FUN FRIDAY: The Dick Cavett Show

It’s funny how there are some people whose influence in popular culture just keeps increasing, while others disappear from public perception in a short time. Even today, most folks know of Johnny Carson even if they were too young to see even a single show. Yet, ask anyone born after 1980 about Dick Cavett, and they’ll look at you blankly.

Speaking of Carson

Richard Alva Cavett was only about 23 when he sent some jokes to the then-host of The Tonight Show, Jack Paar. This was in 1960, when television was beginning to enter its peak years in popular culture. Mr. Paar liked what he saw, and this began almost a decade in which Mr. Cavett wrote for The Tonight Show. 

From 1968 to 1996 The Dick Cavett Show aired…somewhere. Its most famous run was on late night on ABC, when it aired opposite Mr. Cavett’s former boss.

You don’t have to know Dick Cavett…

…to appreciate The Dick Cavett Show. It was a destination for so many famous people in the culture at the time. The show had a lot of appeal among intellectuals and progressives and that meant it had a larger-than-expected appeal to the young people at the time. It also means that you could find characters from John Lennon to Raquel Welch engaging in real, honest conversation. In the days before Oprah Winfrey it was Dick Cavett who really had the reputation for getting famous people to open up.

Here’s a scruffy Marlon Brando discussing equal rights for indigenous people in 1973:

Here’s Robin Williams in 1979 talking about depression:

And, since we’re only a month past the premiere of Get Back, here’s John Lennon talking about why The Beatles broke up:

Simply put, anyone who was anyone in 1970s “influencer culture found themselves on The Dick Cavett Show, and a lot of what they talked about is uncomfortably similar to the conversations we hear today.

We’re not that kind of blog

And ok folks, so I chose three examples that specifically deal with some more progressive subjects. It’s easier to find them than it is to find conservative subjects on that show. This really isn’t the sort of blog to engage in politics of any kind, I just chose some videos that illustrated how far ahead the conversation was.

Check out the rest for yourself

The rightsholder for all of this material has made an awful lot of it available on YouTube for you. If you’re interested in history or any social issue, you owe it to yourself to spend a few hours diving into this archive.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.