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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Letterman's Letter Man

In July of 1986 when I was at college and many of you were in diapers (I have your baby pictures), David Letterman read my letter on the air during viewer mail, and you could see it all with my handwriting and my signature, and he even said my name. (!) His lips have spoken my name. He doesn't realize it, but he's made me famous. At least somewhere. Like in my living room, or possibly in the kitchen. I also wonder if he practiced saying my name in rehearsals a few times. So, for all I know, he's said my name 36 times. It did seem to flow off his tongue when they did the show, like he and I were old buddies. He could probably imagine being buddies with someone like me.

To set this up, I'll give a little background for the Letterman-impaired. Dave used to flap those blue cards a lot that he was reading from on viewer mail, and he'd say that they were actual letters from actual viewers, otherwise would he be able to flap them like that? "Not a chance," he'd say. So I asked him in my letter what would happen if he tried to flap cards that weren't actual letters from actual viewers. It's only logical, right? And then I said, "What a guy, Rusty Southwick, Provo Utah." Well, actually he said. He said what I said.

So then Dave says, "Well, we've never tried this before... Paul... Oh, look... here are some phony letters from phony viewers..." And he picks them up and starts flapping them. As soon as he does that, an image of Elvis appears above him. And Dave says, "Elvis? Elvis, is that you? Look who's here, Paul." Paul gives his mock incredulity and musters an obligatory, smirking "Elvis is here."

And then Elvis says to Dave, "By flapping those cards, you've bridged the gap between our two worlds." And then they somehow mess up their lines (on my skit!) while Dave and Paul are bantering, and then Elvis thanks him for being featured on letter #3, which he says is traditionally the funniest letter in viewer mail, and then Dave tells him it's not letter #3, and so Elvis gets all miffed and fades away. Dave rubs his eyes and says something about, "Feel like I's hypmotized."

Then later on when there's another skit going on that's bombing, Dave reaches for the cards to try to save the skit and says, "Elvis!! Elvis!!" So I actually produced both a skit and a follow-up reference in my entertainment debut.

The ironic thing is that my college roommates and I weren't watching David Letterman that night, because one of them had rented Amadeus! Somehow I'll never forgive Wolfgang for that (even though I've listed him as a modern hero — but he could have timed his life and subsequently his movie a little better). So anyway, I found out about it when I got a call from a BYU student who was checking to see if there really was a student enrolled there by that name. And since I was in Utah at the time, it hadn't aired yet on the west coast, so I called my aunt in California to tape it for me. A few of my relatives happened to be watching that night, and they said they got a kick out of it.

I've got it on VHS tape, so I'll need to transfer it to digital format. I looked for it on YouTube, but all I found was another skit from the same night with Flunky the Late Night Clown.

David Letterman is likewise on my list of Cool People, and to my knowledge, he never interrupted a Mozart concert. But anyway, if you were wondering, the letter got read on his show less than a week after they would have received it, so that must've meant they instantly liked it. I'd like to think that Dave personally picked it out from among the voluminous stacks of mail, and said, "Yeah, we can use this one for sure. That's comedy, boys... This kid's got a lot of promise. Plus we don't answer much mail from Utah, do we Paul? By the way, where is Utah? Is it over by Iowa?" I'd like to think they had a very in-depth discussion about the intricasies of my delivery and timing, and how I could have a future in show business.

And then Dave probably said, "I'll take this one and write it up myself. I want it to have Elvis in it. Gotta have The King for this one. This is Rusty Southwick we're talking about here, for crying out loud. He'll never invite me on his show someday if I don't really give this one the royal treatment."

I haven't forgotten you, Dave. The invite is coming.


Doug and Laura said...

I never knew you had this brush with fame. In 1986, I was stealing your office supplies, making mix tapes of 80's songs with you, and wanting another shouldoy ride, though I was nine. Ah, those were the good ole' days.

Anonymous said...

I was six. I was learning how to jump skip rope and how to avoid porkchop suppers.

I can't believe you never mentioned this after my tweets on Twitter about David Letterman. Or was it in a blog post? I don't remember.

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