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Carl Kasell, Voice Of Authority And Soul Of Irreverence, Dies


Carl Kasell was the voice of authority and the soul of irreverence. He came to NPR when the place was just beginning and brought presence and gravity to a struggling, young enterprise with a voice and calm that made you think of Murrow or Cronkite.


CARL KASELL: Good morning. I'm Carl Kasell. President Carter is keeping informed on the situation of the American embassy in Tehran.

SIMON: But when you got to know Carl, you saw this man with a voice that matched a great cathedral had a sense of humor that was whimsical, funny and even goofy, like the time Carl dramatized a shortage of helium by inhaling some from a balloon before he spoke.


KASELL: (In high-pitched voice) I'm Carl Kasell, NPR News.


SIMON: They were just different sides of the same funny and delightful man. Millions of Americans heard the news from Carl for 30 years on Morning Edition, where he awoke each day at 1:05 a.m., not 1 a.m., he used to say. That's just too damn early. He'd grown up in North Carolina, where a high school drama teacher named Andy Griffith - yes that one - encouraged Carl to pursue the theater. Carl went into the medium that's theater of the mind, although he was also a talented amateur magician who used to saw Nina Totenberg in half at NPR holiday parties. Somehow, she always came back together.

Carl became official judge and scorekeeper on Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me in 1998 and turned the role of a disembodied if illustrious voice into a star turn that made him the most beloved name on NPR and the face on a plush doll toy. At a network awash with tote bags and coffee mug premiums, the most valuable prize was Carl's voice on an answering machine, which he recorded for winners of the Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me quiz.


KASELL: The Shermans (ph) would love it if you left them a message and will return your call very soon. Toodle-oo.

SIMON: Now and then in his last years, we could see Carl through the studio glass on the fourth floor here, recording answering machine messages with the same energy and art he gave to the news, to magic and to making us laugh. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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