September 13th, 2015
03:10 PM ET

Dick Cavett on politics and late night TV: "...it's damn good for a politician to go on and get a laugh on late night. And people immediately think, I like him better than I ever did before, or her, we must add.”

Today on CNN’s Reliable Sources, Dick Cavett, former host of The Dick Cavett Show, joined anchor, Brian Stelter to review the first week of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

For more information, see http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com. A video, text highlights, and a transcript of the discussion are below.

MANDATORY CREDIT for reference and usage: “CNN’s RELIABLE SOURCES”

VIDEO:

Dick Cavett reviews Stephen Colbert's debut

TEXT HIGHLIGHTS:

Former host of The Dick Cavett Show, Dick Cavett, on whether he still believes Stephen Colbert is perfect for late night television: “Absolutely.  Let's just face it.  Colbert has everything that's needed, looks, brains, ability to talk, well-informed, and a lightning wit.  And, really, that and a couple other things, maybe his ability to dance, make him a perfect host for the show.”

Cavett on whether Colbert will perform as a serious journalist toward his presidential candidate guests: “…my guess is that it will be more of a news show that would - as they shake the show down - and we have seen his skill in sketches and comedy stuff.  He does it all well. But my guess is - and I don't mean to name-drop by saying that I know him, but he is a wonderful conversationalist.  And my guess is that those parts of the show will expand.”

Cavett on humor being valuable to political guests on late night television: “Yes, that's what's valuable about it, yes.  And we're lucky to have two excellent guys like Colbert and Fallon.  And let's not forget the excellent other Jimmy. …And, you know, we're lucky today, because, in the old days, you had - people would switch back from me to Jack to whatever, to Johnny, to - now you can see both of them, or all three of them, with our new techniques.  So that's a plus.  And it's damn good for a politician to go on and get a laugh on late night.  And people immediately think, I like him better than I ever did before, or her, we must add.”

Cavett gives advice to Stephen Colbert: “Only advice would be to keep doing it, and let us see more and more of you talking, because he is so good.  And he is not the type who will let a politician get away with B.S.  If there were a politician foolish enough to say, I can solve the border problem, Colbert will say, you're not leaving here until you tell us how, or words to that effect.”

FULL TRANSCRIPT:

THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Let's talk about that with Emmy Award winning talk show host, Dick Cavett.  He joins me now.  He’s also the author of the book Brief Encounters: Conversation, Magic Moments and Assorted Hijinks.  It’s out in paperback next month.  Mr. Cavett, thank you so much for being here this morning.

DICK CAVETT, TALK SHOW HOST:  Well, I was in the neighborhood.   So, it’s OK.

STELTER:  Perfect, it’s very convenient.  I asked you more than a year ago on the show if you thought the decision to have Colbert host the show was a gamble.  Here is what you said back then.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAVETT:  If they are, it's probably the best gamble anybody ever took.  I can't think of anybody more qualified or if there ever has been anyone more qualified -

STELTER:  Wow.

CAVETT: ...to do this show.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER:  Now you have seen the first week.  So, do you still agree?  Is it true?

CAVETT:  Absolutely.  Let's just face it.  Colbert has everything that's needed, looks, brains, ability to talk, well-informed, and a lightning wit.  And, really, that and a couple other things, maybe his ability to dance, make him a perfect host for the show.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVETT:  By the way, politicians on the show is - can be a deadly game.

STELTER:  Oh, yes?

CAVETT:  I had the late Spiro Agnew on one time, and the show went right through the floor to the center of the earth from boredom.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVETT:  And the idea that it's an X-ray camera scares some politicians.  The hell it is.  I have sat next to the biggest phonies in the world, and the camera did not detect it.

STELTER:  Tell us who the single biggest phony was.

CAVETT:  Ah, let's see.  It probably - well, it's such a difficult choice.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVETT:  One was the segregationist governor Lester Maddox, who said I had called all the people in Georgia bigots and threatened to walk off.  So, I said, well, if I called anyone a bigot who is not a bigot, I apologize, and he walked off.  But he was a pretty lively guest.  Some of them are just - put you into the ground.

STELTER:  Huh. Well, let's look at the calendar for the next two weeks of late night.  Here are some of the political guests that are coming up, Martin O'Malley on Seth Meyers, Hillary Clinton on Fallon, Bernie Sanders on Colbert.  Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is going to be on Colbert's show.  I think that is really interesting.  Then, the following week, we see Trump is going to be on with Colbert, Ted Cruz on with Colbert.  Let me read you something that Justice Breyer said to National Justice.  The interview came out this morning.

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER:  He talked about why he said yes to Colbert.  And he said - quote - "He has a serious news show.  He is more interested in news.  It's not a comedy show in particular." What do you make of that idea that Colbert might be not a fake newsman on Comedy Central anymore; he might actually be performing some acts of journalism on his late-night show with these candidates?

CAVETT:  Well, my guess is that it will be more of a news show that would - as they shake the show down - and we have seen his skill in sketches and comedy stuff.  He does it all well. But my guess is - and I don't mean to name-drop by saying that I know him, but he is a wonderful conversationalist.  And my guess is that those parts of the show will expand.  And Donald Trump, is it - he's having on?

STELTER:  Oh, yes, a couple weeks from now.

CAVETT:  Yes.  Well, I can wait.

(LAUGHTER)

STELTER:  You can wait.  So you will wait. So, you didn't watch him on Fallon on Friday night?  Trump was on Fallon.  He was hilarious.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVETT:  Yes, he handled himself very well.  He really has the ability to do that.  I have got to say that for sure.  And it's good for them to appear there, instead of on some of the dreariness of Sunday morning, what the writer Calvin Trillin called the Sabbath gasbags.

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER:  Excuse me.  Did you just say dreariness of Sunday morning?

CAVETT:  I did, because it can lapse into the dreary.  However, because of all the brilliant hosts who are all dear friends of mine, it rarely does.

(LAUGHTER)

STELTER:  You saved yourself there.  I will take that.  I will take that.

CAVETT:  I tried.

STELTER:  But, you know, Trump was on - Trump was on Fallon. They had that scripted sketch I thought was pretty well done.  And we showed that the - it showed that Trump can actually maybe laugh at himself a little bit.  Isn't that ultimately the value of these guys going on late night?

CAVETT:  Yes, that - that's what's valuable about it, yes.  And we're lucky to have two excellent guys like Colbert and Fallon.  And let's not forget the excellent other Jimmy.

STELTER:  That's right.

CAVETT:  And - yes.  And, you know, we're lucky today, because, in the old days, you had - people would switch back from me to Jack to whatever, to Johnny, to - now you can see both of them, or all three of them, with our new techniques.  So that's a plus.  And it's damn good for a politician to go on and get a laugh on late night.  And people immediately think, I like him better than I ever did before, or her, we must add.  I hope that they just...

STELTER:  Any advice for Colbert after you have seen one week of his shows?

CAVETT:  Say that again.

STELTER:  Any advice for Colbert now that you have seen the first week of his shows, anything he can improve on?

CAVETT:  Only advice would be to keep doing it, and let us see more and more of you talking, because he is so good.  And he is not the type who will let a politician get away with B.S.  If there were a politician foolish enough to say, I can solve the border problem, Colbert will say, you're not leaving here until you tell us how, or words to that effect.

STELTER:  Well, that interview will be on September 22, Trump with Colbert.  It will also be interesting to see Clinton on Fallon this week.  Dick Cavett, always a pleasure to have you here.  Thank you.

CAVETT:  Have me back.

(LAUGHTER)

STELTER:  Let's - I will set a date during the commercial break here.

###END INTERVIEW###

 


Topics: Brian Stelter • CNN • Reliable Sources
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