Happy Birthday Dick Cavett

Today is Dick Cavett’s 78th birthday. From 1968 through 1982, with a brief hiatus for changing networks, Dick Cavett was the best talk show host on TV. He started as a comic and a comedy writer for other talk show hosts, and eventually got his own show. The other talk show hosts of the day could be funnier (Johnny Carson) or have a wider demographic range of appeal, but Cavett represented the cosmopolitan norm – ironic, because he grew up in Nebraska. Much like an old issue of the New Yorker, Cavett’s repartee with his guests can make us long for a time when mainstream cultural literacy encompassed books and art and old movies. He was the best at conducting an interview and could roll with the punches if he had to.

A number of Cavett’s shows are available on DVD – and you should watch all of them right away. I am particularly fond of his interview with super-cool, well-spoken and apparently somewhat drunk Robert Mitchum.

Cavett has also been writing columns for the New York Times for the past few years. These have been collected in a couple of books, and many are available to read online for free here.

Also, listen to the fascinating Dick Cavett interview with Gilbert Gottfried here. He gets into some of the blue material.

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