Dick Cavett reports that it looks like his Dec. 7 Writer’s Bloc chat with Mel Brooks, onstage at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, will be put on video for posterity. He certainly hopes it will. “It can only be fun,” says the talk show legend, who’s previously mixed it up with the master funnyman not only on his own program, but in a series of kooky award-winning beer commercials.
Witty exchanges like his and Mel’s are rare show business fare in these times.
“I do have a general feeling that most things are getting worse” when it comes to the diminishing quality of public discourse on television, admits Cavett.
However, adds the man who conversed with guests ranging from John Lennon and Katharine Hepburn to Buckminster Fuller and Charles Bukowski back in the 20th Century, “I don’t really watch much these days. I like to watch a certain amount, not that I crave entertainment on television. Every so often like to check in on the various shows that do something like I did.”
As for who he likes best among Jay, Conan, David and the rest, “I’d be a fool to name names,” demurs Cavett, who’s out touting his new book, “Talk Show: Confrontations, Pointed Commentary, and Off-Screen Secrets.”
With the book (a compilation of essays from his New York Times online column) launched, “There are so many things I’ve done that I wouldn’t mind doing again,” he says. Such as? “A play on Broadway — I’ve done a couple of musicals. I’ve enjoyed guesting on other people’s shows. And it’s fun to go on shows that you enjoy watching,” adds the septuagenarian Emmy winner.
He smiles about being lionized as the seminal hip intellectual talk presence in television – as he certainly appears in Louis Menard’s Cavett story in the current New Yorker. However, he points out that his track record of delivering “impossible-to-get” interviews wasn’t perfect. For instance, “I never got Cary Grant. I talked to him about coming on the show, but he said, ‘I don’t want people to find out how dumb I am,'” he recalls of the suave screen icon. “I’d have loved to have done Frank Sinatra,” he says.
And as for Cavett’s feelings about such admiring attention? “I guess mercifully some part of you refuses to believe it,” he says, “otherwise you would become impossible.”