23 Things David Letterman Invented for Our Amusement

BY Roger Cormier, Mental Floss

This week, nearly three years after bidding farewell to Late Night, David Letterman is making his triumphant return to the small screen via Netflix with My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman (where he’ll interview two people who need no introduction: Barack Obama and George Clooney). If the series is anything like Letterman’s career thus far, you can expect plenty of innovation.

Here are 23 recurring bits, features, and moments that the former Indiana weatherman (and his writers) invented for our amusement.

1. THE SHORT, NON-TOPICAL MONOLOGUE

Carson Productions, as in Johnny Carson’s production company, co-produced Late Night with David Letterman, and as the upcoming lead-out programming for The Tonight Show, it was important to Carson’s people that Letterman not copy Carson. Letterman’s people were told that among other things, they couldn’t have a sidekick sitting next to the host like Ed McMahon, a band with horns like Doc Severinsen’s, or a monologue. So instead, Letterman opened his show by standing in front of the audience and viewers at home with “opening remarks,” a monologue consisting of just one or two jokes with weird imagery, like tattoos melting in warm weather.

2. POST-INTERVIEW INTERVIEWS

On February 3, 1982—his third-ever broadcast—Late Night conducted two interviews with baseball hall-of-famer Hank Aaron: One was a standard talk show back-and-forth between host and guest. The other occurred after that conversation ended, where NBC Sports reporter Al Albert (son of Marv Albert) asked Aaron how he felt his last few minutes with Letterman went, with the idea that it was the equivalent of a post-game interview.

3. STUPID PET TRICKS

“Stupid Pet Tricks” began on Letterman’s short-lived but Emmy-winning morning show, and was a consistently popular segment on both Late Night and The Late Show. The idea came from original head writer Merrill Markoe, who “remembered how in college my friends and I would be hanging around in the evenings, talking, and drinking. One form of constant entertainment was to put socks on this one dog. Everyone I knew did some version of a silly thing like that with their pets, so we ran an ad to see if we could pull a segment together like that.”

4. WORLD’S LARGEST VASE CONTESTS

After questioning people who claimed to have the “world’s largest vase” over the phone in what New York Magazine described as a “longish” segment, the vase was brought into the studio and displayed on Late Night from May 30 through June 2, 1983. On its third night, a 35-inch radio transmitting tower was added to the case when it was discovered that it was shorter than one in Canada. On its final night of national exhibition, Letterman read alleged letters from children addressed to the Vase, and the vase “spoke” to wish for peace for mankind.

5. CATCHPHRASE CONTESTS

Two on-air catchphrase contests, which aired a little over a month apart in the summer of 1984, gave lucky studio audiences the power to make “They pelted us with rocks and garbage” the first rallying cry, before it was displaced by “I do and do and do for you kids, and this is the thanks I get!”

6. A CAMERA FROM THE HOST’S P.O.V.

The February 15, 1982 installment of Late Night began with one continuous five minute and 17 second take through Letterman’s P.O.V. called “Dave Cam.” Cameos included that night’s guest Andy Rooney, Merrill Markoe, and Calvert DeForest, who played Larry “Bud” Melman on Late Night, as “Bert the Human Caboose.”

7. A CAMERA FROM THE GUEST’S P.O.V.

Letterman favorite Tom Hanks was the first wearer of the “Late Night Guest-Cam.” Hanks was on the show the night of December 12, 1985 to promote The Money Pit, which was initially supposed to debut the next day, but would be delayed until the following March. “The Late Night Sky-Cam” makes a cameo.

8. A CAMERA FROM A MONKEY’S P.O.V.

After a false start with a 30-year-old chimp named Bo, who was too small to handle the camera, “Monkey Cam” got its start on March 19, 1986. Zippy, who was on the cover of The Ramones’ Animal Boy album, would return on roller skates with the “Late Night Monkey Cam Mobile Unit.”

9. PURPOSELY FUNNY TOP 10 LISTS

The very first Top Ten—“The Top Ten Things That Almost Rhyme With Peas”—aired on September 18, 1985, as a satire of the random lists publications like Good Housekeeping were starting to produce at the time. Credit for who thought up the idea for Late Night is disputed; over the years, head writer Steve O’Donnell, former head writer and longtime SNL scribe Jim Downey, Late Night writer Randy Cohen, and producer Robert Morton have all gotten some or all of the credit. Top Ten made it to the end of Late Show’s run, even though the writers were already tiring of it by the February 6, 1986 show, which had the Top Ten list “Top Ten Reasons to Continue the Top Ten Lists Just a Little Longer.”

10. WEARING SUITS OF VELCRO, ALKA-SELTZER, MAGNETS, SPONGES, SUET, AND FOODS

On February 28, 1984, Letterman slipped into a “Suit of Velcro” and ushered in an era of strange outfits including a magnet get-up, which Letterman wore to attach himself to a huge GE fridge. Lowering himself into a 1000-gallon tank of water, Letterman’s suit of Alka-Seltzer fizzed and vaporized. There were also suits of suet, marshmallows, chips, and Rice Krispies, the latter of which made David “snap, crackle, and pop” in a large tub of milk. An influence was Steve Allen, the original host of The Tonight Show, who threw himself into Jell-O vats on television. Allen’s “Man on the Street” interviews were also something Letterman took to new levels of absurdity.

11. HOSTING A SHOW ABOARD AN AIRPLANE

Late Night’s fourth anniversary was celebrated onboard a flight from New York City to Miami.

12. AN EPISODE THAT ROTATES 360 DEGREES

Writers Randy Cohen and Kevin Curran came up with the unique way to celebrate the 800th episode of Late Night. NBC received “several hundred” phone calls about the December 9, 1986 show from viewers complaining that it was giving them headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Carson Productions executives were apparently not informed of the stunt beforehand and were reportedly “furious.”

13. FEUDING WITH BRYANT GUMBEL

After Letterman interrupted an August 19, 1985 broadcast of Today co-hosted by Bryant Gumbel, Gumbel called out the Late Night host for being “unprofessional” and didn’t publicly forgive him for four years. (Letterman claimed it was a Today producer who invited him to pull the stunt.)

14. FEUDING WITH OPRAH WINFREY

In the 16 years between Oprah’s 1989 appearance on Late Night and her December 1, 2005 Late Show interview, rumors swirled about a feud between Winfrey and Letterman. The reasons why—and even if—there was a “feud” at all remain unclear.

15. CO-HOSTING AN EPISODE WITH A CORNY MORNING SHOW THEME

On February 27, 1985, Letterman shared hosting duties with “Tawny Harper Reynolds,” with guests Michael Palin, a Pet Psychic, and an exercise segment with Carol Channing.

16. AN HOUR-LONG PARODY OF 1970s PRIMETIME VARIETY SHOWS

“Dave Letterman’s Summertime Sunshine Happy Hour” graced the NBC airwaves on the night of August 29, 1985. Early in his TV career, Letterman wrote and was a part of the cast of The Starland Vocal Band Show.

17. AN HOUR-LONG PARODY OF CHRISTMAS SPECIALS

December 19, 1984’s “Christmas With the Lettermans,” featuring Pat Boone, won Late Night a 1985 Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Variety, Music or Comedy Program.

18. “CUSTOM-MADE” SHOWS

On November 15, 1983, Late Night relinquished control of the show to the audience, giving them a choice on everything from the furniture to the theme song. On March 27, 1984’s version, the show opened with the theme to Bonanza, the announcer was the New York Lieutenant Governor, and Jane Pauley was interviewed in a dentist’s chair.

19. DUBBING A RERUN FROM ENGLISH TO ENGLISH

When the February 17, 1986 episode re-aired on September 25th of that year, 250 confused viewers called the network. After 60 hours and four professional dubbers, everyone on the episode (Raquel Welch was the main guest) magically had different voices. Even Letterman’s voice was dubbed (by Speed Racer‘s Peter Fernandez).

20. 4 A.M. SHOWS

May 14, 2004’s Late Show was taped at four in the morning, on purpose. Amy Sedaris, rat expert Robert Sullivan, and Modest Mouse were the guests. Letterman rode a horse, Sedaris gave an unsafe late night tour of her neighborhood, and Modest Mouse played in their pajamas.

21. DEDICATING MOST OF AN EPISODE TO A DECEASED COMEDIAN AND HIS FAMILY

Letterman invited Bill Hicks’s mother, Mary, to appear on the January 30, 2009 episode to apologize face-to-face for not airing Hicks’s controversial October 1, 1993, stand-up performance. In February of 1994, Hicks passed away from pancreatic cancer at age 32. After talking to Mary, Letterman finally presented Bill’s set.

22. DEDICATING AN ENTIRE EPISODE TO A COMEDY HERO

On the first new Late Show after Johnny Carson’s passing, Letterman’s monologue was filled with jokes that the retired Carson had anonymously submitted to David over the years. Long-time The Tonight Show executive producer Peter Lassally and bandleader Doc Severinsen were that night’s only guests.

23. THE ‘WILL IT FLOAT?’ GAME

The first installment of “Will It Float?” was on February 6, 2002. A brick of Velveeta cheese sank. Dave got it right, whereas Paul got it wrong.

Why Is It So Hard to Fall Asleep?

You might think you’re weird because you have trouble falling asleep, but insomnia is way too common. To know how to fix it, you have to know what’s causing the problem. And to understand the problem, we need to learn something about sleep itself.

You already knew about caffeine, but who knew that bacon and eggs for a late super could interfere with sleep? taking time to wind down is a problem for me. When it’s already the wee hours of the morning when I finish work, and I know I’ll be back up at five, who wants to take time to wind down? That’s because I don’t have trouble falling asleep; I just having trouble finding time for sleep. -via Laughing Squid

Epic Fails of Toy Design

We’ve seen our share of crappy design, but store shelves are so abundant with them, there’s always more to poke fun at. For example, toys. They’re usually designed and made by adults, so you’d expect a considerable amount of consideration before manufacturing them, right? Well, not so much. Bored Panda has collected some of the most questionable toys to prove that some designers have no clue what they’re doing.

From a doll head, used as an actual pony tail to a psychotic Elmo, it seems ridiculous someone actually greenlighted these ideas. We’re pretty sure, however, that the employees who did had a ‘long talk’ with their bosses after the fact. Scroll down to check out what we mean and vote for the ones that made you cringe the most.

More at Bored Panda – here!

Weird Things From History That Prove The World’s Always Been Crazy

Oh what, you thought the 21st century invented weird things? Nope, it’s Weird Things all the way down! They just teach you the boring necessary stuff in school and leave out all of the juicy details. If you lived a hundred years ago you’d be shaking your fist just as much. Of course, they didn’t have Twitter back then so you would probably have to read the funny papers more often.

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via acidcow

Tacky Tattoo Typos That Have Really Left Their Mark

Tacky tattoos last forever, but once they’re out of sight they’re out of mind. But tattoo typos stick in your brain forever. You just can’t stop thinking: did they not know how to spell the word they wanted on their body forever? Or was it the tattoo artist? Why don’t they just use a spellchecker really quick just in case? Of course, there’s the slim possibility that they tattoo typos on their body on purpose as a way to troll people or start conversations. And if anyone has really done that, then we kind of love them.

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via ebaumsworld

The Beatles Go To Hamburg

a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

“I was born in Liverpool, but I grew up in Hamburg”

-John Lennon

In August of 1960, a young and struggling group of teenage musicians from Liverpool often hung out, and played occasional gigs, at a club called the Jacaranda. By this time, after many changes, the group had finally decided to call themselves “the Beatles.” The Jacaranda was run by a small-time promoter and hustler named Allan Williams. The Jac, as it was known, was actually the hangout of several Liverpool bands, all hanging around, waiting for their “big break.”

In the early months of 1960, Williams had sent one of these local bands to Hamburg, Germany, to play. This first group was Derry and the Seniors, one of the hundreds of Liverpool bands which existed at the time. This experiment had proven successful and now, an “entrepreneur” in Hamburg, Bruno Koschmider, was asking for a second band to come over and play for his nightclub customers.

Williams’s first choice was a top-rate local band called Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, which featured a flashy drummer named Richard “Ringo Starr” Starkey. But Rory and his boys were booked up, at the time committed to playing the summer at Butlin’s Holiday Camp. Williams also tried to get Gerry and the Pacemakers, but they too declined.

Hard up to find a group, Williams next asked the Beatles, who happily accepted. When Derry and the Seniors heard who was the next Liverpool band to be sent to Hamburg, they were furious at Williams for choosing a “bum group like the Beatles.” Having already heard the fledgling Beatles play in Liverpool, they figured the group would be so bad they’d ruin the fun and partying they were having for everyone.

The Beatles at this time consisted of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and a very moderately talented bass player named Stu Sutcliffe. Having accepted the Hamburg offer, the Beatles needed a drummer and pronto, so a mere formality audition was held with Pete Best, a local drummer who had played with a band called the Blackjacks -and of course, he passed.

A motley crew of nine entered a Hamburg-bound, battered old Volkswagen van on August 16, 1960, the passengers being John, Paul, George, Stu, Pete, plus Allan Williams, his wife Beryl, his brother, plus a local character named Lord Woodbine, who did the driving. With them in the cramped van (besides their instruments) they carried their new stage outfits- matching lilac jackets, which had been sewn by a neighbor of McCartney, and a container of scones to eat along the way, baked by Harrison’s mother.

On the way to Hamburg, they group drove through Holland, where they stopped at a music store. Much to Williams’ fury, Lennon shoplifted a new harmonica from the shop. (Trivia: Lennon was to keep this harmonica and play it on the Beatles’ first record “Love Me Do” two years later).

After finally making it to Hamburg, the group finally arrived at the club they were booked to play in, a filthy dive called the Indra. The Indra was a cheap second-rate club frequented mainly by gangsters, hoodlums, drag queens, prostitutes and drug dealers.

(Image credit: Raymond Arritt)

Worse still were the living quarters for the five Beatles. They were housed in what Lennon was to describe as “a pigsty,” located behind a cinema, right next to the ladies bathroom. McCartney was to recall: “The room had been a stove room, and there were just concrete walls, with nothing else. no heat, no wallpaper, not a lick of paint.” There were stark bunk beds for the five to sleep on, they used Union Jacks for blankets to keep warm on the freezing cold Hamburg nights.

The Beatles were awakened each morning by the sound of the cinema coming on. When they wanted to wash, they had to wait for the German fraus to leave the ladies room, which they would then wash up in, using the toilets for water to wash and shave.

The entire area now surrounding the five Liverpool teenage boys was, in fact, a world of vice called the Reeperbahn, specifically a narrow street called the Grosse Frehieit, where booze and drugs were everywhere and hookers openly plied their trade in shop windows.

The Beatles would play for hours upon hours each evening- sometimes playing as long as eight hours a night. They went through their repertoire of oldies, including Elvis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and all the greats of the day. The majority of the singing chores were carried by John, Paul, and to a lesser extent, George. Stu had his one big number, Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender.” And even the very shy Pete best would hop off his drums nightly and sing his one solo “The Peppermint Twist,” the German frauleins swooning at his brooding good looks.

Because they had so much time on stage to fill, they would sing chorus after chorus of the same song, often making it last fifteen or twenty minutes. Their big number was Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say,” a song which on one occasion, the boys played for 90 minutes straight (the various band members would go offstage to drink and wash up at different times during this amazing rendition).

The gangsters would come to the Indra to hear the Beatles play and would send them up crates of beer. The Beatles were coaxed and urged on by yells of “mach shau!” (“make show!”) by the gangsters in the audience. The Beatles would drink the beer, combined with a drug called Preludin (or “prellies”), which was a stimulant that kept them awake, jumping and singing through the night.

With the combination of beer and prellies, the band members would often be wide awake for days on end, sacrificing sleep for being onstage and entertaining the ever-growing crowds. While Paul would take one prelly at a time, Lennon would take four or five at once.

This, combined with John’s natural craziness, resulted in Lennon’s very bizarre behavior. Once, he appeared onstage wearing nothing but his underpants and toilet seat around his neck. Another time, to win a bet, he went outside onto the streets wearing nothing but a pair of long johns, where he casually read a newspaper.

As the band would come onstage, John would greet the crowd with a “Heil Hitler,” he would call them “krauts” and take out his black comb, place it under his nose, and do a Hitler imitation, Nazi salute and all. The crowd loved it and ate up John’s act. Back in their living quarters, John would often urinate off the balcony of the room they were staying in. Once, according to Williams, he relieved himself on a passing group of nuns.

The Beatles sexual appetites were assuaged by the many hookers and prostitutes who became their early fans. George Harrison, a virgin when he left Liverpool, had his first-ever sexual encounter with a Hamburg prostitute in their dank bedroom. After the deed was complete, the other Beatles gave George (and his bedmate) a hearty round of applause.

These puerile antics aside, the trip to Hamburg was to prove a metamorphosis in another, much more significant, way. A bunch of rank amateurs when they started, the Beatles, through the process of playing five, six, seven and eight hours each night, became tighter and tighter as a band.

After a hard night’s work, the musicians would troop back to their sleeping quarters, crashing out until they were awakened by the Bambi Kino cinema. They would then wearily walk to the local Seaman’s Mission, where they would dine on their standard breakfast- beer and corn flakes.

It was a life of constant, seemingly never-ending work and practice onstage. Hamburg would prove to be the Beatles “trial by fire,” where they would go from the status of second rate, would-be musicians to a top-notch, incredible band. The crowds at the Indra, which were meager handfuls when they arrived, had grown bigger and bigger, until the club was teeming nightly with Beatle-loving rock ‘n’ roll fans. This trip to Hamburg was to be the boys’ “turning point” as a band and they would never look back.

The Indra club eventually had to close down because of complaints about the noise. The Beatles moved out to play in another club called the Top Ten Club. But soon, George was discovered by the authorities and deported for being underage (George was only seventeen at the time). On November 21, George was deported and flown back home to Liverpool.

When they were packing to leave their disgusting and dank Indra sleeping quarters to move to their nicer Top Ten Club quarters, Paul and Pete best used a condom, which they set of fire, for light to be able to see as they packed. Koschmider, who was angry at the Beatles, reported that Paul and Pete had “tried to burn down” his club. The police corralled the two Beatles, detained them for a few hours at the station and the duo was sent back, by plane, to Liverpool, too.

Poor John had to take a train home all alone. Stu had fallen in love with an attractive Hamburg lass named Astrid Kircherr and decided to remain with her in the German city.

Back in Liverpool, the weary Beatles did not contact each other for a few weeks. John recalled being sad, he came home from Hamburg broke and had no money to buy Christmas presents. But John also had to make a much bigger decision, i.e. he had to decide whether to keep the Beatles going. After their ignominious ending in Hamburg, John thought it might be the end of the road for his band.

Fortunately, he and his fellow musicians did get back together. And as we all know, they kept playing. They got better and better and better, as musicians, singers, and of course, as composers. In a few more years, they were to conquer the world and become the most famous, influential and beloved rock group of all-time. But it was in Hamburg, Germany, in a dingy little club called the Indra, where it really all started.

The Beatles were to make four more trips to Hamburg to play, two residencies with drummer Pete Best and two with their new drummer, Ringo Starr. While these later trips were not necessarily anti-climactic, it was the first trip where the group the world were to know as “the Beatles” were born. Or more accurately, as John Lennon was to recall years later: “I was born in Liverpool, but I grew up in Hamburg.”

And thus it was for all the Beatles.