Thursday, March 22, 2007

Late Night Laughs

I spent much of my high school and college years amazed by the way that LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN was revolutionizing television. Those of you only familiar with the CBS-ized Letterman of the LATE SHOW reign have only seen a watered-down version of the man, not the guy who challenged his viewers and changed the rules of TV talk shows. Not that Letterman isn't still a marvelous broadcaster on occasion--he certainly is when he's in the mood--but during the 1980's, a time in which NBC's prime-time lineup had to struggle just to stay a respectable third place, he and Johnny Carson were responsible for the most entertaining late-night lineup in television history.

Calvert DeForest passed away this week at the age of 85. As "Larry 'Bud' Melman," DeForest was part of LATE NIGHT's coterie of supporting players and the most unusual, mainly because you could never be quite sure how much of Melman was schtick and how much was DeForest's own personality. I'm not sure we'll ever know. What we do know is that, intentionally or not, he was funny.

There's nothing I could write that would improve upon Ken Cancelosi's piece, "The Last Amateur," over at Matt Zoller Seitz's blog, The House Next Door. Not only will you read a nice tribute to DeForest, but you can also click links to some of his best bits, including the night he had Dave practically crying from laughter. Enjoy.

1 comment:

Robert said...

I hate to say it but I thought he'd passed on years back.

My earliest memories of seeing him on the show were the faux black & white "Melman Bus Lines" ads that LATE NIGHT used to run not long after it initially began to air. It was always fun to see him turn up, doing things like trying to interview people at the airport but continually moving the microphone away at the wrong time, or playing Santa Claus and attempting to read a foreign-language edition of "Twas The Night Before Christmas". He just seemed like such an innocent personality.

Dave sent him off on a motorhome trip once that ended very prematurely when it became obvious to Letterman that the schedule had fatigued and disheartened DeForest. I also seem to recall reading when the real identity of TV's Larry "Bud" Melman became known it cost him his day job, after which Letterman promised DeForest wouldn't have anything to worry about.