Q: Watching The Dick Cavett shows, I’m reminded that what’s really missing these daysnot just on television but in generalis wit.
A: It’s having bad days, isn’t it? What many of the reviews of the Cavett Show DVDs are saying is, “Where would you get this kind of thing today?”there’s really nothing like it on television. I wasn’t egotistical enough to go around thinking that, but I do see that they’re right.
Q: I read that ABC actually erased some of your old shows and now they’re lost forever.
A: Yeah, the assholes in charge at that time saw no value in anything on tapeparticularly since they could use it to tape Let’s Make a Deal. I had my first Bob Hope show at ABC. I was so new and so semi-innocent that the camera caught me looking in the wings to see if Bob Hope was actually there.
Q: You met Groucho Marx by following him home from a funeral. You got your first break by ambushing Jack Paar with an envelope filled with your jokes. It seems like you owe much of your success to ballsy solicitations.
A: That’s what they are. And they never seemed to come from a thought process. In that case, getting material to PaarI just assumed I will just go there and try to give it to him. What have I lost if I fail? And what made it almost uncannily chancy was that he came out of a men’s room at the exact time that I was looking for him in that very hall. The man who gave me the most golden advice ever: “Don’t make it an interview, kid. Make it a conversation.”
Q: You were friends with Johnny Carson, obviously, but you had people on your show who he wouldn’t necessarily get. You had Joplin, Hendrix, Lennon
A: But also I had [diplomat] Averell Harriman and [economist] John Kenneth Galbraith. I think [Johnny] felt he wasn’t likely to be able to handle some of those people. He could have done wellhe wasn’t a dumbo in any sense of the word.
Q: And now you’re a blogger for the New York Times. What’s it like to go from being a talk-show host to essentially conversing with yourself?
A: I don’t really know. It has struck me as strange. I like the people who say “It’s great having you back, even this way,” but I’m troubled by those who say “Why don’t you do a show? Just go on and do one!” I don’t know how to say “It doesn’t work that way.” I would love to do a show. I suddenly realized that. For years it hadn’t bothered me at all. But I realized I would be very good now, in some ways better than I was.