erik lundegaard

How to Get Ahead in America: Dick Cavett

In 1960, after eighteen months of poverty and rejection, this obsession [with stars] led to his big break. As Cavett tells the story, he was working as a copyboy at Time when he read that Paar was unhappy with the material his writers were giving him for the opening monologue. Cavett wrote some jokes, put them in an envelope on which the Time logo was prominently displayed, and sneaked backstage at the “Tonight Show,” which was then on the sixth floor of the RCA Building (a.k.a. 30 Rock). He figured that he would be taken for a reporter. He positioned himself between Paar’s dressing room and the bathroom, where he duly intercepted Paar and handed him the envelope. Paar used some of the jokes in his monologue and, a couple of weeks later, gave Cavett a job. It all feels about one standard deviation away from Rupert Pupkin, but it got him where he wanted to be, on the inside of a network.

—from Louis Menand's article, “Talk Story,” in the Nov. 22, 2010 issue of The New Yorker

Qualities demonstrated:

  • Slightly unethical behavior I (using the prestige of one employer to get a job with another)
  • Slightly unethical behavior II (sneaking backstage at “The Tonight Show”)
  • Balls (both of the above as well as confronting Paar)
  • Talent (hey, the jokes had to work)
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Posted at 06:16 AM on Thu. Dec 02, 2010 in category How to Get Ahead  


Uncle Vinny wrote:

At 2:13 in this video ( Peter Sellers tells a similar story about how he maneuvered his way into getting his first big break. Worth a look.

Comment posted on Thu. Dec 02, 2010 at 03:20 PM
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