Dick Cavett
In Brief Encounters: Conversations, Magic Moments, and Assorted Hijinks, quick-witted talk show host Dick Cavett dishes on some of the famous people he’s interviewed: There’s much ado about Marlene Dietrich, Groucho, Carson and the Burtons, Jonathan Winters, Mel Brooks and Stan Laurel. Brief Encounters, taken from Cavett’s online columns for The New York Times, offers piquant commentary on contemporary politics, the indignities of travel, the nature of comedy writing and the utter improbability of being alive at all. We’ll ask him about his career and his writing life on Kirkus TV this week.


KIRKUS REVIEW

TV’s once-reigning, smarty-pants talk show host presents his thoughts on some problems, performers and a few civilians he’s known.

The very model of a quick-witted interviewer, Cavett follows Talk Show: Confrontations, Points of Commentary, and Off-Screen Secrets (2010) with more of his New York Times online columns. The author remembers working as a gag writer for famed comedians and recalls the Broadway badinage and smart repartee that marked the well-regarded Dick Cavett Show. There’s much ado about Groucho, Carson and the Burtons, Jonathan Winters, Mel Brooks and Stan Laurel, not forgetting the great Fat Jack Leonard. The author’s standard description of the truly talented is “great.” Often with good reason, Cavett liberally applies the encomium to renowned folk like Dietrich, Tracy, Kaufman, the portrayer of “Uncle Junior,” his own agent and Yale’s famed a cappella group, the Whiffenpoofs. The author uses the jester’s shtick of a muttered one-liner wrapped in parentheses. Then there’s the overly frequent mention of Cavett’s alma mater—Yale, of course, a fact readers won’t be allowed to forget, even as the text may wander off topic while the author digs into his archives and ruminates. Revelations include a rare adventure with booze and a monumental hangover. Cavett also confesses, as a lad in Nebraska, to a bit of mischievous rascality and a healthy interest in sex. More shocking: He was a fan of Nancy Drew. Naturally, the author on the small screen was more winning than Cavett is on the printed page. Though not exactly the great Alistair Cooke or Garrison Keillor, this light entertainment will please the many Cavett and Yale fans. Lifelong fan Jimmy Fallon provides the foreword.

A skilled second banana still works the crowd effectively.


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