Michael J. Fox Screwed Me on Letterman




I have been to the David Letterman “Late Show” theatre twice. Once as an audience member, which was great. While in line, the audience producers give some direction about what works and what doesn’t on camera…








…For instance, clapping and laughing is picked up well in the microphones. But “whooing” does not. The frequency just sounds ugly on air.

The pre-show warm-up for the audience is unlike any other show. Long time warm up comic, Eddie Brill hosts a show all his own with Letterman highlight clips, music, and then introduces Paul and the Band, who come out and play a few songs. It’s like a fast-paced rock concert.

The audience is wired when, out of nowhere, about three minutes to show time, Dave walks out without a jacket. Everyone loses their shit. He laughs and casually leans against a camera right over the front row and starts chatting about anything and everything on his mind. Then he says, “Okay we’re gonna start. Have a good time and I’ll see you in a minute.” The opening theme starts and a minute later he walks out with his jacket on and we already feel like we know him personally.

The second time I went to the Ed Sullivan Theater was as a “plant” in the front row. I had been called a day prior to perform in a sketch. We rehearsed with the producer around 4:00 p.m. on show day, two hours before the audience was let in.
My bit was scheduled for segment two. But Michael J. Fox’s segment was going long, because he was updating everyone on his Parkinson’s disease. I was told to sit tight as they planned to move things around to insert the sketch in segment three. After another segment ended, it was clear I was bumped and Michael J. Fox was still droning on.

Jesus Christ. I’m sitting there thinking, “You were diagnosed like fifteen years ago! WE KNOW! What about my bit, you sonofabitch!” For the record, I like Michael J. Fox very much.

I sold a few jokes and Top Ten lists to Letterman. But I was never working in the offices. Like many comics not on staff, my material had to be faxed in. I watched the jokes being done while at home like everyone else.

I did learn a few things while on the inside. Self-admittedly not being in the comedy scene for years, Dave has allegedly developed a weird philosophy on what works and what doesn’t. For instance, he doesn’t want Canadians on the main floor of the theater because he had a bad experience once and feels they don’t “get” him. Buddy Hackett did that too. He had the box office seat the audience based on age and background demographics that he pre-determined.

I haven’t enjoyed Dave for quite a few years now. But I check in here and there out of loyalty. When he was putting cameras on monkeys, dressing Oscar winning actors in bunny suits, or interrupting live broadcasts in adjacent studios, I was in love with him. In recent years, he’s just phoned it in and developed this “lame duck” persona that used to be funny when a joke didn’t fly. Now all the jokes are set up that way. He has, however, become a terrific interviewer when he’s truly interested.

So in closing, Michael J. Fox still has Parkinson’s.


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