I plan to weigh in every other day or so with what I hope are yak-worthy thoughts, musings and reconditioned events from my alleged past, my assumed present and my delusional future. If you want to comment, I will respond almost as quickly as those spam guys who claim you can make $500/day in your underwear.
(NOTE: Adam Resnick, longtime legendary Letterman writer, was the show runner for the final season of Larry Sanders. He called me in early March and asked if I would submit some jokes for Larry’s final show. They had some phenomenal writers on that show (Jon Stewart, John Riggi and Peter Huyuk and Alex Greogory to name four), but no one who was strictly a monologue guy. If you remember, they might show one or two jokes at the top of each episode. At the time, it was clearly they were going to go longer with the last monologue, so they needed volume. That’s where I came in. Adam said they were looking for the kind of celebratory, yet self-deprecating stuff Carson did on his last couple of shows. Of course, I was honored. I think this show is one of the iconic comedies of the last 30 years. So, I dashed off I think 40 jokes and sent them off. When the final episode aired in May or June, they aired fully the first two or three jokes, then had the monologue in the background as they cut away to various people watching Larry’s last show. It was incredibly effective dramatically, but not so much if you’re a guy like me who keeps score. I think maybe a half-dozen of these made it through, but I was v-proud of this effort. I can still see Garry Shandling delivering any of these. And forget the Clinton scandal, which had broken two months before. Look at all the other 1998 references!)
FINAL LARRY MONOLOGUE Scheft 3/18/98
(Garry, Adam: These are in no specific order. Take what you want and leave the rest.)
** This is not goodbye. This is we should start seeing other people.
** I hate goodbyes. I just think it would be better if you started seeing other talk show hosts.
** Don’t worry about me. I start Monday as a White House intern.
** It looks like Monica Lewinski’s entire deposition will be thrown out of court on a technicality. The technicality being Jewish girls don’t give oral sex.
** I was going to devote my retirement to finding a Jewish girl that gave oral sex. But President Clinton beat me to it.
** I’m very excited. Today, I was named the new spokesman for the Kenneth Starr Record Club. Pretty good deal. You get 12 Linda Tripp tapes for a penny.
** I’m very busy. Next Monday, I’m part of “Ex-Talk Show Host Week” on “Jeopardy.” It’s me, Rick Dees and that kid who hosted “Vibe.”
** You know, it really hadn’t hit me the show was over until this morning, when Rick Dees called and asked if I was free for lunch. For the entire month of August…. I guess that’s when his shrink leaves town, too.
** I would be remiss if I didn’t pay tribute to my sidekick for all these years, Hank Kingsley. Hank, just let me say, what you lack in talent, you— (TO THE CUE CARD GUY) What do you mean you can’t find the other cue card?
** Hank, you’ve been good with your money, haven’t you?
** We’ve got to hurry up and get out of here. The network rented out the studio to the Heaven’s Gate cult. They’re having a Get Acquainted Mixer.
** Not much of a severance package from the network. I get all the office supplies I can carry, plus 10 days/9 nights in Brett Butler’s old room at rehab.
** My immediate goals are simple. I’m going to try and get rejected by women in the 39-54 demographic.
** Boy, I never realized the ripple effect my leaving would have until today, when I saw Joan Embree at Starbucks. She makes a nice latte.
** I’m leaving to devote my life to research. It’s a little vain. I’m going to try and develop a new lip balm for my personal needs, Chap Stick with Phen Fen.
** Amazing. Ten years ago, Phen Fen was the capital of Cambodia.
** What can I say? Ten years ago, the network decided to take a chance on a funny-looking, self-conscious guy with questionable appeal and no track record in television. And then they said, “We need someone to do the show with Hank.”
** I remember 1988, when a funny-looking guy with a whiny voice and weird hair came out on this stage and tried awkwardly to make you laugh. And I want to thank David Brenner for filling in that night.
** In ten years, we’ve done over 2100 shows. And had close to 45 guests.
** To give you an idea how long we’ve been on the air, when we did our first show, in 1988, Michael Jackson was still dating himself.
** …. When we did our first show, in 1988, Michael Jackson still looked like Michael Jackson.
** Things have really changed in television over the last ten years. When we went on the air in the only openly gay female on TV was Rosey the Bounty Paper Towel Lady.
** Of course, a lot of people are leaving the air this year. My pal Jerry Seinfeld, for instance. Amazing. Who would have thought a show where the star is a self-absorbed, whining, 40-year-old single guy would become so popular for so long? Well, people like when I whine. I can’t explain Jerry’s success.
** The press the last couple of months has been incredibly kind. Maybe a little overboard. In the last week alone, I counted half a dozen articles where people on my staff described me as “caring and accessible.” (This is a blatant switch on a joke Carson did, where people on his staff described him as “warm and approachable.”)
** The press has been incredible. The Los Angeles Times called me “an innovator.” Variety called me a “boffo showman.” The Globe said I had two months to live….
** I can’t believe all the attention I’ve received from the media. It’s been relentless. For a minute, I had to ask myself, “Did I have sex with President Clinton?” And the answer, of course, is no. That would imply that I, you know, have sex.
** And the accolades keep coming in. Earlier today, in a private ceremony, I was made an honorary Wayans Brother. So ladies, there’s now 20 percent more of me. That’s right, full retail.
** Of course, me biggest regret was that I didn’t stick around long enough to try out my hilarious new comedy character, Iron Larry.
** I’d like to take this opportunity to personally thank my talent department, for not booking Carrot Top.
** My staff has been loyal and devoted, even though the office supply closet looks like it was hit by El Nino.
** And of course, my producer for all these years, Arthur. A man who has stuck with me through the good times, and the interviews with Cripin Glover ( or Meg Tilly).
** All my favorite guests from the last ten years have come back these last couple of months to pay their respects. Except one. And let me just say, if you’re watching, Salman Rushdie, would it have killed you to come on?
** My plans? Well, I’m going to follow in the footsteps of my hero, Johnny Carson. I’m starting my own line of clothing, Larry Sanders Casuals. The pants are wrinkle-free, and old flame-retardant.
** I was thinking about getting emotional tonight on the last show, but then the network legal department informed me that every time a talk show host cries, Jack Paar gets a $10,000 royalty.
** I have no immediate plans, except to spend some quality time with my two cats, Joe and Franklin.
** All my fellow late night talk show hosts have been great. David Letterman sent champagne and caviar, Conan O’Brien sent a gold Rolex, Jay Leno asked if he could steal the bit I do with the funny photographs.
** We’ve got a great show tonight. Later on, Ed Ames is going to come out with a tomahawk and chop off half my ass.
** This show has been so different than my sex life. I last an hour, you applaud at the end and when you see me the next night, you don’t do this (HAND TO FACE LIKE YOU’RE TRYING TO AVOID)
….I had been walking past him since late 1980, when he would show up at Catch and climb onto the stage and get the longest loudest craziest ovation of any big star that would wander into what was then the center of the comedy universe. He would do at least 30 minutes, sometimes closer to 40-45, and push back all the other comics who were waiting to go on. It didn’t affect me, because I was so new at the club, another late night act, so maybe I might go on at 2:15 am rather than 2:10. Back then, if you got up at Catch, you were paid $6 in cabfare. That’s what they called it, cabfare. As my best friend, Eric Zoyd, used to say, “I call it a livelihood.” I knew I had made it the first time I got cabfare. And I knew I had really made it two weeks later, when I saw Robin Williams come off stage, drenched after 45 minutes of whatever it was he was doing, and got paid the same six bucks.
I became an emcee at the club and got to bring him up a few times, which was at once tremendous because the audience responded like it was your idea to have him come up. Later, it was downright humbling, because you went up after he was done, after the audience was Dresden, and your best lines just laid there. So, you did the brave thing and quickly brought up the next act, the next guy whose only bad quality was that he wasn’t Robin Williams.
So when I say I met him for real, I mean we finally had an exchange that did not involve a crowd screaming in the background as I handed him the mic. I was hanging out in the basement of Catch and Robin came off stage, got his backslaps and cabfare at the bar, slipped through the coat room (where three years before a couple of mob guys had broken Joe Piscopo’s nose) and down the narrow staircase into leaky dankness just below the center of the comedy universe. He did what countless others did when they got to the basement of Catch a Rising Star. He might have used the dollar bill or the five dollar bill of his six bucks cabfare. And then he noticed me. He had just finished filming “The World According to Garp.” I asked him if he had read the book before he took the part. These were the kind of questions I asked back then, arrogant Harvard wiseass that I was. He was not insulted at all. He started to speak, in that soft soft voice of his, a voice I had never heard. “My agent called me in Malta when I was filming ‘Popeye,’” he began. “He was all excited. I had never heard of the book. I said I would get back to him. We had the afternoon off and I went to a flea market, and was looking at a bunch of buttons in a booth. There, in the middle of a pile of buttons, was one that said, ‘Garp.’ Probably some Maltese word. I took it as a sign. I called my agent back and took the job. Then I read the book that weekend. I couldn’t believe he was a prep school wrestler, just like me.”
And then somebody else came downstairs to do what people did in the basement of Catch a Rising Star.
A year later, “The World According to Garp” comes out. An absolutely impossible novel to adapt is adapted pretty damn well. And the world got to hear Robin Williams talk in that soft voice. The next time he came to Catch, I was emceeing. Before I brought him up, I asked him, “You remember the scene when you and Mary Beth Hurt are in bed and she talks about one of her students (who it turns out she’s having an affair with), Michael Milton? And you say, ‘Michael Milton? Sounds like a flavor in a gay ice cream parlor.’ We have strawberry swirl, lemon lick, Michael Melton… Did you adlib that line? Because it sounds like something you’d say on stage.” A year later, still arrogant. Robin Williams smiled and said, “I was adlibbing the whole film and every time (the director) George Roy Hill would yell “Cut!” and say, ‘I know you have to do that .Robin, but let’s stick to the script.’ When I did that line, the Michael Melton line, he didn’t yell “Cut.” We ended the scene, and he said, ‘That one I’m gonna let you have.’ It was the only one that made it all the way through.”
I left Catch at the end of 1986 and over the last seven years of my stand-up life, I would run into him a couple of times a year at the Improv or the Comic Strip or Stand-Up New York, when he would topple that night’s schedule and make the club owner’s week. If he recognized you when he came off stage, you got a hug and needed a squeegie after you broke free. He remembered faces and always loved an old joke he hadn’t heard, and always had one you hadn’t heard.
Onstage, his brilliance was never questioned, but the route he might take was. Comics loved him as an actor, and actors loved him as a comic. That is as diplomatic as I can be. My one regret is that I never asked him if he adlibbed the last line in his Oscar winning performance in “Good Will Hunting.” As Matt Damon drives off and he reads the note Will Hunting left in his mailbox: I gotta go see about a girl…. Robin Williams smiles and said, “Stole my line.”
When I started at the Letterman show in 1991, he would come on at least twice a year. The hugs were longer and mercifully drier, especially after he got sober and we finally had something in common.
As I said on Twitter, he was always humble and always ready to give it up, which for me, is the most admirable quality a comic can have. Here’s the photo I posted earlier….
And here’s the story behind it. It’s 2006 or 2007, I want to say. Robin has just finished destroying for three segments. At the end of the last segment, he was telling Dave some of the great heckle lines he’s heard launched at comics from the audience. I rushed up as he was leaving, got my hug, and said, “The best heckle line I ever heard was some guy who yelled, ‘Hey, move out of the way. I can’t see the brick wall….’”
Atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale.