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The backstory of Letterman legend Larry ‘Bud’ Melman

Have you ever wondered where David Letterman found Larry “Bud” Melman? Of course you have. Find out the answer in this exclusive excerpt from Brian Abrams’ newly-released Amazon Kindle Single AND NOW…An Oral History of “Late Night with David Letterman,” 1982-1993.

At a time when cable TV was nonexistent and Saturday Night Live’s talent and ratings simultaneously took a nosedive, David Letterman’s 12:30 a.m. talk show transformed comedy forever with its ironic obsessions and enabled a generation of writers to flourish. AND NOW…An Oral History of “Late Night with David Letterman,” 1982-1993is comprised of dozens of original interviews with those who worked and guested during Letterman’s NBC stint— beginning with an odd precursor in a problematic 10 a.m. slot, moving to the launch of the iconic Late Night with then-head writer (and then-girlfriend) Merrill Markoe, and ending with his final days at 30 Rock before heading west for CBS’s Ed Sullivan Theater…seven blocks away.

BARRY SAND Executive producer, The David Letterman Show (1980), SCTV (1980-81), Late Night with David Letterman (1982-87): We wanted to get guests that nobody ever thought of — not heavy billboard people. It was the strange guy, the guy who inflated his lawn chair that took off and flew over an airport. Those were the memorable characters.

ANDY BRECKMAN Writer, Late Night (1982-83), Saturday Night Live (1983-87); creator, Monk (2002-09): Stephen Winer and his partner, Karl, had a great influence on the show. They found Calvert DeForest [a k a Larry “Bud” Melman].

SANDRA FURTON Talent coordinator, Late Night (1982-89): Larry “Bud” Melman was an anomaly. He was a really genuinely great guy, who became like a mascot to the show. He was a very sweet person. I guess his naturalness in flubbing things up made it work.

KARL TIEDEMANN Writer, Late Night (1982-83) Consistently poor acting combined with an offbeat look. It didn’t occur to me years later, but do you know the name Maurice Gosfield? He was very much a Melman/DeForest type, and he became a kind of — before the term was used — cult figure. And he apparently had difficulty memorizing lines and getting out dialogue. That rang a bell with me.

STEPHEN WINER Writer, Late Night (1982-83): When Karl was at NYU, he was making a short film, “Life of the Party,” like an old Hal Roach two-reel comedy. When we were doing this thing, Calvert DeForest came at an open audition. There was nothing for him in the movie except background, but there was something about him that made us believe we could use this guy forever. We later made a film called “King of the ‘Z’s,” a parody documentary about the world’s cheapest movie studio of the ’40s and ’50s. The entire time we were writing it, Calvert’s face was always in my mind.

KARL TIEDEMANN: My then-partner and I always had a taste for the offbeat. We loved, as many people do, the whole Mystery Science Theater 3000 thing — just healthy badness. Mediocrity is very common. Really consistent incompetence, that’s a lot more rare. DeForest was worse than mediocrity, but he was a pleasant and amenable fellow.

STEPHEN WINER: When we had the job interview with Dave and Merrill, they were very complimentary of the film. During the course of that meeting, Merrill said, “We’re looking for somebody like that little guy in your movie for the show.” And I said, “That’s the guy you’re looking for. Trust me.” Calvert was in the very first episode. He cold-opened the show as Frankenstein, which was Merrill’s idea. It just took off. And I remember saying to Dave, “Wouldn’t it be funny if Calvert became a big star after this?” And Dave said, “Heh, heh. Sure.”

BARRY SAND: Some of the greatest shows that we ever had were with Larry “Bud” Melman, who always made mistakes. That was part of the fun. “What could go wrong?” And hopefully it would go wrong. You were always rooting for a good wrong thing to happen. Audiences love that. The non-predictability of the show, the imperfection of the show, was part of its charm.

This is an excerpt from Brian Abrams’ Amazon Kindle Single AND NOW…An Oral History of “Late Night with David Letterman,” 1982-1993.

Below, Larry “The Big Man” Melman in a typically insane 1980s Letterman appearance:

Thank you Jeff Newelt of New York City!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Real Wild Child: Iggy Pop’s electrifying 1980s appearances on ‘Late Night with David Letterman’
08:07 am


Iggy Pop
David Letterman

Iggy Pop
“I like to mix the dirt with the music.” Iggy Pop on Late Night with David Letterman, 1988

Iggy Pop appeared on NBC’s Late Night with David Letterman three times in the 1980s, and they were all memorable TV events. Iggy is, of course, as only Iggy can be, giving uninhibited performances in which he dances wildly and alternates between turning his back on the audience and confronting them. These were totally thrilling talk show segments and worth staying up (or setting your VCR) for back in the day. The Ig was also a charming and quotable interviewee; he and Dave, on the surface, seem to be hugely mismatched individuals, but they have a surprisingly great rapport, likely finding an unsaid common ground in the their shared midwestern sensibilities.

Iggy continued to pop up on Late Night and has been seen frequently on the subsequent Late Show with David Letterman over the years. You can’t beat these 1980s appearances, but he’s always waaaay more entertaining than the average boob tube talk show guest. This is, after all, Iggy Fucking Pop!

“Eat or Be Eaten,” December 8th, 1982 (unfortunately, the interview portion isn’t online):

More after the jump…

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Flaming Lips Band bring dada to David Letterman last night

Yoko Ono and Wayne Coyne
Someday far into the future, the next generation of Dangerous Minds will link to this video, and the hardy contributor on duty then will write something along the lines of, “THIS WAS INSANE. Legendary tee-vee talkmeister David Letterman had Yoko Ono on and she was wearing a snappy fedora and to a funky groove she howled into a microphone about ‘stopping the wars’ and ‘stopping the violence’ and FUCKING WAYNE COYNE was sitting Indian style next to her with a megaphone—this was YEARS before he ascended from the material plane into heaven during Super Bowl LXIV…”

Well, we say why wait? This crazy shit went down last night on The Late Show with David Letterman and you should watch it with the sound turned up!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
A young Dr. Venture crashes ‘Late Night with David Letterman,’ 1983

In 1983 James Urbaniak was 19 years old and attending community college and living in Marlboro, New Jersey, in Monmouth County. Like a lot of smart younger males at that time, he absolutely worshiped David Letterman, whose Late Night talk show had debuted the previous year. In February of that year he secured a ticket to attend a taping of the show; he was really excited about it.

During the monologue Letterman attempted to tell a joke he had tried and failed to tell in the previous night’s monologue, and ended up flubbing it a second time. When Letterman commented that he had screwed it up two nights in a row, the future Dr. Venture cried out, “Can I try it?”—and Letterman, making a snap decision he’d be far less likely to make on his CBS show, The Late Show, agreed. “Jim” Urbaniak bounded down from the audience, and the rest is history—really, really inconsequential history.

Here’s a cute animated video from Vulture/UCB Comedy in which Urbaniak tells the story:

I fully endorse all of Urbaniak’s musings about the chintziness of the Late Night aesthetic and the much less unbuttoned comedy found on Letterman’s CBS show. According to Splitsider, the guests that night were “Andy Kaufman and wrestler Freddie Blassie; Alba Ballard and her costumed birds; and Marv Albert and his sports bloopers.” That might be a little bit of an in-joke; that’s pretty much a concocted ideal memory of what every show was like.

As it happens, I also attended a taping of Late Night with David Letterman, and I was also 19 when I did so. The year was 1989, and the guests were Bob Hope, Melanie Mayron and Robyn Hitchcock. I restrained myself from attempting to hijack monologue duties, however.

This is probably as good a place as any to inform you about his new podcast Getting On with James Urbaniak.

Here’s the actual clip of Urbaniak telling the monologue joke on Late Night in 1983:

Via Splitsider

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The real reason Harmony Korine was banned from Letterman…

Last night on The Late Show with David Letterman, actor James Franco was promoting the new Spring Breakers film directed by Harmony Korine and he mentioned that the controversial director was banned from the show, prompting Letterman to bluntly explain why:

“I went upstairs [to the green room] to greet Meryl Streep,” recounted Letterman. “I looked around and found your friend, Harmony, going through her purse.”

Well then! Franco insists that Korine is “a very sane guy now” and on his say-so, Letterman has rescinded the ban.

Via Vulture

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Brother Theodore, one of David Letterman’s all-time most memorable guests, lectures us on ‘Foodism’
10:03 am


David Letterman
Brother Theodore

[We’re flying our freak flag at half mast this week and relaxing a tiny bit over the holidays, so here’s one of my favorite posts from the DM archives]

“My name, as you may have guessed, is Theodore. I come from a strange stock. The members of my family were mostly epileptics, vegetarians, stutterers, triplets, nailbiters. But we’ve always been happy.”—Brother Theodore

I’m not sure this story qualifies as an actual anecdote or just a meandering way of introducing an amazing YouTube clip, but here goes nuthin’...

As a lad growing up in Wheeling, WV in the 1970s, at approximately the age of twelve, I decided that I was no longer going to eat the food I was being served by my parents. In a home where greasy pan-fried hamburgers (or “Steakums”) were the typical main course and Kraft macaroni and cheese substituted for the “vegetable group,” I simply wanted to eat healthier. My parents were not very happy about this this demand—for that is what it was—and it seemed really insulting to them, but what could they do? The severity of my new diet must have really taken them by surprise. I became, pretty much a Fruitatarian, or a raw foodist, years before this was common. What influenced my twelve-year-old mind to do something like this was an obscure book I found in the local library with the distinctly unappetizing title, Mucusless Diet Healing System by Dr. Arnold Ehret.

I won’t go into the details of the diet, which extols the value of avoiding “mucus” and “pus” in your food—sounds like an admirable goal, right?—but suffice to say that while Dr Ehret’s work still has many followers—he’s thought of as the founder of Naturopathy—many diet experts consider him a total quack. But I am not here to debate the merits of his ideas, pro or con, merely to offer some brief context before I send you off to read this short essay, The Definitive Cure of Chronic Constipation.

Okay? You got that? At the very least skim it. The language he uses is quite distinctive isn’t it? The total disgust he expresses about the workings of the digestive system is almost Nietzschean in its peculiar character. This absolutist tone must’ve contributed greatly to my pre-teen interest in the diet.

Now flash-forward to the late 1990s, New York City. I had become friends with the then 91-year-old Theodore Gottlieb, better-known as the infamous dark comedian Brother Theodore, a big influence on monologists Eric Bogosian, Lydia Lunch and Spaulding Gray, who had been performing his totally insane one-man show at the tiny 13th Street Theater in Greenwich Village for ages and was a frequent guest on David Letterman’s late night talkshow during the 1980s.

At his age, it was not much of an exaggeration to say that Theodore had “been around forever.” He was delivering lines like “The only thing that keeps me alive is the hope of dying young” long before I was born. What was a great gag when he was, say, 50 years old, and then to STILL be delivering a line like that at the age of 93, as he did on my UK television series, Disinformation, well that existential tension is what made his nonagenarian performances so incredibly spell-binding.

His show was in the form of a stern lecture. It was nearly impossible to tell if this was an act you were seeing or if he was utterly batshit crazy, a berserk “genius” impervious to laughter as long as an audience bought tickets. The props were a chair, a table, a chalk board and a stryrofoam cup. There was a single spotlight. If you were anywhere near the stage in that little theater he could totally scare the shit out of you. Of course, whenever I brought friends, I took them right down the front!

It was an act, I can assure you. Theodore in real life was a mellow old bohemian guy who lived several lives in his 94 years. He’d been in Dachau (his release had been secured by Albert Einstein, his mother’s adulterous lover) and he’d also been on Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin and most famously on Late Night with David Letterman (Theodore, along with Harvey Pekar, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson and Captain Beefheart, was one of the most memorable and emblematic oddball Letterman guests of his early era).  He was in The Burbs playing Tom Hank’s great uncle and was the voice of “Gollum” in The Hobbit cartoon. He had a cameo in Orson Welles’ The Stranger. He was even in a porno movie, an X-rated parody of Jaws called Gums (Theo plays the boat captain, in a thankfully non-balling role. The former concentration camp prisoner is also seen, rather inexplicably, wearing a Nazi SS uniform for most of the film). In his nineties he was dating a woman in her mid-forties. He rode a bike around New York City until he was well into his eighties. Theodore was an old Beatnik, that’s the way I saw him. I think that’s largely the way he saw himself.

And talk about a weird way to make a living! He really wasn’t anything like his crazed monk act in real life, though. And let me tell you, when you are in your thirties and have a friend who is in their nineties… you learn things about life. Not all of them good, either. 94 years is a long time to live. Too long, if you ask me. I’m quite sure he felt that way, too.

Theodore apparently had great difficulty memorizing lines, even his own material and so he only really ever did two major monologues—he’d switch off between them when he felt like it—for over 40 years. One was called “Foodism”—we’ll get to this one in a minute—and the other was called “Quadrupidism” where he’d extol the virtues of human beings getting down on all fours (everything went to hell when our ancestors stood up according to his theories).

One day I was visiting Theodore at his apartment and I was looking at his sparse book shelf. On it sat The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, Baudelaire’s Les Fleur du Mal, an Edgar Alan Poe anthology, The Portable Nietzsche, some St Augustine, and… ta da… The Mucusless Diet Healing System by Dr Arnold Ehret. I remarked to him that I myself was a pre-teen adherent to Arnold Ehret’s unconventional ideas about diet and he replied that it was the inspiration for his “Foodism” monologue.  “I merely exaggerated his writings. Just slightly. That was all it took!”

My jaw hit the ground. He’d managed to craft one of the most brilliant comic monologues of all time based on Ehret’s zany diet-sprach. I was awestruck at how amazing this revelation really was. I mean… how creative!!!

You read that essay about constipation, right? Promise me? Now go watch this extended excerpt from the “Foodism” lecture performed on Late Night with David Letterman in the mid-80s.

More Brother Theodore after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
David Letterman’s secret past as a Hobbit
02:12 am


David Letterman

Long before he became a multi-millionaire talk show host, David Letterman was a Hobbit.

A surly drunk Hobbit.


Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
David Letterman checking out Cher’s bum (1987)
10:19 am


David Letterman
Sonny Bono

And Sonny Bono doesn’t notice a thing!

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Rachel Maddow is fucking awesome

There aren’t too many people who I’d be really that impressed to meet. To be perfectly honest/obnoxious I’ve already met most of the people who I ever wanted to meet, or else they’re dead. Just three people come to mind who I’d be humbled to find myself face to face with and all are women: Oprah Winfrey, Patti Smith and Rachel Maddow.

In the above clip, Rachel Maddow shows why she’s such an important, even necessary, figure in the American media. Although David Letterman is obviously throwing her well-intentioned, and respectful softballs, she says here what more sane and responsible people who have an audience should be saying about Fox News, Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart: “Scaring white people is good politics on the conservative side of the spectrum.” Bravo, Ms. Maddow, keep it up!!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
How Does David Letterman Get More Action Than Me??
11:57 am

Current Events

David Letterman
Cool Story Bro

Kid gets extremely angry about David Letterman’s affair. Cool story, bro!

Posted by Jason Louv | Leave a comment
In Praise Of Oliver Reed
11:03 am


Oliver Reed
David Letterman
After Dark

Back in my Z Channel days, no actor seemed to show up more often—or was more welcomed by me—than England’s late great Oliver Reed.   In his 40-year career, Reed made nearly 100 films ranging from The Brood, The Devils, Tommy, Burnt Offerings, to the film that killed him (in a Maltese pub, of course), Ridley Scott’s Gladiator.

I think even as a kid, I was able to identify Reed’s onscreen appeal.  It’s the same element missing from so many of today’s career-focused actors: joy.  Reed loved performing, loved having an audience.  As might be expected from the man who once famously said, “My only regret is that I didn’t drink every pub dry and sleep with every woman on the planet,” Reed loved life, loved living it, and he clearly planned to squeeze from it every possible drop of pleasure, pinball wizards and haunted houses be damned.

Even “King of Cool” Steve McQueen proved no match for the Oliver Reed lifeforce.  The story goes that McQueen flew to London to discuss a project.  Putting business aside for a bit, the pair went on a marathon pub crawl which resulted in Reed vomiting on McQueen.  The project was never consummated.

Fortunately, we have all those many great films to remember Reed by.  But now, thanks to YouTube, we can revisit some of his more memorable small-screen performances.  Reed was a frequent, frequently drunk, guest on television both here and in the UK.

In a testament to the saccharine and stage-managed nature of our current talk show landscape, witness below as Reed gropes feminist writer Kate Millett on British TV’s After Dark.  Thanks to After Dark’s supplying of Reed with a “booze buffet” before and during taping, what starts out as a sober-minded discussion on militarism, masculine stereotypes, and violence to women, soon devolves into something else:

And that’s just the mesmerizing endpoint to an escalating, tour de force Reed workout you can watch in its entirety here: I, II, III.  But even on the dog-and-pony circuit this side of the Atlantic, Reed was no more willing to dilute his behavior.  His face-off with David Letterman follows below:

Bonus I: Oliver Reed drunk on Aspel and Company

Bonus II: Drinking With Oliver Reed

(Thank you, Chris Campion!)

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment
The Pekar Project: Mining the Mundane for Magic



I have been a longtime Harvey Pekar fan, discovering him—along with the great Brother Theodore—during the early years of David Letterman’s show in the 1980s. He was always totally hilarious and curmudgeonly on his Letterman appearances. I view Pekar as original of a self creation as Groucho Marx, Charles Bukowski or his friend Robert Crumb. American Splendor, the film about Pekar’s life, starring the always wonderful Paul Giamatti as Harvey and featuring Harvey as himself, is one of my top, top favorite movies of all time, it’s a masterpiece.

Now Harvey Pekar is collaborating with four artists on a weekly web comic on the Smith website:

Pekar Project seeds were planted when Pekar discovered artist Tara Seibel, a fellow Clevelander. They began collaborating on stories for her blog, Rock Cityy Comix. For The Pekar Project, Pekar has formed a band including editor Jeff Newelt and four artists: Seibel, Joseph Remnant, Rick Parker, and Sean Pryor. Just as Duke Ellington composed pieces with a particular featured soloist in mind, Pekar is tailoring each true-life tale to these artists?

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment