In 2005, someone (namely, Shout Factory) was finally smart enough to start issuing episodes of Dick Cavett's 1970's ABC late-night talk-show on DVD. I was a devoted viewer of ''The Dick Cavett Show'' in my adolescence, and was thrilled to meet Dick in 1981 when I interviewed him for my Marx Brothers documentary. To my great delight, we've remained friends ever since.
Over the years, I've interviewed Dick at various live events, including a number of tributes to him and his pioneering network series. So when Shout Factory decided to include bonus material on the DVD's that would allow Cavett to reminisce about some of his classic interviews, he was kind enough to ask me to be his designated interrogator.
The DVD's have been released in a number of boxed sets, by theme. The first release was ''Rock Icons,'' with appearances by Janis Joplin, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Paul Simon, George Harrison, and many others. This release also includes the famous ''Woodstock Show,'' with appearances by Joni Mitchell, Jefferson Airplane, David Crosby, and Stephen Stills (who still has fresh-caked mud on his jeans, having just flown in from the Woodstock Festival).
I also interview Dick on ''The Ray Charles Collection'' and ''Comic Legends,'' the latter of which includes appearances by Groucho Marx, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, George Burns, Jack Benny, Mel Brooks, Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, and several others. Many of these artists are the sole guest for the entire 90-minute episode.
There are two other Cavett boxed sets on which I don't appear: ''John Lennon & Yoko Ono'' and ''Hollywood Greats,'' the latter of which includes appearances by Marlon Brando, Katharine Hepburn, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Bette Davis, Fred Astaire, and others.
The only downside to watching these classic shows is that they inadvertently provide a reminder as to how far the talk-show format has deteriorated over the past decades. It's almost painful to witness a time, not so long ago, when hosts were actually informed, witty, and spontaneous, and not relying on the blue cards culled from pre-interviews with guests who are only there to promote their latest mediocre movie.
Cavett was intelligent, witty, genuinely curious, and naturally suited (not ''groomed'') for the job. These shows serve as a remarkable time capsule, both for viewers who can remember when they originally aired, and for the under-40 set, curious to see these iconic entertainment figures engaged in real conversation with a host worthy of the job.