Breslin in New York, listed as "fried peanut butter & banana sandwich with bourbon & vanilla."

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The Salt
1:58 pm
Mon January 7, 2013

Sandwich Monday: Steak And Kidney Pie

You say Steak & Kidney Pie, I say Gravy Volcano.
NPR

Originally published on Mon January 21, 2013 2:16 pm

[Note: Peter sends this disgusting dispatch from a family vacation in London.]

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Monkey See
1:15 pm
Wed June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury: Finding Our Reflections Where We Didn't Expect Them

This 1966 file photo shows science fiction writer Ray Bradbury looking at a picture that was part of a school project to illustrate characters in one of his dramas.
AP

Originally published on Thu June 7, 2012 7:19 am

Heinlein, Asimov and Bradbury; they were the tripod (invasive, moving, with lasers) on which my science fiction education was built in the 1970s. This was somewhat self-selected, because once you — or I — grew out of Danny Dunn and Journey to the Mushroom Planet and Tom Swift, Jr., they were the inevitable destinations, the planets with the heaviest gravity wells in the sci-fi solar system.

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