A former intern told me that Dave once dispatched him to hand back pitches for the top 10 list to the writers with the message, “Like this. Dave’s superpower was being able to maintain his neurotic insecurity in the face of staggering success. He was consistently funny and the best interviewer in late night.
Only funny.”Despite Dave’s bullying tactics, everyone in the office was eager to please him. The creative process is often wrapped up in bottomless anxiety, and when the world applauds the product of that process, it soothes the anxiety. Yet his perception seemed to be that every joke tanked and every show was lame.
The writers would generate ideas during the day, and then we’d break for that night’s taping.
After the show, Dave would return to the office for a postmortem.
Still, Dave made a point of treating me with kindness. ”Once Dave dropped in to let me know that one of my top 10 list pitches surprised him.
Sometimes while racing to his office in the morning, he’d break his stride and pause outside my door.“Hey, how’s it going? I looked forward to the occasions when he stopped by, until one day in the writers’ room, we landed on a timely idea.
It was a culture of palace intrigue with whisper campaigns, shifting alliances, and sexual liaisons.
We’d wait until we saw him hustling past the writers’ room, head fixed straight ahead to avoid any eye contact.
About seven minutes later, Steve would gather his papers and say, “Well, I guess I’ll go call Dave.”Even this minimal interaction was reduced in 1993, when Dave and his staff left NBC to create offices, at the Ed Sullivan Theater, Dave and the writers were no longer on the same floor.
Our culture also perpetuates the myth that women aren’t funny.
Maybe this is why the male writer went out of his way to remind me of my gender that first day.