Friday, December 12, 2008


Back in the early 1990s, I regularly taped the Friday "Viewer Mail" segment of Late Night With David Letterman and any skits that followed. One segment Amy and I continue to quote from is a showcase of odd-but-real video tapes. Archaeological expeditions through the valley of YouTube have unearthed several of the videos that Dave took potshots at, but evidence of others remains lost to time, unless the tape this segment was preserved on is found.

Among the highlights:

  • A tape for pipe smokers, where the host extols the virtues of the "brotherhood of the briar". A smoker passes by, prompting the host to greet him with "Hi Bob, nice pipe!"

  • T-Bone's World of Clowning, an introduction to the art. A man tells T-Bone that he'd like to know more about clowning. The clown's response, uttered in a stilted, wow-can't-you-tell-I'm-not-reading-cue-cards-manner: "Really? Acrobatics is a skill I really enjoy! Let's make a deal!" (to which Letterman notes "yeah, they're pipe smokers.") While the exact clip doesn't appear to be available on the web, the video above looks as if it may come from the same source.

  • An anti-smoking program where Larry Hagman reveals the mini-pocket fan he carries to blow offensive smoke away and provide smokers with a brief burst of cool air (Letterman: "I have an even bigger fan to keep Larry Hagman away").

  • An exercise program based on the art of juggling. Cue a hefty dude in grey sweatshirt, valkyrie wig and heavy rouge semi-operatically extolling the audience to "juggle your way to health and beauty/juggle your way to beauty and health." Letterman compares the juggler's beauty to Madonna.
  • Omar Sharif provides tips on how to play bridge. "Now through the electronic miracle of video cassettes, you will be my partner" (to which Letterman responded "now through the miracle of the eject button"). My grandmother was a bridge enthusiast, which earned her the most media exposure in the family in the late 1980s when the results of her weekly bridge club were printed in the local paper.

  • Willard Scott demonstrates the fine art of toenail clipping for The Farmers' Almanac.
  • The piece-de-resistance, the video that never fails to make either of us roll on the floor, is a segment from a parenting guide called It's Potty Time. Two over-enthusiastic parents sing about their "super-duper pooper" of a daughter, accompanied by a marching miniature man who may have failed an audition for Harold Hill in The Music Man.

    The producers had the best of intentions for making a useful toilet-training video...but a musical ode to learning how to poop is going to come off as bizarre under any circumstances. Besides, a mini angel/guide/clown/peeping tom that comments and makes rhymes about excrement? Creepy.

    I think I'd rather have my child trained by Mr. Hankey.

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