This week Conan O'Brien announced that he would likely leave NBC rather than begin his show at 12:05 AM. This is not the first stormy period in late night's history. In 1993, during Letterman’s defection to CBS, Bob Garfield auditioned for his own talk show on All Things Considered.
BOB GARFIELD: All right, so now you know that the Jay Leno primetime experiment was a flop, and you know that Conan O’Brien has refused to move his Tonight Show back to midnight to accommodate Leno back to his former late night slot. And you also know that O’Brien is now in play, maybe headed for FOX. And maybe you think, why, there has never been so much commotion in late night ever before! But you forget 1993, when the big flop was The Chevy Chase Show and Conan O’Brien was just being introduced to the world. Back then, when it seemed that anybody could get a talk show, All Things Considered let me use its air to audition for one of my own. The only stipulation was that my show had to conform with NPR’s wonkish editorial sensibilities. Here’s a cut-down version of it. Please note - all participants are real.
[MUSIC UP AND UNDER]
MALE ANNOUNCER: From Washington, D.C., the talk capital of the world, it’s Drive Time with Bob Garfield!
[APPLAUSE/CHEERING] Here he is, my main man, Bob!
[APPLAUSE/CHEERING][MUSIC UP AND UNDER]
[MORE CHEERS, WHISTLES]
BOB GARFIELD: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you very [LAUGHS] much. Thank you!
[AUDIENCE APPLAUSE AND CHEERING] Thank you! Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much.
[APPLAUSE] Hey, what do you think of Lou Rawls and the Drive-Time Nine?
[APPLAUSE AND CHEERING] Thanks, fellas. Thanks a lot. Hey Norm, how are ya?
NORMAN ORNSTEIN: Fine. Evenin’, Bob.
BOB GARFIELD: That’s – that’s quite a look there, Norm. Is that a sport coat or a superfund site?
[LAUGHTER] NORMAN ORNSTEIN: Hi-yo!
BOB GARFIELD: Folks, give it up for my pal and public policy guru, on loan from the American Enterprise Institute, Mr. Norman Ornstein.
BOB GARFIELD: Okay, all right, enough of that. Our first guest is a world-renewed psychologist, author, syndicated newspaper columnist and broadcast personality. Ladies and gentlemen, please help me welcome a woman who has done more shrinking than Oprah.
[AUDIENCE LAUGHTER] Dr. Joyce Brothers!
[APPLAUSE] But listen, I think what everyone wants to know, Dr. Brothers, and please forgive me for asking, yet again, the question that I know everybody must ask, but do you believe a successful conclusion of the Uruguay Round will affect trade barriers in the automotive sector, with respect to the import market in Hungary?
DR. JOYCE BROTHERS: [LAUGHS] Of course, it will have a profound effect. As you know, Bob, Hungary’s average import duties have already fallen from 50 percent to 17 percent. But the Uruguay Round anticipates a further tariff reduction to 8 percent. NORMAN ORNSTEIN: Yes!
[AUDIENCE RESPONDS/WHISTLES] Hi-yo!
BOB GARFIELD: Who can forget it? Look, I know you have to run, and I just want to thank you again for joining us. I also know this means Regis and Kathy Lee won't be booking you for at least a year, and we sure do appreciate it.
[AUDIENCE LAUGHTER] Ladies and gentlemen, Joyce Brothers.
[APPLAUSE] Please, help me welcome a former star forward for the New York Knicks. He is a third term Democratic senator from the State of New Jersey, chairman of the Subcommittee on Deficits, Debt Management and Long-Term Economic Growth. Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for the Honorable Bill Bradley!
[APPLAUSE/CHEERS][MUSIC UP AND UNDER] Welcome back to the show, Senator. Welcome back to the show.
SENATOR BILL BRADLEY: Thanks, Bob. It’s always nice to be here.
BOB GARFIELD: Senator, the President, of course, has just submitted his proposed Health Security Act to the Congress. What ramifications do you foresee for meaningful deficit reduction, if this legislation is substantially enacted?
SENATOR BILL BRADLEY: Well, not only is health care reform consistent with deficit reduction, Bob, but it’s absolutely critical, and particularly given the floating exchange rate regime -
BOB GARFIELD: Oh -
SENATOR BILL BRADLEY: - that we operate from in the world.
BOB GARFIELD: Excuse me, wait – wait one second.
SENATOR BILL BRADLEY: It’s going to be important, making us a more competitive -
[BOTH AT ONCE]
BOB GARFIELD: Excuse me, Senator.
SENATOR BILL BRADLEY: - econ –
BOB GARFIELD: - wait just one second.
BOB GARFIELD: Senator?
SENATOR BILL BRADLEY: Well, yeah, what?
BOB GARFIELD: Will you do a song for us?
[APPLAUSE AND CHEERS]
SENATOR BILL BRADLEY: A song? I mean, I don’t -
[APPLAUSE AND CHEERS] - I don't have anything prepared, Bob. Oh but, well [SIGHS], you got a – you got a piano over there?
BOB GARFIELD: Yes, we do. Louis?
[PIANO MUSIC UP AND UNDER] Ladies and gentlemen, the musical stylings of Senator Bill Bradley.
[APPLAUSE AND CHEERS][PIANO UP AN D UNDER]
SENATOR BILL BRADLEY: [SPEAKING IN A MONOTONE] So bye-bye, Miss American Pie. Drove the Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry. And good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye, singing this’ll be the day that I die.
[AUDIENCE MEMBER WHOOPS] This’ll be the day that I die.
[SCATTERED APPLAUSE] I know that you’re in love with him 'cause I saw you dancing in the gym.
[AUDIENCE CLAPS IN RHYTHM] You both kicked off your shoes. Man, I dig those rhythm and blues. I was a lonely teenage bronkin’ buck with a pink carnation and a pickup truck, but I knew I was out of luck the day the music died.
[MUSIC UP AND UNDER]
[AUDIENCE APPLAUDS AND CHEERS]
BOB GARFIELD: All right, we're running out of time. Lou and the boys will be appearing at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe November 4th. Norm, you'll be appearing?
NORMAN ORNSTEIN: I'll be appearing in The New York Times, The Washington Post Sunday Outlook Section, C-SPAN, and the Valley Forge Music Fair, November 7th to 11th.
BOB GARFIELD: All right. Tomorrow night’s guests are former President Richard M. Nixon, author J.D. Salinger, chess champion Bobby Fischer and Professor Irwin Corey. See you then. Goodnight!
[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE/MUSIC UP AND UNDER]
BOB GARFIELD: That's it for this week's show. On the Media was produced by Jamie York, Mike Vuolo, Mark Phillips, Nazanin Rafsanjani and P.J. Vogt, with more help from James Hawver and Alex Goldman, and edited by our senior producer, Katya Rogers. We had technical direction from Jennifer Munson and more engineering help from Zach Marsh. John Keefe is our executive producer. Bassist/composer Ben Allison wrote our theme. This is On the Media from WNYC. I'm Bob Garfield.