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Historians may be debating the exact date for years, but a rough consensus is already emerging: Truth, finally, became stranger than fiction in or about January 1998, when reports emerged of the President having an affair with a White House intern who looked strangely like Jason Alexander's love child. We don't know if was a coincidence, or a sign from an approving God, but 1 week before the world heard the name Lewinski for the first time, they (or, at least, the listeners of the 12 or so radio stations that first carried our show) heard Wait, Wait . . . Don't Tell Me!, the NPR News Quiz.
Like the rest of NPR, we at Wait, Wait are dedicated to bringing you the most accurate reporting on the issues and events of the day. Unlike the rest of NPR, we bring it to you because we think it's hilarious. Everybody else says: Be informed, be aware, be involved. We say: Can you believe these people? or Isn't that amazing? He ate the entire donkey!
This book is a compendium of stories we plucked from newspapers, Web sites, wire services, NPR and other public radio broadcasts, TV, magazines, and other, actual, bona-fide news sources, the kind that employ fact checkers and editors and worry about libel suits. Everything on our show, and in this book, is true, as far as we know. As proof, we offer the simple fact: We could never make this stuff up. We're smart and funny people, but in terms of generating laughs, we are in awe of the clueless politicians, peculiar animals, addled pop stars, idiotic would-be criminals, and all the rest who seem to be out there every week making sure we'll have a solid hour of material come the weekend. It is they, dear reader, not we, who are the authors of this book.
Each radio show focuses on news from that week, but this book organizes the questions into various categories, so that, say, the dumb-criminal fetishists among you can skip directly to that chapter. The answers are to be found in the back of the book, but as tempting as it might be to check your best guesses against the unbelievable truth, we suggest lingering back there. Serving a rather discriminating audience, we understand that they don't merely want to know that a Georgia legislator introduced a bill banning answering the door naked; they want to know why. Actually, why she did that is anybody's guess, but you can find the official explanation on page 65.
On the radio show, we presented this material in a few different ways. Some stories we presented as straightforward questions to our panel. Others were quotations re-enacted by co-host and scorekeeper Carl Kasell, with the listeners trying to identify the quotation's speaker or subject. Still others were multiple-choice questions about abstruse topics, posed to our Celebrity Guests. (Our Celebrities get the advantage of multiple choice because, as will be clear from this book, Celebrities in general tend not to be too bright.) And, in our "Bluff" segment, our panelists presented our listeners with three news stories in the same category: Only one of them was real. Your job, of course, is to pick the real story. On our show, listeners who call in and successfully answer our questions are rewarded with Carl Kasell's voice on their home answering machine. I wish we could provide that service to each and every one of you readers, because, after all, all the listeners did was call a toll-free number, and you actually had to shell out 10 bucks. But Carl only has so many hours in the day, you know, and besides, if everybody has one, what happens to Carl's cachet?
Still, we encourage you to treat this book not so much as a compendium of trivia but as a test. Consider each question carefully: If you don't know, discuss it with your friends, or if you have no friends, with your fellow EverQuest players. Then, take your best guess, and check your answer at the end of the book. If you got it wrong--and believe me, you will most of the time, because most of this stuff surpasseth human understanding--marvel at the strangeness of the world we live in. If you get a question right, congratulate yourself, because you are truly a worldly philosopher. If you get them all right, bub, you've got a problem.