Dick Cavett with Emerson College

Interviewer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

Tab

About
About this interview

In his two-hour interview for the American Comedy Archives at Emerson College, Dick Cavett talks about the wisdoms and anecdotes he's gathered over his long career in comedy. He talks about how depression and comedy go hand in hand, and how every performer puts on "the mask of sanity" before getting on stage. He also speaks of the Pagliacci Syndrome, which draws links between depression and comedians, and discusses learning from, working with, and/or writing for several comedy legends, including Jack Paar, Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, Groucho Marx, and Woody Allen. He recalls his first performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, shares insights into his style of comedy, and offers advice to aspiring comedians. Bill Dana and Jenni Matz conducted the interview on February 23, 2005 in New York City, NY. 

"Exposure to the best in your field is not the easiest thing to come by, except maybe as a spectator. But if you're lucky enough to get to be working for them, as I was lucky enough to get to be, that's priceless."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Dick Cavett on the profession he most identifies with -- he feels most comfortable as a writer, yet has a penchant for being in front of an audience
Dick Cavett on the Pagliacci syndrome and the relationship between comedy and depression
Dick Cavett on his creative influences
Dick Cavett on how he feels about being called "intelligent" and the challenges of writing for himself as opposed to writing for others
Dick Cavett on what he learned from Groucho Marx during the two weeks Marx hosted The Tonight Show
Dick Cavett on a piece of advice he once offered to young people
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On the profession he most identifies with -- he feels most comfortable as a writer; on when he knew he wanted to be in front of an audience; on enjoying being heckled; on humor as a tool for maintaining sanity; on the Pagliacci syndrome and the relationship between comedy and depression
On Bob Hope likely not having depression and what he learned from Bob Hope; on the importance of knowing the great comedians who came before you; on what he learned from classic comics, including Groucho Marx; on performing when depressed; on being depressed during an appearance on David Letterman's show
On whether humor saves his life every day; on the power of comedy to affect change and on performing at USO shows; on how he tells jokes to people going off to war; on Bob Hope at USO shows; on the likeability of comics and the possibility of laughing at comics you don't like; on his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show; on his creative influences; on how he feels about being called "intelligent" and the challenges of writing for himself as opposed to writing for others; on the predominance of Jewish comics when he was starting out
On the business of comedy; on his comedy style and the difficulty of writing material for yourself; on moments when comics appear unlike themselves
On whether or not he should have done something else with his life; on a dinner he once had with Johnny Carson, at which he and Carson got emotional; on how TV show hosts balance public and private lives; on a piece of advice he once offered to young people; on Emerson College; on a memory of Aaron Brown and Charles Grodin
Shows

Ed Sullivan Show, The aka Toast of the Town

View Show Page
Dick Cavett on the comedy team Wayne and Shuster appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show and Ed Sullivan being hard of hearing
Dick Cavett on his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

View Show Page
Dick Cavett on a line from Jon Stewart at the Emmys

Tonight Show, The (1962)

View Show Page
Dick Cavett on what he learned from Groucho Marx during the two weeks Marx hosted The Tonight Show
Topics

Advice

View Topic
Dick Cavett on a piece of advice he once offered to young people

Creative Influences and Inspiration

View Topic
Dick Cavett on his creative influences

Historic Events and Social Change

View Topic
Dick Cavett on Bob Hope getting booed at a USO show in Vietnam

Pivotal Career Moments

View Topic
Dick Cavett on his creative influences

Television Industry

View Topic
Dick Cavett on the business of comedy
Dick Cavett on a piece of advice he once offered to young people

Vietnam War

View Topic
Dick Cavett on Bob Hope getting booed at a USO show in Vietnam

War

View Topic
Dick Cavett on Bob Hope getting booed at a USO show in Vietnam
Professions

Comedian

View Profession
Dick Cavett on the likeability of comics and the possibility of laughing at comics you don't like
Dick Cavett on his comedy style and the difficulty of writing material for yourself

Hosts

View Profession
Dick Cavett on how TV show hosts balance public and private lives

Performers

View Profession
Dick Cavett on the likeability of comics and the possibility of laughing at comics you don't like
Dick Cavett on his comedy style and the difficulty of writing material for yourself

Talk Show Host

View Profession
Dick Cavett on how TV show hosts balance public and private lives

Writers

View Profession
Dick Cavett on the profession he most identifies with -- he feels most comfortable as a writer, yet has a penchant for being in front of an audience
Dick Cavett on his comedy style and the difficulty of writing material for yourself
Genres

Late Night

View Genre
Dick Cavett on how TV show hosts balance public and private lives

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

View Genre
Dick Cavett on what he learned from Groucho Marx during the two weeks Marx hosted The Tonight Show
Dick Cavett on his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show
Dick Cavett on the comedy team Wayne and Shuster appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show and Ed Sullivan being hard of hearing

Talk Shows

View Genre
Dick Cavett on how TV show hosts balance public and private lives
People

Steve Allen

View Interview Page
Dick Cavett on how TV show hosts balance public and private lives

Woody Allen

View Person Page
Dick Cavett on Bob Hope's influence on Woody Allen
Dick Cavett on his comedy style and the difficulty of writing material for yourself; on guidance from mentor Woody Allen
Dick Cavett on a joke he wrote that Woody Allen liked

Marlon Brando

View Person Page
Dick Cavett on Marlon Brando suffering from depression and how he gets through depressive episodes

Mel Brooks

View Person Page
Dick Cavett on improvising with Mel Brooks - one of the biggest thrills he ever had

Johnny Carson

View Person Page
Dick Cavett on wondering for how many hours of his life Johnny Carson was "on"
Dick Cavett on being told by announcer Bob Johnson that he, like Johnny Carson, would get out of Nebraska
Dick Cavett on a dinner he once had with Johnny Carson, at which he and Carson got emotional
Dick Cavett on how TV show hosts balance public and private lives

Charles Grodin

View Interview Page
Dick Cavett on a memory of Aaron Brown and Charles Grodin

Buddy Hackett

View Person Page
Dick Cavett on the late Buddy Hackett

Oliver Hardy

View Person Page
Dick Cavett on moments when comics appear unlike themselves - Laurel and Hardy

Bob Hope

View Person Page
Dick Cavett on Bob Hope likely not having depression and what he learned from Bob Hope
Dick Cavett on an interaction between Bob Hope and Maurice Chevalier
Dick Cavett on how he tells jokes to people going off to war and on Bob Hope at USO shows
Dick Cavett on Bob Hope's influence on Woody Allen and on him

Danny Kaye

View Person Page
Dick Cavett on a comment by Basil Rathbone about Danny Kaye

Mort Lachman

View Interview Page
Dick Cavett on what Mort Lachman taught him about comedy writers

Stan Laurel

View Person Page
Dick Cavett on moments when comics appear unlike themselves - Laurel and Hardy

David Letterman

View Person Page
Dick Cavett on being depressed during an appearance on David Letterman's show

Groucho Marx

View Person Page
Dick Cavett on what he learned from Groucho Marx during the two weeks Marx hosted The Tonight Show
Dick Cavett on a letter he received from Groucho Marx
Dick Cavett on his comedy style and the difficulty of writing material for yourself
Dick Cavett on the last time he saw Groucho Marx and one of the last conversations he had with Groucho

Laurence Olivier

View Person Page
Dick Cavett on suffering from depression when Laurence Olivier and Joan Plowright were guests on the show

Jack Paar

View Person Page
Dick Cavett on his creative influences - Jack Paar
Dick Cavett on the predominance of Jewish comics when he was starting out; on his first comedy writing job -- for Jack Paar, who wasn't Jewish, and on the many comics with the last name "Allen"
Dick Cavett on how TV show hosts balance public and private lives

Joan Plowright

View Person Page
Dick Cavett on suffering from depression when Laurence Olivier and Joan Plowright were guests on the show

Basil Rathbone

View Person Page
Dick Cavett on a comment by Basil Rathbone about Danny Kaye

Jon Stewart

View Person Page
Dick Cavett on a line from Jon Stewart at the Emmys

Ed Sullivan

View Person Page
Dick Cavett on the comedy team Wayne and Shuster appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show and Ed Sullivan being hard of hearing

All Interviews

Q
S