Friday Fives – late night edition

Who was your guy?  (Carson, Letterman, Leno, Conan… pick one and expound)

Letterman. Growing up, there were only 2: Letterman, and Carson. Carson was for a different generation. Carson was for our parents. PLUS… I have been to a Letterman show. LONG ago. It was a morning show. That is how long ago. Here is what I remember about it. Nothing about the show, in that it was about 35 years ago. I remember trying to get in. You had to be at least 12 years old. I was only 6 or 7. I was a very short kid. So short that I walked right under the ticket takers arm… he never saw me. Never took my ticket. Quite literally I was flying under the radar.

Super Memorable talk show moments?

It’s infamous now, but when Jerry Lawler smacked the shit out of Andy Kauffman on Letterman. We know now it was a stunt. I was watching this on tv, and I lost my shit. It was very, very believable.

Ever been to one in person?

Yeah, and not just the Letterman one, above. I went to see Arsenio Hall show back in college. We were on Venice Beach on vaca and some PA was handing out free tix. We went the first night, and it was overbooked, so they bounced us back a day. No problem at all for us, but they felt super bad. They told us if we come back they will take care of us… and they did. We went in first, and got first row. I was on TV, when they pan the crowd at the beginning.

The guests were Dennis Miller, and Anna Nicole Smith, so that was awesome. This was back when Dennis Miller was funny, and not a right wing nutjob. He swore, too, which blew my mind. Of course, they beep it for broadcast, but it felt scandalous to hear an f bomb in person.

OH… and we saw Conan in person. Not a taping of his show, but when he did the comedy tour in-between shows. That was great. Also saw Craig Ferguson do a club set a few years back, he is great.

Who don’t you like, of the classic hosts… and why.  Be specific now

I think Jimmy Fallon is just great for his new job. It seems like the genre was built for him. He is such a joyful and happy fanboy that it absolutely comes across. So, no one I don’t like…. But I could see Jimmy Fallon doing this for 30 years.

I like them all. There is no one I don’t like.

Did you know Paul Shaffer isn’t just Letterman’s hacky piano guy.  He was also the band director or SNL, the Blues Brothers, the Grammys, the R&R HOF jams.  Is he in the Rock Hall of Fame?  He should be.  Oh, and he wrote ‘It’s Raining Men’.  And you know he’s funny, he’s Canadian.  I guess there isn’t really a question there, but I thought Paul should be acknowledged for his tremendous contributions.  I mean… he put the Blues Brothers band together.  It was all him.  He couldn’t be in the movie because of conflict of interest legal mumbo jumbo.

And… he was in Spinal Tap. What is there not to love?

Ok, since that last wasn’t a question… or anything… really… who do you see still standing in 30 years?  This includes James Corden and Steven Colbert?

Jimmy Fallon.  He is a natural.

What the hell is the deal with Gary Busey?

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May 2020 > Gary Busey pet judge?  Of course, who else could you hand this too?  Where is Ashton?  Are we being punked?  Just pray he doesn’t run into Wade Blasingame.

SNL has been doing a bitlike this… so why the hell not?  It’s not like he can get weirder.  We crossed that bridge, baby.

*** update August 2018 – bottom

Hi, come on in.  Please, have a seat.  I am glad you came.  Listen, we have to talk about Gary Busey.  We are WAY past the ‘what the fuck’ stage.  Way way past.

So, I watch Celebrity Apprentice, Big Brother, Dancing with the Stars… all of it.  I blame my wife!  I am not proud of it, but I like to see how successful people interact with each other.  I am always curious if these people are dicks or not… and I get a pretty decent feeling from the show who is and isn’t.  Example?  Bret Michaels > not a dick.  Star Jones?  Monster dick!  Omarosa?  Second Worst person alive!

What really puzzles me is Gary Busey.  That guy is cooked.  Fried.  Absolutely nothing left in his gas tank.  He seems to be mentally retarded, with the capabilities of roughly a 6 year old.  Now, keep in mind that Border Collies have the intellect of a 3 year old human… and know more words than Busey.  So, I needed to know how long this has been.  Has he always been nuts?  Is he just famous for being famous?  I remember he did that Buddy Holly movie, and KILLED it.  I can’t think of a single other thing he has done of significance in acting.  So… was he a functional retarded person back when he did that?  I did some digging for you.  Well, actually I did some digging while chatting with Jamie, but I figured it was too good not to share.

I went back to 1978, when he did Buddy Holly.  There is not much I can glean from this time behind the scenes of his life.  The earliest I could find was this performance on Carson in 1985.  What do we have in 1985?  A handsome, beefy, and engaging Gary Busey.  Sure, the shirt is suspect, but this is a funny and decently likable guy.  So, he wasn’t always this dim.  That is great news, I think.


He has often talked about a very very serious and terrible motorcycle accident he had in 1988.  Apparently, this gave him brain damage and might have been what cooked him.  So, that explains it, right?  I am just an insensitive asshole making fun of an old guy with brain damage!  Nope.  Turns out that is not the case at all.  See this appearance below from 1990 on Letterman.  He is even more engaging, more likable, better looking, and even funnier.  This guy is a dream talk show guest on the top of his game.  He even quickly references his motorcycle accident and brain damage.  So, that isn’t it then.

So what was it?  I can’t figure it out.  I know he also had a very public overdose drama in 1995.  Maybe that, coupled with the accident, just cooked him.  I used to be so annoyed by watching him.  I thought it was an act.  It isn’t.  He is mentally incredibly feeble.  I seriously doubt that he can even take care of himself.  So, now when I watch, it is more like a sad feeling of watching a bird try and fly away after your cat ate its wings.

So when did he fly off the rails?  Was it a slow burn, or did he just wake up one day completely nuts?  I wrote this before the last celeb apprentice where he got booted.  He got booted because they asked him to demo a suite of LG products, and his plan to do so was a commercial about a robotic barking dog.

Good luck and god speed to you, Mr Busey.  I think to best sum up, we will go with a Hunter Thompson quote >

“There he goes. One of God’s own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

Update Sept 2015 > I get a lot of negative feedback asking why I am so mean, and insensitive to brain damage.  I am NOT mean.  I am not here to mock, I am super curious as to what happened, when, and why.  You are here because you, too, are curious.  Note, if I wanted to be mean, I could have found a thousand clips of him being a space cadet.  All my clips, carefully researched, are of an articulate and engaging Gary Busey.  I challenge you to find a more even handed look at the man.

He is making millions just being Gary Busey.  That is what he does, and it’s all he does.  He isn’t acting.  He is just being his creepy, sad, brilliant, childlike self.  His popularity, though, (we can all agree) is for the cruelest of reasons.  I think when people watch him, it is similar to slowing down to watch an accident.  I don’t watch him anymore, on any shows.  It freaks me out, and breaks my heart.  Leave Gary Busey Alone!  At least he is laughing all the way to the bank.

*** update August 2018

final thoughts on this piece

I wrote this years ago, as you can see.  As of August 2018, this post has approx 188K views… far and away my most successful piece. I am glad you are here! Here are my final thoughts, and they are awesomely contradictory

  • His handlers should be ashamed of themselves, and taken away. This guy ONLY gets jobs because he is infantile and sadly incompetent.  Trust me, I know he has handlers making these decisions.  I don’t know that he could feed himself or dress himself without help.  How could they just throw him out there for a few dollars to watch the world laugh at his foibles
  • But then I think – he clearly seems happy, and to be having fun. I think he is also (luckily) unaware that he has regressed to a child like state.  So, even if he is only being hired for some kind of schadenfreude… who the hell cares?  If he is happy, what business is it of ours?

Friday Fives > late night tv edition

Who is your current favorite late night talk show person?

Craig Ferguson

who is your all time late night favorite talk show person

Letterman.  I was raised on Letterman.  When I was a kid, we went and saw the Letterman show in person in NYC.  How long ago was it?  Letterman’s show was a morning show, true story!  So, why would I betray Dave and vote for Craig above?   Well, Dave has gotten a bit stale for me.   Also, it seems like it is always in reruns.  Plus, Dave hired Craig and is his employer.   So, they remain critically linked.

do you have a favorite late night talk show memory?

yes, and it isn’t that one above.  Ok, there was one great memory from that day.  It was almost 30 years ago, so I have few memories.  This is one, though.  In the elevator up to the studio we shared space with Gene Shalit*.  Being 7 or 8 years old and seeing that man pretty much freaked me out for life.  I mean, seriously… he really looks like… well…  that.  However, since that was a morning show… we won’t use that memory.  So, here is this one.  I went to LA years ago on vacation and we were offered free tickets to see Arsenio Hall’s late night show tape.  We went that night and they were oversold.  The nice production assistant lady told me if we came back the next night we would be front row.

well, you are thinking that was showbiz hokum and they screwed us.  Not the case at all.  We came back the next day and his producer recognized us and put us in the very front row.  This was awesome, because tv studios are WAY smaller than they look on TV.  We were just a few feet away from the whole thing.  Not only were we on national tv (they pan through the front row as part of the intro every night), but the guests were awesome!  We got to see Dennis Miller (when he was funny, not a Republican douchebag apologist) and Anna Nicole Smith.

So, what’s going to happen next year when Leno steps down?

I think a huge shake up will roll through the industry.  I think it can be compared to a couple of years ago when all three big network night news guys stepped down almost simultaneously:  Dan Rather, Ted Koppel, and Peter Jennings.   30 or 40 years each, and they all disappeared almost overnight.  I literally think it will be like that.  Letterman will walk away and John Stewart will drop in there somewhere.

also, though everyone likes to make fun of him from MTV, Carson Daly is great.  Seriously, he has a great future.  He is a genuine, funny, and smart dude.

who would be a great talk show host, beside yourself, famous or otherwise?

Bobby Weir from the Grateful Dead.  He is passionate and articulate. He is funny and interesting. He is also really weird, and being in the Grateful Dead for 40 years, dude must have some AMAZING stories.  He would have to shave the beard, though.  It is super creepy.

* now remember.  Many things have happened to you in your life.  Many bad and horrible things.  There are things you know about that you would give anything to make never happen.  Being in an elevator with Gene Shalit is exactly like that.  Mostly, at night, I just cry.