Thinking Ahead: when I've sent the letters, what comes next?Having written a few letters, my interest turned to the fruits my correspondence would bear. At first, writing to Dave had been a kneejerk reaction: Dave told me to write, and I wrote (the same reason I wrote to Hamilton Jordan in the 70s). Oh sure, I had a few other incentives - like making my pen pal Sherry jealous, and justifying $500 deductions for stationery on my taxes - but mostly it was purely pavlovian.
Now, looking at the letters and imagining their stunning impact on Dave's mail staff, I realized things would happen to me when I sent them.
The things I imagined were pretty basic. One of the letters would finally make it on the show. Dave would respond to it. Later in the show, comedian Tim Allen would make oblique reference to it in his monologue. Dave, sensing a trend, would jump on the bandwagon and repeat a key phrase from the letter at every ensuing lull in the action. This phrase would become his mantra for the week, and later, for the month. He'd tell the staff to begin searching for more letters from me, which they'd find. Dave would begin including one of my letters in every mail-reading segment, until he received a phone call from the FCC accusing him of fan favoritism. Dave would deny it, but would cease reading my letters on the air altogether. After 3 weeks without a single John Cady letter aired, a small but rabid citizens' lobby in New Hampshire would submit a 50,000-signature petition asking for my return and threatening to oppose expansion sports programs in New England if Dave failed to cooperate. (The petition would come out at a particularly opportune moment, as Dave was making a bid to become the first comedian-owner of a professional badminton team, the New York Birdie Bashers.) To soothe the lobby group, Dave would bring me on the show for an interview. I would ask to interview him instead and after that performance, I'd become Dave's protege. He'd have me write public service announcements he'd do for WOR about not shooting guns in or near television studios. Eventually I'd move up to writing jokes about NBC, which by now would be owned by Cosby (I'd mention flavored gelatin products quite a bit). Then I'd become head writer, after the current head writer slipped out of his 23rd-floor apartment window one day while taking a bath. And there you'd have it. A typical show business success story.
Possible Skits Dave Could Do to Respond to That First LetterI fully intended to send the list below to Dave, in case he should be having a rough day and need some help. Everyone has a bad day now and then. Except Richard Simmons.
To the letter about losing my hair, and then finding it but not on my head: Dave could say, "You know, the same thing happened to me the other day, but with pita bread."
To the one about why no one ever asks cops to show their license and registration: Paul could sit behind metal bars wearing a striped outfit, and some bruises.
To my suspicious letter about why the psychics can't greet you by name when you first call those hotlines: Biff Henderson could be put in a sound-proof booth before the letter was read, and then Dave could take him out and ask him the answer to the question he hadn't heard, and he could say, "Huh?"
To a yarn I spun about a giant tidal wave of Pepsi Free® that was heading for Manhattan: Dave could laugh disbelievingly, and then they could flood the entire studio with 100,000 gallons of Royal Crown Cola® (it's cheaper, and who'd know the difference?)
A Would-Be Interview With DaveThe following never happened. David Letterman's not the kind of guy to let people interview him seriously. But if he did, here's how I figure the interview would run:
Me: Hi Dave.
(Dave leans back, rearranges his baseball cap, and clenches his cigar in his teeth in anticipation of a really tough interview)
Me: Well it's nice to finally meet you. I've been a fan of your show for a long time.
Dave: And I of yours.
Me: Thank you. Tell me, do you ever get that burning sensation after you've shaved a little too close?
Dave: No, but I do chafe when I overload my shorts with mayonnaise.
(A long pause between us. Dave sits up, perhaps a little embarrassed.)
Me: So, how's your home life? Have you had any children?
Dave: Not lately. I did golf yesterday.
Me: Ok, so you golf. Have you ever interviewed Arnie?
Dave: No. But he's got children.
Me: Do you have his number? It seems like this interview might be better suited to him.
(At this point, Dave finds Arnie's business card, hands it to me, and wanders off. I look for a pay phone.)
Paying My Dues:If the interview for some reason failed to impress Dave, I understand that for a while I may have to "play the game". Even Maury Povich had to play the game. But I have talents, and there's a lot I could do.
My Alternate Would-Be Niche in the Letterman Universe
- I could lather soap in staff restrooms.
- My skin has a certain receptivity to Post-it® Notes (For what it's worth).
- I could lead the writing team in prayer sessions.
- I could impersonate Dave when he gets calls from celebrities.
("Listen Emo, I gotta go. I think there's something burning in Zaire.")
- Have dustbuster, will travel.
- I know 14 ways to get candy from the machine without paying.
- I can sneak into Leno's dressing room to steal his valuable monologue.
- Being a psychology major, I know how to lift staff spirits.
("Hey guys, let's sing a song." or "How 'bout those Mets?" or "Aren't those CBS guys pinheads?")
- My jaw harping has been easing tensions in green rooms for over 50 years.
- If need be, I can pick up small scraps of paper with my tongue.
- I could be Paul Shaffer's yes man.
- Someone has to operate the audience reaction bullhorn
("That was a joke. Laugh and clap, you morons.")
- I could counsel David Sandborn.
- I can stand very, very still.
- I have the entire Leo Buscaglia Love audiocassette memorized.
- People like me.
Of course I'm willing to do those things. But sucking up's not my real goal. The writer's job, that's always been my dream. Sitting in the Letterman writers' offices, a doughnut in one hand and a threatening memo from the network suits in the other, hashing out ideas about whether Larry Bud (Calvert) should do something shamelessly embarrassing tonight, working til 3am with guys who smell like the stuff you scrape off your undercarriage, staring desperately at the tiled ceiling for hours, knowing that today could be the day the magic dies, being mugged twice a day on your lunchbreak (regular as clockwork), and having your name appear at the end of the night, scrolling across the screen at a speed Einstein developed an equation for. That's the life for me.
The Perks of WritingOnce I became a writer, I'd hunger to experience the writer's crowning moment: the "guest-appearance-as-someone-else", or walk-on. Not only does it pay scale (if you've got a speaking line), but such television exposure ensures you your own network of fan clubs across the nation and the chance to spin off onto your own Fox sitcom. I've thought about my possible characters a bit, and have chosen some ideas which I feel portray the intelligence and sophistication which I hold so dear:
- Cornish Game Hen Guy (a clever replacement for that pea kid - he throws hens)
- Offensive Smell Man (bathed in noxious material, I'd sit down in the audience)
- Mr. No Wisdom Teeth Anymore
- Don, the usher who's funnier than Dave
- Freddie, a stage hand who hits on the female celebrities during the show
- The Man of a Thousand Nail Clippings
- "Person who's willing to make a fool of himself"
- Doko, a superhero who stops his foes by shooting cocktail sausages from his nose
- Barbara, the woman in the next building who throws herself out the window
- Jerry, the nice heckler ("Hey Dave, that was a pretty good joke")
- A giant marshmallow that just sits there, but you know someone's inside the costume because you can see one eye looking through the eye hole*
- The receipt-checker (he checks the audience's package receipts. Some nice music here would help)
- Corky (dressed like Oliver Twist, he points at people)
- Chad, who's caught in the lighting overhead
- Three guys from Detroit (the costume is me with a dummy attached to either side. But the dummies don't talk!)
- Tony Randall
- Ted, about whom secrets are known
- A man on his balcony four buildings away, who appears to be naked
- Barry White in leisure wear
- Kevin, shown early on with a really big soft drink, then intermittently throughout the show, Kevin repeatedly leaving for the restroom
- Scott, hired simply to spitball the camera operator. And the camera operator getting pissed. And Dave sticking up for Scott ("Stan, leave him alone. He's just doing his job.")
- A misapplication of that spray-on hair from Ronco® (all in my eye)
- Steve, the human door (with a doorknob sewn to his pants & slippery socks, he hangs onto one side of the doorway)
- A chambermaid that swears
- Bob, one of the network weasels
* this one's my favorite
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© 1993-1995 John Cady and the Lounge Life Press