Mo Rocca on the NPR Phenomenon

What David Brooks called "Bobos in paradise."

  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Question: How do you explain the popularity of NPR?

Transcript:You know the whole idea of the Subaru driving, Whole Foods shopping . . . what David Brooks wrote about – the “Bobos in Paradise” – yeah that exists in the NPR world, but NPR is huge. It bears repeating that 16 million people listen to “Morning Edition”; 12 million to “All Things Considered”. I mean these are huge shows. What I found interesting in my “Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!” experience is it’s not only been just enormously fun and wonderful for a host of reasons; but it’s also been pretty enlightening because the people who call in, they’re not all those bobos. It’ll be a Baptist minister in Lexington, Kentucky. It’ll be, you know . . . It’ll be a store clerk in Albuquerque. I mean there is . . . There are . . . There are a whole lot of people listening to NPR, and you know it’s funny. One of the producers I know over there says that she scratches her head when a senator will turn down an opportunity to be on “All Things Considered” because, you know, he’s booked on FOX or something. And even though FOX might be the leading cable news net, it’s just dwarfed by the numbers of people listening to NPR. The interesting thing about . . . Well I can tell you just on two fronts about my personal experience with “Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!” and what I sort of kind of gleaned from it, the show . . . People always ask me if we’re having as much fun on that show as it seems. And we really are, and I think for two reasons. Number one, the show began as something small, and its success surprised all of us. It was always this kind of side thing that the panelists were doing, so the stakes were never high, and they still aren’t. And that’s . . . That’s a joy, because when the stakes get high in an ensemble situation like that, no matter what people tell you . . . When they say, “We’re just one big happy, dysfunctional family,” no. You’re one big unhappy, dysfunctional family. But here it’s a happy, functional family. It really works. Also because people came from all different places – I mean wildly different places – sort of a legend like Peter O’Rourke and Roy Blunt; to a great standup like Paula Poundstone; my friend Adam Felber who’s a terrific writer and performer and got me the job . . . So . . . So it’s . . . It’s . . . When we get together it’s in different combinations. It just . . . It has a very loose family feel. But the other thing I think that the show has done, which it’s filled a niche . . . There was a . . . There was a . . . It filled . . . It has filled a . . . It’s . . . It occupies a very special niche, which is that we hope it’s smart and funny, but it’s easy to take. You know a lot of political comedy, which I admire a lot, you have to really think sometimes and go, “Okay wait a minute. This person is saying that, but he really means that because he’s being ironic.” And that’s great, and it’s beautifully written. But “Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!” is primarily for people who are driving around. They’re doing their errands. They kind of wanna unwind on a Saturday or a Sunday, depending on where you’re listening. And that’s not easy to pull off. I mean and it’s a tribute to the editors because our taping is a lot longer than the 50 minutes or whatever it is that the show becomes on a weekly basis. But being easy to take . . . It’s something a voice teacher told me early in my career. She said people will get it. Be easy to take. Don’t cram it down their throats. It’s something that I still lapse into and still have to watch. But the show I think as a whole really understands that. It’s just . . . It’s easy to take.

Recorded on: 2/14/08