Guest Post: Merrill Markoe
Merrill Markoe is a five-time Emmy award winner for her work on Late Night with David Letterman. She created most of the original concepts for that show, including segments like “Stupid Pet Tricks”, “Stupid Human Tricks” and “Viewer Mail.”
While Bronc and I battle jet lag and Paypal, Merrill is filling in with a special post for Regretsy readers about her visit to the Daily Show. Enjoy it, but please don’t get used to real writing. We don’t do that here.
My good friend Ms. Killer thought you might like to hear what it was like for me to go on The Daily Show.
The reason for the appearance was a new book of funny pieces by me that came out on November 1. Quite a few of them revolve around getting along with crazy people but of special interest to Regretsy lovers might be a piece called In Praise of Crazy Mommies since it contains a hilarious anecdote contributed by Ms. Killer herself.
Contrary to popular belief, not all books begin their lives with a flurry of publicity. In my case, there was not only NO book tour planned, but the week was kicked off by a lone interview with two guys from Elgin, Illinois who thought it extremely amusing to go on about how they didn’t read my book and knew so little about me that they couldn’t pronounce my name. Hahahaha. Imagine how my sides were aching as I sat there, in my office, on the phone, listening to them call me Marilyn. On the plus side, it gave me an opportunity to re-think every decision in life that had led me to this moment.
So a few days later, when I got a request to appear on The Daily Show I said yes so quickly and loudly that one of my dogs ran in to a closet.
Then I took a deep breath, sat down and made a list of the important stages of talk-show panic and hysteria that I needed to pass through in order to get myself ready.
1. PANIC ABOUT CLOTHES:
Jon Stewart sets the tone for the show by wearing a suit and tie, thereby rendering everything in my extensive collection of ratty sweaters and exercise pants a poor choice. Buy yourself something nice, said the voice in my head, as I made the annual pilgrimage to a shopping mall to try and find an outfit impressive enough to look good sitting across from John Stewart.
But just my luck: Apparently women’s suits had been removed from the stores before I arrived. There was nothing for sale that I could wear with dignity in this enormous valley mall. At this point in my life, I do not want to look like a member of a hip hop group, nor am I a party dress type. Party dresses make me worry that I look like Angela Merkel might have looked on her way to her prom. By which I mean that they always make me feel like a bull dog who has been to the groomer and sent home wearing a bow and toenail polish.
2. PANIC ABOUT HAIR
Not much to do there except get a hair cut or start life over again with all new parents.
3. PANIC ABOUT WHAT TO SAY
The nice thing about this kind of panic is that it can fill up all the free time you offer it.
4: PANIC ABOUT HOW TO TALK ABOUT THE BOOK
Now it was time to begin fretting that I couldn’t remember what the book said, even though I wrote it. In the past, whenever I’d go on a talk show, I’d come prepared with chunks of reliable material left over from my days doing stand up comedy. I would then try to wedge them in as though they were an answer to any question the host might ask of me. This would all take place via a talent coordinator who would pre-interview me within an inch of my life. The final result would be a consolidated set of pre-arranged questions and answers that the show would give the host to use on my segment. It’s a lot like doing a two-person play.
But audiences can be maddeningly unpredictable. They laugh where you didn’t think there was a joke, and then they don’t laugh where you hoped there was a rousing one. Its all very inexact, which is why comedians are such angry, jumpy people. They are the velociraptors of show business.
5. PANIC AFTER TALKING TO THE DAILY SHOW TALENT COORDINATOR
When we finally touched base, she was as lovely and reassuring as possible as she informed me that Jon prefers to wing it through an interview. She tells me I shouldn’t worry, not realizing that is a behavioral option with which I am not familiar. For a minute I consider trying to talk her into letting me promote Catch-22 instead of my book, since it has been out of the public eye for a while. I am pretty sure that at least part of the crowd won’t know that I didn’t write it.
But before I launch in to this argument, she tells me the weirdest thing – Apparently Jon has read my book. This has never happened before. It is so shocking, and yet thrilling that I feel my genomes shuffling and my DNA strands beginning to unwind. I am also kind of relieved. Maybe Jon has some idea what it is my book says.
6. FLY TO NYC
I used to live in New York but I haven’t been back in quite a few years. I was surprised to see that there are now a lot of RICKSHAWS! How lovely to see Manhattan turning in to Calcutta on the Hudson. Its only a matter of time until there are sampans and cholera clinics. Thumbs up, NYC!
And then, the next day was the show. I prepared myself by compulsively and repeatedly reviewing steps 1-5 until someone from the show arrived to pick me up at 5:15. It was a warmish evening in New York for the last day of November. I was relieved the show didn’t send a rickshaw.
The studio was about fifteen minutes from my hotel. I was dropped off at the guest entrance, which turns out to be a very inconspicuous looking, unidentified door that opens on to a hallway that leads to the greenroom. As you can see, it’s a simple unadorned room that looks like it might be part of the conference room suite at some Doubletree Inn. I prefer to think that Jon had no hand in picking out the art.
My favorite thing about the offices was the assortment of unleashed canines. I saw at least 4 different ones, roaming around unsupervised. Apparently staff members can and do bring their dogs to work every day. If I didn’t already love the show, that would have done it.
But I already did love the show. And my ardor only increased when Jon Stewart stopped by the green room to say hi. He apparently does this with every guest so it wasn’t a special homage to me, but I have to admit, it still felt like one. He was easy to talk to, instantly accessible and I had a great conversation with him about problematic relatives (a theme in my book). In fact, it was so satisfying that it made me feel like we could be pals. Though I bet every guest feels that way about Jon. Well, maybe not Michelle Bachmann or Rick Perry. Or Jim Cramer.
Once the show began, my tension ratcheted way up. I also began to write emergency word clues (to remind myself of punch lines) on the top of my hand. Yes, even after having makeup applied and donning my brand new suit, I strode out on to the stage of The Daily Show with my left hand covered in ball point pen ink that I put there on purpose.
And then there I was, sitting at that table across from Jon. My mouth was moving. Apparently I said something. Naturally I totally forgot about everything I’d prepared once I got on stage. Instead I came up with other stuff I never intended to say. Here is the show. I am the last one on.
- Click to play the clip on the Daily Show website
And then it was back to The Green Room where I was given a lovely bag of swag, full of stuff I would never own for any other reason. Of all the talk shows I’ve been on, this is the only one that has ever given me a swag bag. I do, however, still have the bathrobes they gave me in the 90′s when I went on Arsenio, Dennis Miller and Marilu Henner.
On the left are The Daily Show coins of the realm, which turned out to be chocolate. There was a also a nice assortment of Altoids from each of the popular Altoid divisions as well as a velveteen zipper bag of Pevonia botanical creams, which I now feel kindly disposed toward because my Daily Show experience was so enjoyable. And this despite the fact that this Pevonia botanical medley got me pulled out of line at the airport for a suitcase search.
There was also a baseball cap, and some kind of a bulky game involving flashing lights which didn’t fit in to my suitcase. So I left it behind in the hotel room, hoping a member of the janitorial staff might want to pretend they bought it for some kid for the holidays.
And now I am home.
Here is a book promo I made before all this began: