Eddie Brill: Comedian

EDDIE BRILL is a comedian, but as you can tell from this interview…he is a man with a lot of stories to tell.  He seems to be a busy man.  Just look at his resume!  In addition to being a comedian, he is also the warm-up comic on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Eddie Brill not only performs his brand of stand-up comedy regularly throughout the United States and the United Kingdom, but also has performed in Australia, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, France, Holland and Hong Kong.

In this interview Eddie Brill talked about not only his comedy, but also his appreciation for the talent of others.  He also talked about his work with Reader’s Digest and appearing as a cartoon on the acclaimed show Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist.

Enjoy this in-depth interview!  We would love to one day interview Eddie Brill in person.

We think you will agree with us that Eddie Brill is a comic of and for the people…

It is our pleasure to welcome comedian and actor, Eddie Brill. Eddie Brill is a worldwide comic. He is also the warm-up comedian and talent coordinator for The Late Show with David Letterman. Thanks so much for doing this.

Oh, it’s my pleasure Paul. I got an email from you that said you had talked to my pal, Alan Kalter, and now, uh, you know, I’m sure if it’s good for Kalter, I’d be more than happy to be on the show.

 (Laughs) Well, I think most stories are best from the beginning so tell us a little bit about where you came from.
I’m originally from New York and I had lived there as a kid ‘til I was just about 12 and then moved to Hollywood, Florida which is the other end of the spectrum, you know, from Brooklyn, New York. I went to junior high school and high school there and it was pretty nice. And, uh, I never thought I’d do any comedy. I always loved comedy and I loved George Carlin – he’s my hero – and Richard Pryor and all the comedians I would listen to on albums. Uh, and I was, you know, all ready to maybe go into college to go for maybe math or science. But my stepfather, who was very young and very close to us, died very young and I just changed my whole life and decided, you know what, I was going to do things that were really fun in life because you didn’t know how quick it could be over. So, I changed my sort of dream to go into maybe broadcast journalism and I went to a college in Boston for that, Emerson College. And then all these, uh, very funny people at the beginning of school, we formed a comedy group and it was the first foray I ever had in comedy. And it was a lot of very successful people and, uh, very successful people now. And a lot of people who were involved both, on both sides of the industry, you know, people like the president of Comedy Central and then, you know like, Denis Leary and, you know, a mixture of a lot of different kinds of people. But one of our best friends was Steven Wright and he was doing stand-up. So we would go watch him and it sounded fun so we started doing a little stand-up. Um, I did it for a little bit during college and then when I graduated I moved back to New York and said ‘You know what? You need a real job.’ And I went, I quit comedy and did some advertising writing. And I realized I was lying for a living and not making that much money. And I went back into comedy so I could tell the truth for a living and, uh, have a much better career.

I’ve never heard it put that way, ‘telling the truth for a living.’

Yeah. Since 1984 so, in a row, I’ve done it for 25 years.

Wow. Now, what do you think it is about comedy that attracts you?

Um, well, it’s just you know, pfff, it’s just so alluring. It’s, there’s no, you know, the feeling of, the cathartic feeling of laughing is just so wonderful. And when you make other people laugh there’s no better feeling. It’s really is, you know just, pfff – I mean, I’m giving you sounds effects. There’s no words really to describe the feeling. And to be able to, to make people laugh is just very, very fulfilling. And once you get a laugh, it’s like a drug. You chase that laugh for the rest of your life.

You mentioned just a moment ago George Carlin.

Right.

Now, who would you say is your all-time biggest influence?

It would be George Carlin.

And what about, what about him do you think, makes him so?

Um it was just that, you know, the way he thought, the way he just told the truth and was silly. He was smart and silly and that was attractive to me, and a lot of things I heard him say were sort of echoing the way I thought. So I couldn’t get enough of, you know, somebody who was making people laugh, thinking the way I was thinking. And, eventually, that’s the path I took. And the beautiful story, part of the story, is that we ended up becoming close and, uh, respecting – he respected what I did which was, you know – now I can die (laughs). I got my hero to respect my work and it was a really wonderful thing. He taught me a lot and he was really just a wonderful man. And anybody who’s ever met him would say the same story. Butit’s not like it was just me – he was good to a lot of people, a lot of people.

What about the comedians that are, are active today, like the young guns? Who out there do you have to give the respect to?

Well, Chris Rock I would think is the best comic of our generation. Dave Chappelle, um, you know he’s not been around as much in the public side but still out there at the comedy clubs. He’s pretty damn terrific. Uh, you know, there’s Jim Gaffigan, uh, Brian Regan, and Jake Johannsen who are sort of really smart, funny network guys. And then there’s the people like Norm MacDonald and Nick DiPaolo and Colin Quinn and Nick Griffin, who may be a little darker but, uh, still hilarious and smart and great. And I’m sure there’s a million people I’m leaving out. Lewis Black is very funny. And you know, there’s a, there’s a good group of really great stand-up comics. And young kids like Joe Wong and Tommy Johnagin, who are, you know, coming up through the ranks, are – as young guns who are, you know … Bill Burr who’s a phenomenal comedian, Greg Giraldo, Louis C.K. You know, there are so many great comics out there really doing smart, great stuff.

Well, tell us a little bit about this comedy club that you had in New York City called The Paper Moon.

Well, what happened was is, I wasn’t really thinking of getting back into stand-up. I was working with the group in college and you know, because it was so successful, the people we went to college with respected what we did. So there was a gentleman who worked at this restaurant and heard that they wanted a comedy night downstairs in this cabaret room. And he called me because he knew – you know, the connection of going to school with these people – Joe Mauricio, and we started comedy at The Paper Moon in 1984. And all of a sudden, I was hosting the shows just to, you know, take care of the shows. And I was paying these comedians out of my pocket with my day job just so we could get really good comedians in there. And, uh, it just became a comic’s club for a bunch of really great comedians from all over the country – could come into the city and work out. And it was very widely popular – ‘widely popular’? I don’t know if those are even two things that go together (laughs) – it was wildly good and very popular. And, uh, it was very successful and I did that for a while. Unfortunately, there was a – the drinking age went up from 18 to 21 and that was a real NYU kind of a place. It was called The Paper Moon. And Adam Sandler was going to NYU at the time and he would come and work out there. And Colin Quinn would work out there, and Susie Essman and Mario Cantone and Paula Poundstone and Bob Goldthwait, and all of these different folks from all over, you know, from that era. Dennis Miller would come by and work out material for Saturday Night Live at the club. So it was a pretty phenomenal place. That lasted for a while but, as a comic, I started having some success and I didn’t want to be tied down to this club because I wanted to now get out there and do some good things for myself.

Something that I thought was really interesting was, uh, your work with Reader’s Digest.

Yeah, you know, that happened by accident. They, um, because of the connection with the Letterman show oftentimes I’m asked to judge competitions which is ironic because, you know, you can’t really judge comedians. … really said it best when he says ‘I’ll give you two famous painters. Tell me who is the better one.’ But you can’t. It’s art. It’s subjective. But oddly enough, I was asked to judge this joke competition for Reader’s Digest. The host got sick or hurt – I think it was hurt – and I was forced then to be the host of the show. I worked with them, um, I, it was a thing for Reader’s Digest and, um – all of a sudden their name slips my mind. I work with them all the time! You’ll help me with this one, it’s uh, Marlo Thomas’s charity – St. Jude’s. I got it. Yes, it was St. Jude’s. I was able to figure it out myself (laughs). And I work with them a lot. I love what they do. So you know, it worked out really great and I got very close with these organizations – so much that I remember their names … uh, after prodding. But um, then I, you know, got involved, you know? And they said ‘We like what you do. Would you help us put together some more shows and be a consultant for us?’ And then they had me come in and work on their web site and read some of the jokes that came in and it’s – I’ve just had a very, very nice relationship with them. They’ve, you know, quoted me a lot and they’ve also printed some of the things that I’ve written as well.

There’s was a TV show that you did a guest spot on. I’ve always felt like this was one of the funniest TV shows on television and I tell people the name of the show – and a lot of times people seem to have forgotten it already – but that was Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist.

Oh god, yeah. That was really terrific. You know, as a little boy I was a cartoon guy and I loved cartoons and in my era, you know, I was a cartoon nut I guess. I don’t know, I’m sure people are that way now, maybe even with animé or whatever, but growing up I just loved all of the cartoons. And to be able to be in a cartoon was one fantastic thing but for them to make a cartoon of you and your voice it’s, you know, like a dream come true – like a little boy’s dream come true. And I did Dr. Katz and it got really great response. And I actually did a second one. Um, I was there recording the same day with a few other comedians who were getting ready for their next season, I think their third season, and the show didn’t get picked up so none of those shows went out. It would have been nice to do another one. It would have been really fun.

Another TV show that you’re currently associate with – The Late Show with David Letterman.

That’s right.
Tell us about how you became associated with Dave.
Well, you know, in this business, it’s really who you know. You know, you have to deliver once you get to place with who you know but Louis C.K. and Bill Scheft, a couple of guys who worked at the show, uh, I think Jeff Stilton who was there at the time as well, I think – and they had recommended me. They were looking for a warm-up and I had done some warm-up over the years. You know, nothing really major but just here and there and there. You know, I actually – Dana Carvey Show, I actually worked on Saved By The Bell for a very short time in it’s infancy and when I was out in L.A. So I’d done a few things. Well, they said they’re looking for a warm-up and I figured OK, I’ll give it a shot. They gave me a six-week trial period and in February of 2010 it’ll be now 13 years. And during the time I was there I got to, you know, get to know Dave and get to know the staff and the people there. And eventually I got moved up, in 2001, to be the stand-up comedy booker on the show which is a huge thrill. You know, nobody really in this industry has ever done that position and is also a stand-up comic. So, you know, because I am a stand-up and it was my dream to do the show, I know what it’s like for other comedians who want to do the show. And I think I’m equipped in a way that I can really help comedians out in a very good way, and treat them the way I would have wanted to be treated if I was, you know, dealing with a booker. And sometimes I’m very good at it and sometimes I’m not always great at it but I give it my best shot and try to be as approachable and as honest as you can be, as one can be in that position.

Tell us a little bit, a little bit more about what that job entails as talent coordinator. Do you listen to, like, tapes of comedians or how does that work?

Um, there are many, many ways. One of them is listening to DVDs or VHS tapes of comedians – and I get hundreds and hundreds in a very short period of time – and I have to tackle them all the time. And it works against me as a comedian a little bit because I hear so much comedy. You know, for me to be able do my own style, I have to really compartmentalize and just think do I think – and actually, my comedy has gotten better because I’m really just doing stuff that’s from my perspective. But back to the question, I do look at a bunch of stuff and I also, um, people will send me their links online. Then you know, as a comedian, I travel around the world doing shows in different places and in many of these places they’ll set up showcases for me to look at the local comics and that really is helpful. Plus, other comics will say ‘Hey Eddie” – people I respect, comics I respect will say ‘Hey Eddie, there’s, uh, a comedienne I worked with and she was great and, you know, you should look at her to put her on the show.’ Or this other person, a manager will call me and say ‘I don’t manage this guy but I saw him in a club and he’s so right for the show.’ So, you know, everyone knows everybody in the business, kind of, or, you know, and we keep each other informed so that the right people get into the right position.

And what exactly are you looking for? I mean, other than a funny person.

(Laughs) Yeah, that’s a big one! You know, laughter is good for a comedian. That’s probably number one. And, um, but no, really, honestly it’s about – we’re looking for the real artist, the real one-of-a-kinds. You know, the ‘Ray Charles’ of comedy. The soulful comics. You know, the people who really have, artists – you know, you know that there’s no other comics like that in the world. And there are, there are a smaller percentage of those kind of comedians You know – the Pryors, the Carlins, the Cosbys – those kind of guys. The Seinfelds, you know, through history the Ray Romanos, and you know, of course I’ve skipped ten thousand billion brilliant comics. The one-of-a-kinds. The ones that you remember, not because they’re famous but because they’re really great comedians. And that’s who we put on the show. We look for that. We look for that spark, that one-of-a-kind-ness you know that. But it’s gotta be smart and it’s gotta be silly. It’s gotta be a combination like that. It’s, uh, a nice you know, and – it’s not the same ‘style’ we’re looking for. We’re looking for the same kind of uniqueness and most of the time we get it right.

What do you think about David Letterman’s comedic delivery?

Oh, he’s you know, I mean, he’s just one – you know, I would consider him one of the best ever at what he does. And, you know, he’s really who he is and there’s that one-of-a-kind guy who just, you know, stood out from everybody else during that time, and he’s only gotten better and better. And you know, the only way to ever get better is to go out there and do it. Well, he’s done over 5,000 shows, you know, in late night television and in the morning. Altogether, you know, that’s a, that’s a nice little catalog of work so he’s really good at what he does, you know? He’s brilliant. And he’s a great interviewer as well and he’s a very compassionate man, and it’s, uh, you know, silly and fun and it all comes across, I believe. You know, in this business all the comedians, the real pure comedians, respect Dave the most. Not that they disrespect anybody else. I mean, there are some incredible people out there that are doing the same thing but Dave is the guy everyone looks up to. I mean, even Conan O’Brien has said it out loud ‘He is the man. He is my hero.’ And that’s what they do. And, of course, all of us including Dave’s hero, was Johnny Carson. You know, and all of those guys – the Johnny Carsons – they looked up to the Jack Paars and the Steve Allens and the Ernie Kovacs’s (laughs). And you know, it all goes – it’s generational, from one to the next. Dave is the guy of this era.

Our special guest is Eddie Brill, the warm-up comedian for The Late Show with David Letterman. I was hoping you could tell us, through your association with The Late Show, do you have a favorite memory?

You know, there are so many. There’s some of the biggest thrills of my life. I mean, again, I feel like a little boy going, you know ‘and then I got fire truck and then I got a toy boat.’ (laughs) You know, I got to meet Sophia Loren. When I was a kid, you know in my era – I’m 51 – all of the kids had Farrah Fawcett posters. I had Sophia Loren. Not … I didn’t ‘have’ her, but in my mind I did (laughter)– you know but every night I was there falling asleep with that poster. But, um, I got to meet her and be, you know, I was charmed by her. And I got to sit at the piano with Burt Bacharach and chat with him. And I got to, you know, hang out with George Carlin or Elvis Costello or talk – you know, I mean it’s, again it’s ‘I got a big truck!’ (laughs) and that’s just what I feel like – that kind of a guy. And I got to hang out with the President and I got to talk to Paul McCartney and it’s just, I mean it’s just too much fun. It’s too great and I’m just, I’m just very, very blessed.

What’s the best thing about being Eddie Brill?

(Laughs) That’s a weird, interesting question because if I thought … ‘Oh, what do I want to say about me?’ I don’t know. I mean, I’m not ashamed to say good things about myself. I know I’m very passionate about what I do. I’m a workaholic. I do so many different kinds of things. I’m involved with a lot of things. Like, I’m very involved with this comedy festival called The Great American Comedy Festival in Nebraska, in Johnny Carson’s hometown of Norfolk, Nebraska. I’m involved in both sides of the business – in front of the camera and behind the camera. You know, so that’s a big part of who I am. And I guess, I’m, you know I grew up with very, very humble beginnings and I appreciate the really cool things that have happened for me. And it’s all happened for me because I worked my tail off because I love what I do. So it’s, you know, I don’t know. I’m proud of my life. I’m really happy with the way it’s turned out, you know? Any mistakes I made along the way I don’t regret. You know, I just have to move on and learn from them and, you know, try to get better and better. And you know, I just have to make sure that I’m always true to my, you know, values and beliefs. And as long as I can do that, and get the respect and integrity of my friends, um, and peers then I’m doing OK. So those are the good things, you know. It’s a hard question to answer – but I just talked about it for an hour, I guess.

Well I have two final questions. I asked Alan Kalter this one. New York City has absolutely some of the best places you can eat.

Right.
Where do you like to eat in New York City and what do you get when you go there?
Well you know, there again, it’s like, you know ‘do you have two hours?’ We could do a whole show on this, you know. But there’s a place in the East Village that no one knows about – maybe now everyone will know, hopefully – called Café Orlin. And it’s open 24 hours on the weekend and during the week it’s open ‘til midnight, and they have breakfast ‘til 4, and it’s the most nondescript place. You gotta really find the name, which is on a glass window – it’s very hard to find. But it’s a little place that’s so humble and so unique, and the food is fantastic. There’s not one thing on the menu that’s not terrific. And it’s hardwood floors and exposed brick and always great music playing in the background and it’s very, very delicious and it’s great. But famous places that are great – I love Mesa Grill, the Bobby Flay restaurant. I did his show – you know, we didn’t get paid in cash but we got paid in a much nicer way (laughs). We got paid with dinner for two at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill and I’ve been going there ever since. Southwestern food, really great. And also, I love the Red Eye Grill which is almost in a very touristy part of town but they have some of the best seafood in New York. And there’s so many great – like I said, we can go for hours, you know? But if a tourist comes to New York City, they should ask other New Yorkers which restaurants to go to, not read out of the books and go to the tourist places because most of the tourist places are mediocre, you know, run-of-the-mill. In fact, in Times Square in New York where all the tourists are, there are no original restaurants with, you know, any flair or one-of-a-kind-ness or a uniqueness that is really New York. It’s more like Disneyworld there where there’s, you know, all these famous chain restaurants, selling processed food that, you know, all frozen stuff that comes off a truck. You know, probably every restaurant in Times Square gets the same delivery and they just put a different name on it, you know? That’s not what New York is about. If you’re gonna eat in New York, stay away from Times Square. You know, if you want to see New York, stay away – if you really want to see what New York is – stay away from Times Square (laughs).

Wow. Well, my final question for Eddie Brill. This broadcast goes out all over the world so what would you like to say to all the people who are listening in?

Hmm, OK, uh, you know – hmm. I would just say do not take life very seriously, it’s very short. And, you know, you should take risks in this world because if you do you’re going either go really high or you’re going to go really low. And you know what? If you go up and down and up and down – if you look at it like a graph, like an EKG machine – that means you’re alive. But if you don’t live life and you just take the safe way out all through the rest of your life, you might as well be dead ‘cause you’re just flat-lining, you know? So that’s my one message – to live life. And also, don’t care what it looks like when you, when you make a mistake or don’t care how it looks when you fall because, in reality, at least you’re in the game. You’re not on the sidelines pointing and judging other people. You’re in there giving it a shot. And that, I guess that would be sort of the biggest philosophy I live my life by.

Very well put. Thank you so much, Mr. Brill. It’s been a pleasure to speak to you.

It’s my pleasure Paul and good luck to you, Have a wonderful holiday.

You too. Godspeed.


TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA.

Alan Kalter: Announcer for The Late Show with David Letterman

Alan Kalter is the announcer for The Late Show with David Letterman, a role he has held for almost 20 years now.  He joined Paul for this fun talk where we meet the man behind the voice!

Ladies and gentlemen it is with great honor we present our special guest Mr. Alan Kalter, the announcer for The Late Show with David Letterman. With no further ado, I present to you Big Red, TV’s Uncle Jerry, the one and only Alan Kalter.
Hi Paul. A pleasure to be with you today.

Thank you so much. My first question: Who is Alan Kalter?
Well, um, he’s a guy who’s having a lot of fun with Dave and the people on the show for the last 15 years – going back to childhood, doing things my mother didn’t permit me to do when I was 9 or 10 years old that, uh, Dave permits me to do now – some things that I wouldn’t have even done if my mother had said OK back when I was 9 or 10.

So tell us, where are you from originally?
I’m a Brooklyn boy, um, raised in the New York City area, Connecticut, tri-state area, Long Island. And, um, my folks are from the same place. I grew up there, live in Connecticut right now, divide my time between New York and Connecticut. Two great, different worlds.

So how did you first get into the world of show business?
I was 17 years old, Paul, and a freshman at Hobart College, when I was pledging a fraternity and my fraternity brothers said ‘Now that we’ve had a few beers, how about going up to the real station’ – not at the school but in the city nearby – and auditioning?’ And I was the only one who, once we got up those steps, said ‘Yeah, I’d like to do that.’ And they said ‘Come back tomorrow.’ And I came back tomorrow and I put myself down on tape – or they put me on tape – and little did I know, they didn’t record anything on the tape because they weren’t interested in having any college students on the station. But the General Manager – this is a weird story – the General Manager happened to be going into his office that day, it was a Saturday, to pick up his wallet that he had left there the night before a fishing trip was about to start. And he heard me over the loudspeaker. And although they didn’t have anything on tape, my name and number were in security. So two days later, one of the disc jockeys – or as it turns out, the newsman – quit without giving them any notice. He called me on that number and said “Would you like to come down and work for Strauss Broadcasting?’ I was 17 years old and I did, 40 hours a week for the remainder of my three and a half years at Hobart.

I’ve been telling a couple of people over the past day, when you called you didn’t even have to say your name. I just – you have one of the most distinct voices I think I’ve ever heard. So, when did you first realize you had a vocal talent?
My dad had a phenomenal singing voice. Just great. He used to sing at all the parties. He used to sing in the car and, as kids who try to shut your ears when your folks possibly sing in the front seat loud, we loved it. It was just great. And I think I have his voice. Um, I like to sing, I like to talk. I didn’t think I’d be going into this profession but it’s done a lot of good things for me and I’m very appreciative.

Now you just mentioned, you said ‘I didn’t think I would go into this profession.’ Could you imagine doing anything other than this?
Well, I was a teacher for a short time. When I left college I went to law school for two years, a year and a half, and then went into teaching and, uh, did not go back to law school, although I expected to because I envisioned myself, um, fighting for the rights of the unfortunate in criminal court. Uh, I never went back. I absolutely loved teaching. I taught high school, 12th grade out in Long Island in New York area and, um, at the same time I was, I had been through college, through those three and a half years of college and through the law school and into teaching, I was still doing radio. I was doing, um, a show on WTFM in the afternoons, which was just outside New York City, and I was doing morning news for WHN radio. But after three and a half years of teaching – thinking I would be a teacher for the rest of my life – when that HN job opened up, and that was a big 50,000 watt station, I took the job, left teaching and I, uh, have never regretted it. Loved radio too.

Our special guest is Alan Kalter, the announcer for The Late Show with David Letterman. I have to ask you, how did you become associated with David Letterman?
David was, is, he’s a very smart guy and he used to do the game show circuit. His producer, Robert Morton – this was in ’94, ’95 – um, actually wanted me to come up and see if I could do the show, see if David liked me, and see if it wouldn’t be a good gel. This was almost a year after he moved over to CBS from NBC. And um, Morty liked what he heard and David liked what he heard. And, uh, I had known David – I had met him when he was a guest on Pyramid. I was doing the last year and a half of Pyramid when it was on the air from New York City, and that was the beginning. That was ’95. At the time I was doing a lot of commercials and, uh, and going around the country doing commercials, doing ‘real people’ commercials for television. And when I came home and I said I was offered the job as the announcer on The Late Show, I told my wife I wasn’t sure if I really I wanted it because it would really rock the boat on those commercials I was doing around the country. I wouldn’t be able to go away for three or four days at a time whenever I wanted to, to do that work. And my kids, who were in high school at the time, sort of immediately in chorus said ‘Dad this is the first cool thing you’ve ever done in your life. Take it!’ (Laughs) So I took it. And it’s been a pleasure, really. It’s been a ball. It’s been just great!

When you first met David Letterman, what was your first impression of him?
My first impression? Um, I thought he was very smart because the first time I met him he was on Pyramid and he was very, very quick. Uh, he was also someone who was a thinker ‘cause you could tell any time he was talking to you that he was thinking. And he was a listener. And he still is to this day. Uh, he’s a great listener when he interviews the guests on the show, as you can tell. He’s also a good listener if you meet him in the hall or if he sits down with you and says ‘What’s new?’ He listens to everything you say and then asks the appropriate questions.

Wow, very insightful. He definitely is. He seems like, uh, when you know, when people list famous interviewers I feel like he’s left out a lot in the list of the greats. Now, you’ve been with The Late Show with David Letterman for quite some time. Do you have a favorite memory from the show?
All of them are favorite memories. And I don’t say that because I want to avoid any answers or because it would take a long time to think of good people. But I’m often asked ‘What’s your favorite memory?’ or ‘Who’s your favorite guest?’ or ‘Who have you laughed at the most?’ and ‘Who is the nicest?’ and ‘Who have you been surprised about?’. The people that come to the show that are the biggest stars – and we get the biggest stars – are so down to earth and so nice. It’s almost, it’s almost, um, that’s the big surprise. You expect the ego to be that big – and there has to be a lot of ego there because there has to be a lot of confidence. They know what they do, they’ve been paid for it, they’ve been lauded for it. But those egos are, to me, the smallest ones. They’re the nicest people. They’re willing to talk to anybody that comes up to them and says ‘We like what you do and we admire it.’

What kind of music did you grow up listening to?
Uh, in high school I had a friend who was a jazz aficionado so I like jazz. And, of course, I like rock and I loved the Beatles and, um, Van Morrison, and Crosby Stills and Nash and Young, U2, Police, a lot of those groups. Developed a good taste for country when I was working for WHN radio because we turned country in the ‘70s, in the mid- late ‘70s. Uh, and we were a 50,000 watt station and I was doing all the interviews at the time. So they sent me down to Nashville to talk to the people that were, um, the top people in country. A 50,000 watt New York station – finally, New York coming on the line for country music. And I didn’t know music at all. I was saying ‘Loretta who? Who? Who am I going to talk to next?’ (Laughs) And it was kind of silly. But when I left Nashville after four or five days, and was really engrossed in what Nashville was all about – the music and I went to all of the shows, I listened to as much music as I could that week – I developed a love for it and, um, for the groups as well as the single entertainers. And today I listen to Alabama. I still listen to Tim McGraw, Delbert McClinton if you consider him country. And, um, we had a guy on the show a number of months ago that I thought was magnificent, just terrific – Jamey Johnson. And I listened to, um, his CD and became a Jamey Johnson fan. That’s country. And I listen to rock. I love alternative music. Um, some, we had on – I don’t know if you know her, Paul, but Melody Gardot?
Don’t know that one, no.
She’s fantastic! As a writer, as a producer, and as a singer. Patty Larkin has been a big favorite of mine through the years. Um, Susan Werner, one of my all-time favorites doing alternate music – Julliard trained and a great voice and a great writer of music. And in the popular vein, you know, the Lyle Lovetts and Damien Rice and Diana Krall, Phoebe Snow, Jimmy Buffett. Still listen to jazz – Coldplay, Nickleback. Like rock. Not as much into rap as some people I know but when it’s good and the entertainer is really good, it’s fine with me. Like, I love the lyrics of – I know you talk to a lot of composers – and I am a, uh, a big fan of Paul Williams who has been writing music now for what, for 35, 40 years? And still writes. And every beautiful, beautiful love song you can think of could be a Paul Williams song or is a Paul Williams song. And he’s still writing today. I still look for his music and his lyrics.

Our special guest is Alan Kalter, the announcer for The Late Show with David Letterman. You certainly are an eclectic gentleman with that long list of musicians. And, like you said, there have been some very iconic musicians who have appeared on the show. I want to ask you about a recent concert that was done on top of the, uh, marquee of the Ed Sullivan Theater with Paul McCartney. Did you see that concert?
(Laughs) Yes. Are you talking about Paul McCartney?

Yeah, definitely.
Oh, wow. That’s all I can say – wow. We had two concerts up there. I believe, I believe Phish was the other group that sang from the marquee and McCartney was next. It was a happening in New York. You couldn’t move through those streets of Broadway and every place I went for the next three or four hours after the show – downtown New York, uptown on the west side – there were people there at different tables that were talking about Paul McCartney and did you hear about this event in New York City. It was great and he was great.

Absolutely amazing. Now, you mentioned rap a second ago and you said you’re not the biggest fan of rap, and I’m not really that keen on rap either, but one of the funniest skits I’ve seen is when you do the songs. Like when you did, uh, Don’t You Think Your Girlfriend Is Hot Like Me? with Alan Chez on trumpet.
(Laughs) Maybe that’s the reason I’m not that crazy about rap because that’s what they have me do. Uh, yeah, I love doing those songs. And if you go back a little ways to the popular music when I was singing it on the show, my brother and I were the twins that used to sing songs. We haven’t done that for three or four years but there were about a dozen times when ‘Rick and Alan’ would get together and sing the songs of yesteryear, and usually with Paul’s band. That was a lot of fun, too.

Well, if you could answer, what skit that you’ve been in have you found the funniest?
My favorite thing to do is talk to the ladies. And that’s when I turn from Dave and I say ‘Dave, can I take this minute to talk to …?’ and it’s usually to the lady that just, uh, the woman who just got divorced or who just left her husband or was just, just left –boyfriend just left her. And I would turn to her, I’d talk to the main camera and I’d say something about why I want to help you out of this difficult condition. And then I would turn to a side camera and the lights would go low, and Paul would play very romantic jazzy music, and I tell her what I would do – what Big Red would do – for her in a bedroom that her former could not. Those are, to me, very funny. Those are the ones that almost have me laughing. Not quite, but I almost break up when I’m doing them. And that’s usually due to the great writing on the show, ‘cause they’ve got some writers there who are just out of their gourd.

I’m glad that you mentioned that because that happens to be my favorite skit. I lost it when you were doing the, what you would do for Dina Lohan, Lindsay Lohan’s – when you said ‘What’s crackin’ Mommy?’ I just lost it the moment I heard you say that (laughs). But, uh, just to kind of, just to know – I mean, what do you see yourself doing when and if The Late Show ever came to an end?
Honestly, Paul? I think I’m going to be playing a lot of golf. A lot of golf, which is, for me, my therapy. And anyone who doesn’t go to a therapist has a therapist in one way or another. That sport is my therapy. I just love being on the golf course. I would continue doing voice-overs and commercials, shows if somebody wants me but, uh, this has been just wonderful. It’s lasted much longer than I thought it would last and, uh, I can see retirement on that golf course. I don’t think I’m going to get any better (laughs) as a golfer but I’m going to try.

Well, is there someone on the show that you feel closer to? In the band or …?
Well, speaking of golf Al Chez, the trumpeter, and I have had a running match for the last probably five, six or seven years against Bruce Kapler, who is the saxophonist, and Anton Fig, the drummer. And, uh, it’s pretty, it’s pretty intense. Right now Al and I hold the trophy. We move the trophies back and forth on a whim and we play three or four times a year during the summer and, um, those guys are good. A lot of fun to play with. And the band itself, uh, very close to all the members of the band. Uh, Fig’s – he’s just top-notch. And Bruce and Al are great. These guys that – Will Lee has been around probably playing records, background records, or featured in records or main soloist in records for longer than, or more than, most of the other people in the band and still a great guy. Tom “Bones” Malone – can’t find a nicer person. Same with Sid. Felicia Collins is adorable. She’s lovely, she’s talented, she’s great to be around. And Paul Shaffer holds it all together and Paul’s a very down-to-earth person. I like him very much. As well as a wizard at what he does and a genius in what he does.

Absolutely. If you could put it into words, what is it you like about show business?
My favorite thing in show business is, on The Late Show, is the fact that we do a different show every night and it’s always surprising. Because it’s not totally scripted, there’s very little script in it outside of a Top 10 or a monologue, we don’t know which way Dave’s going, we don’t know which way we’re going. We write things, the writers write things – sometimes as we’re performing. Two minutes before, uh, a set, two minutes before the commercial goes on or goes off, I’m told ‘You’re going to this, this is the camera you’re going to face, the cards will be in front of you.’ And Tony Mendez puts those cards in front of us. And I know I speak for not only myself but for Biff Henderson and for, uh, Pat Farmer and all of the cast and crew of The Late Show when I say that. It’s just a joy. It’s a great, it’s a great hour that keeps us laughing at the end of the day, no matter how the day has gone, Paul.

Very well said. I have two final questions before we go. New York City has some of the best restaurants in the world. So, where do you like to eat in New York City and what do you get when you go there?
My favorite restaurant to go to is Caffe Ciello. It’s right near the theater, about a block away between 52nd and 53rd on 8th Avenue. It’s Italian. It has the best, in my opinion, the best puttanesca sauce that I’ve ever eaten anywhere. And that tops everything. And when I go there I get a warm welcome, the band is there many times, Paul comes in and says hello. It’s friendly to everybody and it’s in the heart of the action where all the shows are.

Well, my final question for our special guest, Alan Kalter, the announcer for The Late Show with David Letterman. This broadcast goes out all over the world so my final question to you: What would you like to say to all the people that are listening in?
Well, first of all, thank you for continuing to laugh and for tuning in. Without the fans we wouldn’t be where we are today and I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today. The fans have been absolutely great. The ones who come to the show couldn’t be finer, couldn’t be nicer people, couldn’t be nicer to me. And the people who watch on TV, when they talk to me and I see them around the country and around the world, they always have great compliments. They compliment the members of the cast and myself, and especially Dave. I don’t think I ever walk away from any encounter with anybody who’s ever watched The Late Show where they haven’t said ‘Please say hello to Dave for me.’ Not ‘Please say hello to Mr. Letterman.’ or ‘David Letterman.’ ‘Please say hello to Dave for me and thank him for the great job that he does and for the entertainment for so many years on late at night.’ I’m just so pleased to be a part of it.

TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA