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Dick Cavett

Talk Show Host / Writer

Born: 19 November 1936
Birthplace: Gibbon, Nebraska
Best known as:

The quick-witted TV talk show host from the late 1960s

Dick Cavett is best known as the talk show host whose sophisticated wit and casual interviewing style made him seem too smart to be a talk show host. He got into that business by way of being a comedy writer for earlier talk show hosts, including Jack Paar, Johhny Carson and Jerry Lewis. Raised in rural Nebraska, Cavett graduated from Yale University in 1958 and headed to New York to break into show business. He didn't get many acting roles, but he ended up writing jokes in 1961 for Paar's The Tonight Show. He was kept on after Carson took over the show, then left in 1963 to work on Jerry Lewis's short-lived show. Beginning in 1968, Cavett had his own show, a 90-minute talk show with an unusual roster of guests, from intellectuals and rock stars to celebrities and politicians. He was on during the day at first, then moved to prime time, then moved again to late night, without ever landing a large enough audience to compete in the ratings. By early 1973, Cavett was off the air. He resurrected versions of his show for CBS and PBS in the '70s and '80s, and for the USA network and CNBC in the '80s and '90s. Since then he's written books (about talk shows) and contributed humor pieces to magazines and blogs, including for The New York Times.

Extra credit:

Dick Cavett, like his fellow Nebraskan Johnny Carson (who was 11 years older), performed magic tricks as a youngster and is known for his love of magicians… Cavett has made several appearances on TV and in the movies, including Tim Burton's Beetlejuice (1988)… Cavett has publicly discussed his struggles with depression many times.

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