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Be a Dick

April 19, 2010

I’m not sure whether Amazon assigns the items in its “Treat Yourself” box randomly or otherwise, but lately it’s been taunting me with the more expensive items on my wish list. The last three or four times I’ve visited the site, it’s seemed especially dedicated to push F for Fake, which is probably for the best because while I wouldn’t mind purchasing it, there are some other items I’d prefer, so I should be safe from the splurge for now. If it starts shilling for Fishing with John, however…

But I love Amazon, aside from loads of free porn, it’s one of the best innovations of the Web. Without it, for example, I never would have known about these superb collections of The Dick Cavett Show. Granted I haven’t seen Rock Icons, but Comic Legends is delightful and Hollywood Greats is…uh…great.

I had seen Rick Moranis’s skewering imitation of Cavett on SCTV, but prior to purchasing these two sets, that was the limit of my exposure–well, that and that episode of The Simpsons where Homer goes to clown college. Beetlejuice doesn’t count. And yeah, he is kind of a cocky little prick (though no less correct in that clip), but he was also a very good interviewer. Who else could pull off a dual interview with Janis Joplin and…Gloria Swanson?!?

Just as surreal is Jack Benny and Bill Cosby sharing the stage. Benny of course holds his own, but the  better part of the interview is seeing him bowled over by Cosby’s monologue. Groucho’s funny, too, but he comes across as more of a dick. Bob Hope is Bob Hope and sorry, but I just don’t think Lucille Ball’s all that funny. Woody Allen edges out Cosby and Benny as the best. Mel Brooks is insane.

Greats I like even more. Orson Welles should have done more comedy. He and John Huston tie for having the most fascinating lives. Props to Cavett for getting Peter Bogdanovich, Robert Altmen, Mel Brooks, and Frank Capra all together and just letting them talk. Not so much with Cassavettes, Gazzara, and Falk. Brando (of course) is a disappointment. But the two that really stand out are Fred Astaire and Katherine Hepburn. Astaire, in his early 70s, is jaw-dropping–genial, charismatic, gracious, and unbelievably agile. Hepburn sneers at her host, insults the decor, and leaves without saying goodbye. Was she really that much of a bitch?

A lot of these interviews can be found on YouTube, and most of them are worth watching all the way through.


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One Response to “ Be a Dick ”

  1. Ruth on April 19, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    “…sorry, but I just don’t think Lucille Ball’s all that funny.”

    THANK you. Gawd, I will never understand the appeal of that woman. I love me some comediennes, but not one thing that woman has ever done or said has made me laugh.

    With regards to Dick (heh), I seem to recall one of our teachers (King, perhaps?) showing episodes of ‘The Dick Cavett Show’ in class.