Comedian Tom Dreesen is feeling bittersweet about his last “Late Show” visit with old pal David Letterman, which is coming up Thursday (4/16). “We’ve known each other since 1975, and we were two young comics at the Comedy Store,” he says, referring to the famed L.A. nightery. Jay Leno was there, he remembers, and Robin Williams and Michael Keaton, “and the girl waiting tables was Debra Winger.”
Dreesen and Letterman “became fast friends — we played basketball, jogged together. The first time he hosted ‘The Tonight Show,’ I was his guest.”
Dreesen recalls Letterman being “funny and witty, but never comfortable” on the nightclub stage, but the first time he saw him do television, “I thought, ‘oh my God. He’s home. You know, he broke into TV in Indianapolis as a weatherman. In a studio, he was right at home.”
Network executives saw that as well, recalls Dreesen. “If a network sees something in somebody, they know right away.”
Don’t be surprised if Dreesen shows up with photos highlighting some of his early days with Dave — as part of the Comedy Store basketball team and such.
Starting with his and Tim Reid’s trailblazing Tim & Tom biracial comedy act, Dreesen’s made standup his metier throughout his career.
He spent 14 years touring with Frank Sinatra as the show business icon’s opening act. Now he’s touring with his “An Evening of Laughter & Memories of Sinatra” one-man show in this year, marking the centennial of Sinatra’s birth. He also spent years as a “Tonight Show” mainstay. Tomorrow (4/15), however, Dreesen will be doing something entirely different from all that — serving as the keynote speaker at the 150th anniversary of the passing of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois. Dreesen’s topic will be Lincoln’s humor.
“He was a master of the art of storytelling,” notes the comic. “And he enjoyed having a laugh and giving a laugh. You know, he lost two sons during his presidency. His wife had emotional problems. And he went through the darkest times of the Civil War. If he hadn’t been able to find ways to laugh, he probably wouldn’t have made it.
“Laughter causes a chemical change in the body. When you’re laughing, you’re not thinking of your problems. Endorphins are released.” Dreesen points to research done at UCLA with the late Norman Cousins that showed a correlation between humor and healing. “Abe Lincoln didn’t know about that, of course, but he knew the value of humor.