Interning for "Late Night with David Letterman" is kind of like going to Harvard--you are never quite sure how to mention it in casual conversation. When people ask me what I did on my semester off last spring, I invariably tell them something like, I worked in New York, or for television or at NBC. It is very similar to saying that I go to school "up North."
The mention of "Late Night," however, evokes a much stronger explosion of spontaneous curiosity. Brushes with famous people are exciting; part of their appeal is that we want to know what they are like in real life--a kind of People Magazine syndrome. A nightly talk show like Letterman offers innumerable opportunities for future name-dropping, and that's not even counting the people you can meet just walking around the hallways at NBC.
I snuck off to intern for "Late Night with David Letterman" last winter. I was there for about five months working in the talent department and generally doing whatever they needed me to do. Now that I'm back in school, I have been getting a lot of questions about my experience. So I thought it would be a lot easier to answer them in bulk....
Did You Meet Dave?
The first thing everyone wants to know about "Late Night" is if I met Dave, and what he is like in person. Well, it's pretty hard to work for somebody for five months and never meet. It is Dave's office, and Dave's show. He's there all the time, and actually, it's quite impossible to work for Dave for more than a week and not physically bump into him--or be hit by something he has thrown through the hallway.
Dave also has a little mind game he likes to play with the interns that I wasn't able to avoid: Whenever he gets into an elevator and an intern is the only other passenger, Dave hangs out in the door talking to people. Only he doesn't just hang; he hovers there, just in and out enough so that the intern doesn't know whether to press the Door Open button or to just wait. It's nerve-racking enough to have to contemplate what you are going to say to David Letterman during a 14 floor ride; on top of this, the man makes a joke out of the whole thing by building up the anticipation even higher.
Eventually, the door invariably closes on Dave and hits him in the arm, at which point he jumps in the elevator.
And as soon as the door closes, he starts yelling.
He is, of course, being sarcastic. And in the back of my mind, (at this point though, in the way back) I knew that. But the entire point of well-executed sarcasm is that you can't really tell--and Dave is the master.
I was so flustered during that elevator ride that I can't remember exactly what he said. He just kept grasping his arm and saying that he was the host of the "goddamn show", and "why the hell" didn't I keep the door open.
When we finally got to the lobby, he told me to have a nice night and to get home safely. When my ego recovered enough to tell this story to another intern, I found out that the same thing happened to him.
What About Paul?
Paul Shaffer and the World's Most Dangerous Band don't have time to torture interns in the elevator. I did, however, end up seeing Paul a lot because his office was on my side of the floor (translation: I got to answer his phone).
Paul, as many people notice when he's on air, is a very laid back kind of guy. He spends most of his time in the studio, and when he is upstairs, he is usually on the phone or screening CD's. When he is waiting for calls, he tends to roam around. One day he helped me sort mail.
Another time, we convinced him to test out a pair of "Moon shoes" which had been sent to the office. "Moon Shoes" are mini-trampolines that you strap to your feet individually and they let you jump or bounce while you run. Paul was a blur of flowered-print silk for the rest of the afternoon.