In July of 2009, my wife and I were in New York City for a trip that was both business and pleasure. I had a meeting to attend in the city, and we came a few days early before my work began so that we could see the Big Apple together for our anniversary.
We got into town on a Thursday morning, and one of the first things I did was to ask the hotel concierge how to get David Letterman tickets. I’m not much of a late night TV guy anymore, but I cut my teeth as a faithful Letterman viewer back in the 80’s. Letterman was still New York to me, and I wanted to see him in person in the Ed Sullivan Theater. The concierge, however, insisted that getting tickets would be more trouble than it was worth and that I probably couldn’t find any even if I tried. So I dropped it. We had plenty to do without trying to crack that egg.
We left the hotel for Times Square to find some lunch. As we entered the Square, an unbelievable thing happened. A guy on the street came up and offered us tickets to the Letterman show that night.
Now you have to understand that I was pretty incredulous. I had just been told by the concierge that tickets would be almost impossible to come by. And now the first person we see in Times Square is offering them to us for free? Add to that the fact that there are all manner of nefarious hucksters in Times Square, and you won’t be surprised that I was skeptical of the guy. I told him as much. “How do I know you’re legit?” He answered that he wasn’t trying to sell us anything. He was giving the tickets away for free.
As it turns out, he was on the up-and-up, and he did indeed help us to get tickets. He instructed us to go to the studio (which is just off Times Square) between 2 and 3pm and to present a slip of paper he was to give us, and they would give us tickets. He also advised us that they give the best seats to guests who appear to be the most excited (Apparently they don’t like to put the curmudgeons near the front because it makes for bad TV).
We showed up to the studio to find a line of people. While we waited in line for tickets, workers from the Letterman staff handed-out a questionnaire asking audience members if they had any “stupid human tricks” or pictures of celebrities to share that might be fodder for the show. We all dutifully filled-out our sheets and turned them in. After a couple of “woo woo’s” and some bonding with the ticket-guy (who happened to be from a town near Louisville), we scored some sweet seats that were right on the second row by the band.
The show taped from 4:30-5:30pm. In spite of the usual pabulum that attends late night talk shows, it was really interesting to see things up-close. The guests were Anderson Cooper, Anna Paquin, and some band whose name I can’t remember. After it was over, we left the show grateful to have had the unexpected good fortune of obtaining great seats in an iconic New York talk show. And that was the end of it. So we thought.
About an hour or so after we left the studio, I got a phone call from a girl named “Faith” from the Letterman show. She said that she had read my questionnaire and thought my “stupid human trick” sounded funny. She asked for an appointment for me to come back to the studio so that I could show it to her. So we set it up for the next day at 11:30am. The next morning, the whole thing was very informal. We were probably only there about 20 minutes or so. I showed her the trick, she filmed it, and we said goodbye. That was the end of it. So we thought.
We weren’t outside the studio more than 10 minutes before she called me back again and said that she had showed the tape to her boss, that he thought it was hilarious, and that they wanted to pass it on to the writers to include on the show. Once the “trick” is selected, the “Late Show” would fly us back out to New York on an all-expense paid trip to come on the show and perform the “trick.” She said, “All you need to do is come back in and let us video you performing the trick three times in a row. Or you can video yourself and send it to us after you get home.”
I guess for most folks, the next step would have been a no-brainer. Go to the studio, perform the trick, and get on the Letterman show! But it wasn’t that simple. Among other things, one question kept gnawing at me. Did I really want to be the “Stupid Human Trick” guy for the rest of my life with the video bouncing around on YouTube in perpetuity? I decided I didn’t, and never called them back. And that was the end of it.
When I first told this story several years ago, I did not reveal what my trick was. But in honor of the show’s final episode last night, I will now. (Drum roll please.) Using only my tongue, I can insert my gum into my nose. What can I say? I have a nose for sticky situations. How would you like a slow-motion close-up of that one on the internet forever? And now you can see why I passed.
So long, Dave.