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A salute to one of my humor heroes

Fifty years ago, “The Dick Cavett Show” became a hit thanks to the insightful and humorous celebrity interviews conducted by (no surprise) Dick Cavett. His personality and honesty lit up the TV no matter who he interviewed.

As a kid, I probably only saw the show in reruns or heard adults talking about it. But I knew who Dick Caveat was from an early age, and that he was something more than a just another talkshow host.

When I was eight or ten, I saw a black-and-white retrospective on PBS that showed him doing stand up comedy in New York. (It was the first time I understood that Greenwich Village was a place.) He tossed off a joke that gave me a glimpse of how comedy works, and it’s something I carry with me to this day. The joke was something like, “I attended a wedding and the bride was pregnant, so afterward we all threw puffed rice.”

Even in grammar school, I understood immediately that this was a great bit—the verbal joke created a perfect visual.

Years later, I was booked to perform on the TV show “Evening at the Improv” and was thrilled to find out Mr. Cavett was the host. I did my set, which included some material about weddings. As the host and “palate cleanser” between comics, he said, “I had a wedding joke once and I’d like to dedicate it to the comic we just saw” (ME!) Then he did the “puffed rice” joke. It was one of those moments where the world puts you at the right place and the right time. Call it coincidence. Call it serendipity. I call it pure joy.

After the filming, he held court and entertained all the comics who that were on the various shows filmed that night. He sat at the head of the table for hours, because no one wanted to go home. For me, spending time at that table was as bright a moment as having performed on TV.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of “The Dick Cavett Show,” I want to say thank you to its legendary host for
his great contribution to comedy—not just for being clever, but also for being kind.