Greetings from New York City!
Chad in the guest chair thinking, 'Someday...'
Once a year I meet with the rest of the biggest Letterman fans on the planet to descend upon New York City and the Late Show With David Letterman
like a wild pack of ravenous dogs that feed solely on hilarious comedy. This week, the USENET newsgroup, alt.fan.letterman
once again infiltrated the Ed Sullivan Theater, breeching security and defying all odds to sit at Dave’s desk, hang out backstage, appear on The Tony Mendez Show, and steal things from the fine people at Worldwide Pants.
Actually, I must admit that theft wasn’t even necessary. Cue card stud Tony Mendez, and Production Coordinator Mike McIntee went out of their way to find things to throw our way: scripts, rundowns, blue cards, cue cards.. they were very willing to let us have the paper products. Unfortunately we tested the limits of what we could pillage when somebody got greedy and tried to make off with some props. I, of course, would never do such a thing. Mr. Letterman and his people have always been very ive and kind to me when they certainly didn’t have to be. They are all fine, fine people.. who really should hire me.
My trip to New York really got started Tuesday night at The Cantina’s Comedy Night in Nashville. I treated the show like my farewell performance, because when I go to New York I am always very tempted to stay forever. There is never any promise that I will return, so I like to say my goodbye’s just in case. My supervisors at work and MaLady were in the audience… and now that I think about it, for them to hear me flippantly say “yeah, I may or may not come back home.. we’ll see how it goes..” probably confirmed their suspicions about my dedication and loyalty to them in ways that will probably come back to haunt me over the next few weeks. I ended my set by singing my version of “New York, New York” (in which I bastardized the lyrics and transformed the song into “A Dork, A Dork”) and rushed home to get a few hours sleep before hopping on a early morning flight to the City.
When I arrived in Manhattan Wednesday morning, I immediately went to 53rd and Broadway because that particular intersection is my holy Mecca. I walked over to 54th and 10th Avenue, where The Daily Show with Jon Stewart studio and offices are. They were foolish enough to let me into their building to wander around. Now, don’t start thinking I have any sort of Comedy Clout that gets me into these shows.. because I have none. At UT-Knoxville I had the great fortune to know a wonderful young lady who moved to New York to intern for TDS, and never returned. For the purposes of this column (and also due to my “try very hard not to name-drop” policy) I’ll call her “Opal.” Apparently The Daily Show realized what I knew early on: Opal is an all-around great person, a good friend, and easily the funniest woman I have ever met. She works hard producing funny ha-ha’s for TDS along with her boyfriend who is also a staffer (and a great guy in his own right).
Don & Traci
I visited with my friend for a while, giving her plenty of Mangy propaganda to adorn her office with, and headed out. I had a few hours to kill before I was to meet up with some a.f.l. pals at Island Burger, so I went to the Manhattan Chili Company to swill down a few beers. My good friend Carla Rhodes
has spent the last few weeks in NYC doing gigs, so I gave her a call. She met up with me and we went to join my pals for lunch (Traci
, Carl, and Steve).
Afterwards we headed to the Ed Sullivan Theater to meet up with Don Giller. If you don’t know him, Don (or Donz5 on the AOL), is the biggest Letterman fan on the planet. He lives in a “Dave Cave” with more video tapes than is legally allowed in a residential dwelling, and a database of all-things-Dave. I have a lot of awe and respect for Don, because he has demonstrated that he is a bigger David Letterman fan than I am, and that’s damn hard to accomplish.
Don snuck us into the Theater’s office building entrance, past the security guard checkpoint, under the guise of talking to Walter Kim, one of the Late Show Online Producers. Walter was very kind to us and seemed to know some of our names from reading the newsgroup. We were talking to him when Late Show announcer, Alan Kaulter walked in. Alan shook each of our hands and remarked, “hey! You guys are N’Sync, aren’t you?!” Soon a few other familiar faces walked in: “Executive Directors” Barbara Gaines and Maria Pope; Dave’s lovely assistant, Stephanie; head writers, the Stangel brothers; Jude Brennen, and I’m sure I’m leaving out somebody else. Maria looked very concerned to see us, and I imagine she was wondering why security hadn’t hauled us off to be beaten and tortured. They all seemed friendly but briskly walked past us and got onto the elevator as soon as possible. We finished up talking to Walter, and left the building.
Some of us went to watch the taping of The Daily Show, and then hit China Town. Hundreds of cops on motorcycles were jamming the streets up due to some sort of event they were having. After an eel dinner at Goody’s, something happened that will change my life (and my name) forever.
Chad 'Mr. Tang' Riden
I won’t tell the torrid story, but let it be known that from now on, I’ll be answering to “Mr. ‘Tang.” Before you start guessing on your own, let me assure you it had nothing to do with hookers or powdered, orange-like drinks from outer space.
Later I went out to a strange, eclectic open mic where the host wore a flashy, slutty dress and elf ears.. I got there in time to see Carla perform (and she killed!), but it wasn’t long before I was ready to crash out, so I took a cab up to 83rd and 2nd where Opal and Eric had a couch waiting for me. I can’t thank them enough for putting up with my crap.. they give me a set of keys and allow me to infest their apartment whenever I visit. In the past, before I got back in touch with Opal, I would sneak into Central Park after hours and camp out on a hill near Strawberry Fields… but I’ll save that story for another time.
On Thursday I woke up, showered, and met up with a friend I made amongst the Sergio Aragones’ Groo fans that are online (Larry). We had lunch at Ben’s (a wonderfully decorated deli with very good food), then Carla met up with me again. Carla and I decided to go for some cheesecake before I had to meet up with my Letterman buddies for the taping that night. We went to a place where they had what they claimed was “the world’s best cheesecake” (which seemed to be a very small, overpriced slice of standard cheesecake), but we bounced out and found another place to eat. The 2nd place didn’t claim theirs was the best, and that’s good because it certainly wasn’t. It tasted like it had been sitting there for a while.. so maybe it had been the “world’s best” at one point, many, many years ago.
I was running late, so I took off for the Manhattan Chili Company again to meet up with my fellow Lettermaniacs. There were about 26 AFL kids in attendance for DaveCon 2002.. some of them I knew, some of them I hadn’t met before.. but they all seemed like fun, well-adjusted, non-stalker types. DaveCon t-shirts and buttons were passed out, and we boozed it up a little because as all true comedy fans know: you’ll have a much better time if you enjoy some pre-show cocktails. We all got caught up on each other’s real lives (or lack thereof) and went down to get our special vip tickets for the show. The Late Show audience coordinators hooked us up with “dot” stickers for our tickets (which means we’re sitting in front), then we returned to the restaurant for some last minute boozing.
When we were finally seated in the theater, we were in the front two rows, directly in front of Mr. Letterman. The pre-show warm-up is virtually the same each time you go to the show: Eddie Brill intros a tape of “Dave talks to the kids,” then does some material and intros the band. This time Eddie didn’t do material, and announced that Felicia Collins was in Nashville working on someone’s record. A guy was sitting in with the band in her place, and he was annoying! During Act 1′s banter between Paul and Dave, the guy wouldn’t stop strumming his instrument for some unknown reason. The rest of the show was pretty average.
I was hoping one of my letters got into CBS Mailbag.. but nope! I’d written in: “Dear Dave, I’m a struggling comedian who will be in your audience for the Friday, June 21 2002 show. Can I get some stage time? It never hurts to ask, right?” I was hoping Dave would read the letter and say, “sure, why not.. it doesn’t hurt to ask. Where’s Chad at? Come on up..” Then, I could tell one joke and a guy from the audience could jump up and shoot me in the chest a few times with a handgun saying, “I hate that guy!” Dave could remark that sometimes it does hurt to ask, and then move on.. BUT noooooooooooooo! They didn’t do it.
If you watch Act 5 closely, you’ll see me and the rest of the AFL’ers on camera, laughing and applauding while we all played “What’s in the Late Show Refrigerator?” When I watch the clip, two questions come to mind: “Did you see or touch any monkeys?” and “Was there any hanky-panky?”
Hey! Look who's in the Late Show audience!
After the show, Tony Mendez pulled us out of the audience onto the stage and Walter Kim taped us for The Tony Mendez Show
( on “DaveCon 2002 – 06/20/2002″ to see me!). As we filed up onto the stage, Tony remarked to the person in front of me, “The show could have been much better.” As I walked up I said something like, “Yes, it sure could have been..” Apparently, Tony didn’t remember what I look like because he started asking “Who’s Chad?” He asked me if I was the one who had sent him the magazines, people must’ve thought he meant porn, ’cause they starting laughing. I turned around and started running away in mock retreat. I came back and he asked if I’d sent in the magazines plus the stuff about Harrison Ford and me being the attention-whore that I am sarcastically said, “uh.. yeah!” and shrugged saying ‘what the hell is he talking about?’ Traci told him he that was somebody else, and Tony continued talking to us for a few minutes.
Sensing a lull, I jumped in again saying, “Tony, I’ve seen your little videos on the internet and they’re all well and good but for real sketch comedy online, you should check out w-w-w-dot-Mangy-K-9-dot-com.” My “friends” in AFL all groaned and complained for me to stop. Tony and Walter ended up cutting the footage into two ‘episodes’ of the TMS, and cut me off right after the “w-w-w” with a graphic that said, “to be continued..” The next day they “continued” right after I was done saying the web address. I would be mad, but that’s pretty damn funny. Plus, I was wearing a Mangy Dog shirt (available now in the Mangy Store!), so I got my promo in regardless.
Then we took time to take pictures behind Dave’s desk. I had a picture made last year, so I didn’t do it again, but when nobody was looking I did sit down at Dave’s desk. Back behind the view of the camera, Mr. Letterman has a few shelves on the left. There he keeps a stack of paper towels, some dental adhesive for his fake tooth, and the controls for the roof-cam. I left him a MangyK9 “LEGALIZE CRIME” sticker and a flier in the desk.
Chad and Tony Mendez in the downstairs greenroom
Tony took us on a tour backstage and downstairs. I was talking to Don and Libby for a minute, and we realized we were separated from the group and left alone in the bowels of the theater. We walked around a corner and saw the elevator. “All we have to do is push floor 12 and we could see Dave!” I say, “..but then of course we’d be immediately arrested if not killed.” Instead, we went up a flight of stairs to the ground level. Building engineer George Clark was there at the door of the green room. “What are you guys doing?” he asked. “Looking for Tony.” “Oh, I haven’t seen him.” Then George walked away, apparently unconcerned that we are wandering around the building alone. Either that, or we have finally gained their trust.. an equally frightening thought.
LSwDL Production Coordinator Mike McIntee
We met back up with everybody in the Control Room, where Tony yelled at us for snooping around. Production Coordinator Mike McIntee was there, riffling thru papers. He began handing out stacks of scripts, rundowns, blue cards and other stuff that we could have. I gave him a sticker in return, explaining that as an ex-cop he knows as well as anybody that prisons are over crowded, and that the only solution is to legalize crime. “It’ll put cops out of business” he says. I had no reply, although I was thinking to myself, “yeah, they’ll have to go do some real work.” Tony handed out cue cards to whoever wanted them and then it was time to go.
Tony at Martinis
We wandered over to Manhattan’s for dinner and fun. Mike and Tony came by after work to say hello and show off a Barbie doll that was very quickly stripped naked for some reason unknown to me. A phone call told us that The Tony Mendez Show featuring us was online and that they cut me off mid-promo.. you should have heard the cheers! My so-called friends had all turned on me! Isn’t it always that way? They build you up just so they can watch you fall.
Despite that ugliness, I had a wonderful night and a very memorable trip. After spending a few nights in the greatest city in the world and realizing that New York has about 12 comedy clubs in addition to 8 to 15 different comedy shows in non-comedy club venues EVERY NIGHT.. getting up in the morning and flying back to Nashville was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Now that I’m back, I’m refreshed.. rejuvinated.. and ready to make some funny.
(Read everybody else’s DaveCon 2002 trip reports here on Helen Read’s page)