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November 19: Dick Cavett

Dick Cavett (1936)

Dick Cavett

It was on this date, November 19, 1936, American television talk-show host Dick Cavett was born in Gibbon, Nebraska. In his early career, Cavett was an actor in army training films, a stand-up comic, and wrote material for talk show hosts — including Jack Paar, Merv Griffin, Jerry Lewis, and Johnny Carson — before becoming one himself at age 33. In 1969 he began hosting "The Dick Cavett Show," beginning on ABC (1969-74;86-87), then moving to CBS (1975), PBS (1977-82), USA (1985-86), and CNBC (1989).

Cavett as host is always conversational, civil and intellectual, with a dry wit, saying such things as "If your parents never had children, chances are you won't, either," and, criticizing the scapegoating of violence on TV, "There's so much comedy on television. Does that cause comedy in the streets?" But Cavett could be acerbic, too, saying, "As long as people will accept crap, it will be financially profitable to dispense it." His interviewing style was successful, winning Cavett 11 Emmy nominations and 3 awards.

As an interview subject, Cavett once said:

This is my religious problem: it would be wonderful to believe in the most fundamental way. It would make life easier, it would explain everything, it would give meaning where none is apparent, it would make tragedies bearable. ... But something about the fact that all it takes to make it so is deciding it is so puts me off. Knowing it could instantly make me much happier makes it somehow unworthy of having.*

Underlining the difference between himself and his grandfather, a fundamentalist Baptist minister, Cavett also said, "...I hope there is a God for Grandpa Richards's sake, but don't much care if there is one for mine."**

* Cavett by Dick Cavett and Christopher Porterfield, New York: Bantam Books, 1974, pp. 56-7. (As reported by the Celebrity Atheists Web site) ** Ibid.


Originally published November 2003.

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Ronald Bruce Meyer




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