"Jack [Paar's] advice was, 'kid, don't do interviews. That means clipboards, and David Frost, and what's your favorite color. Make it a conversation.' When you get guests out there and you're talking, you forget there's a commercial coming."
About This Interview
In his two-hour Archive interview, Dick Cavett speaks about some of his early pursuits in magic, theater, and athletics. He reminisces about meeting Charles Laughton backstage at a performance of "Don Juan in Hell" and how seeing Laughton and the others backstage compelled him to feel that he, too, belonged in show business. He recounts his studies at Yale and his work as an office temp before becoming a copy boy at "Time" magazine. He lists some of the early bit parts he had on television, and outlines getting a break writing material for The Jack Paar (Tonight) Show, although initially he worked on the show as a talent booker. Cavett recalls his friendship with Johnny Carson, at first writing for him for an Emmy broadcast and later for The Tonight Show. He gives his impressions of Merv Griffin, whom he wrote for as well, speaks of his days as a stand-up comic, relates a couple of his jokes, and comments on appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show. He then details his several decades as a talk show host, beginning with a number of ABC series: a daytime 90-minute, five days-a-week venture; an ABC primetime three-nights-a-week summer show; and a late night version which ran from 1969-72. He talks of interviewing guests Janis Joplin, Katharine Hepburn, Norman Mailer (who tussled on-air with Janet Flanner and Gore Vidal), Georgia governor Lester Maddox, Groucho Marx, John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Fred Astaire and Ray Charles. Cavett discusses his continuation as the host of shows on PBS and CNBC, comments on his distinctive and recognizable voice, talks of the release of his classic shows on DVD, and shares his experience blogging for "The New York Times." Ron Simon conducted the interview on December 12, 2008 in New York, NY.