I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx


by Brian Abrams
Oct. 19, 2017

Back in April, my editor at Amazon Kindle Singles commissioned me to write an oral history of Late Night with David Letterman. Since, I spoke with somewhere between 40 to 50 people who worked or appeared on the 12:30 a.m. NBC talk show — the one that transformed comedy forever with its ironic obsessions and enabled a generation of writers to flourish, from Jimmy Kimmel to Judd Apatow to Jon Stewart. But many are likely unaware of Letterman being some kind of comedy god; the master tapes of his years at NBC have been locked in a vault since he changed networks in 1993. “To those people [who haven’t seen the original Late Night], Dave is like this old guy on TV,” Jay Mohr explained on his podcast in 2012. “Dave wasChappelle’s Show. It was that underground and that young and that cool.”

Mohr isn’t the only one who can attest. In AND NOW…An Oral History of “Late Night with David Letterman,” 1982–1993 — available for download to your Kindle app for the low, low price of $2.99 — one of my interview subjects is actor Mark Hamill, a recurring Late Night guest in the early years who is easily in the running as one of its all-time #1 fans. In August, Hamill and I had a hour-long phone call in which he shared his questionably unhealthy Letterman obsession — keeping a journal, recording episodes for decades — and how he became something of a de facto archivist for the show. The majority of Hamill’s interview didn’t make it into the e-book, but I felt it deserved a place somewhere for posterity, i.e. for other fanatics to document in theirLetterman journals. They’re out there. Believe me.

Here’s an abbreviated version of that call.

BRIAN ABRAMS: Rolling Stone’s David Browne wrote in 2011 about your keeping a journal [of Late Night] when you lived on the Upper West Side and how in love you were with the “Viewer Mail” segments.

MARK HAMILL: It wasn’t specifically “Viewer Mail,” but that gets into it. First of all, I love comedians. I’m fascinated with the form. It seems to be one of the more bold and brave things to do in show business where you have no one to blame but yourself if you’re not successful. You can always blame an author, a playwright, a director — it’s never your fault. With comedians, they’re just “out there.” When I saw Letterman, I liked him from the beginning. He had a sense of irony and attitude that reminded me of other comedians I liked a lot. He seemed to, like Johnny Carson, have this secret weapon of not being able to bomb because he would make flatter moments funny by commenting on them. Other comedians do that too, but something about Letterman I thought was just gold.

BA: When did you first catch Letterman?

MH: When I saw his [short-lived 1980 NBC] morning show, I said, “This is the next wave of comedy.” It harkened back to Steve Allen, who I loved as a kid, who would go out into the street and do observational humor that was so clever. And I thought, “This is really odd” because this show is so wrong for morning TV, but I can’t get enough of it. And of course it was cancelled. I was really depressed. I have this feeling that things that I love too much are destined to be cancelled. I don’t get over it very easily. I’m still mourning the loss of Square Pegs and Dabney Coleman in Buffalo Bill. Recently I was upset that they cancelled The Neighbors on ABC. Sometimes I have a feeling that, if I love it, it’s the kiss of death. Somehow I’m responsible.

BA: So you definitely caught Letterman’s morning show.

MH: His audience was stay-at-home housewives and so forth — people that would watch game shows or soap operas, which was so wrong [for him]. They did a lot of things that would later carry onto that Late Night show, but I was depressed [when it got cancelled]. I think I read an anecdote at the time, that Letterman himself was sort of in a funk after the show was cancelled and went to see The Empire Strikes Back. And, of course, at the end we all got our butts kicked by the bad guys and it ended on a really down note, and he said that...

e-i-c, @deathandtaxes. Author of 'Party Like a President' and 'AND NOW...An Oral History of Late Night with David Letterman'

by Anthony Galli
Oct. 14, 2017

Memory Vague is the sound of the future lamenting its past.

Possibilities thwarted, opportunities squandered, potential wasted, connections missed.

Or…Memory Vague is the sound of the past mourning its future. A last look at all those things that never are meant to be.

Memory Vague bypasses the present altogether, constructing its identity with ghosts and fragments from glimpses of another age. It hints that it may launch into an unexpected celebration at any time, but reconsiders its position and, instead, mulls over its former glories and failures...

Anthony Galli currently lives in Athens, Georgia. He shares a birthday with his black cat, Magic, and they both claim Wings of Desire as their favorite film. Anthony has published two books of poetry, Amnesia for Insomniacs and Invisible Idiot.

by Cory Vielma
Oct. 14, 2017
The legendary German live-music TV show Beat Club ended its run on December 9, 1972. Newly christened as Musikladen, the show picked up exactly where it left off with its first episode running a mere four days later. All told, Musikladen would end up running 12 years, with its 90th (and final) episode appearing November 29, 1984. In its 12 years, an incredible number of performers would grace its stage, from the top acts of the day to bands whose only point of reference today is their appearance on the show. Together, Musikladen and Beat Club had a huge impact on how music is presented on television, not just in Germany but in the rest of the world. If you are old enough to remember the early days of MTV, think about how often they played clips labeled “Closet Classics”— a hefty chunk of those videos were actually just clips from Musikladen or Beat Club. This is also interesting because I would posit that MTV and the rise of the music video were at least partially responsible for the demise of Musikladen, but more on that later.

Early in Musikladen’s history it seemed that while the show was trying to keep going with what it had built as Beat Club, they had also made small changes to set it apart. Anyone familiar with (the later years of) Beat Club knows that they embraced emerging video effect technologies whole-heartedly and were by no means shy...

Cory Vielma is an American musician, photographer and occasional guy who strings words together, based in Berlin. Under the name The Sadnesses, he has released several records and has had the pleasure of writing for such great publications as SF WeeklyGreencine.com and Si Señor Journalism Compendium. His love of music and film runs so deep that it has permanently altered his DNA and given him the ability to smell time and taste rhumbas. Additionally, he is very fond of a good veggie burger with fries and a side of mustard.

by Chris Sutton
Oct. 12, 2017

During the 1990's I was lucky enough to be employed at an independent music/record store that happened to have a highly progressive video rental section that catered to foreign, cult, and out-of-print movies. It recieved much love and was thoroughly curated with sections dedicated to genres and genius directors of note. Every day when I would restock the returns on to our shelves there was always this one cover in the "J" section that would always stop me for at least a couple seconds and force me to ponder what was inside. The colorful box promised you that "Gross" and "Dirty" acts would be performed by puppets with the tagline "Splatstick Horror". Of course I had to find out what that phrase meant so I checked it out, went home, and got very stoned. What I saw was not just a taboo grossfest perpetuated by grotesquely deformed and maladjusted puppets, but a fully realized ensemble comedy complete with complex emotions, absent ethical boundaries, and gallons upon gallons of various bodily fluids. That movie was called Meet The Feebles, Peter Jacksons facetiously genius homage to The Muppets franchise, and it's simply a work of art...

Chris Sutton is a musician, writer, and artist who currently lives in Portland OR, and grew up in Olympia, WA. He plays or has played with numerous musical acts including Gossip, The Dirtbombs, Dub Narcotic Sound System, Spider & The Webs, Chain & The Gang, & Hornet Leg. Chris has been so obsessed with records over his life that he writes a vinyl collecting memoir/blog called Record Lections on Instagram and he is often seen Djing his new discoveries in local bars or posting mixes on SoundCloud or Mixcloud. He is also a big fan of visual art with a special passion for African American folk art, Impressionism, European New Wave cinema, and most eras of television. Most of the books he reads, whether fact or fiction, usually have drawings in them. Chris's best friends are his faithful rat terriers Juju and Queenie.

by Chris Martin
Sept. 30, 2017
Martial arts movies are the drum solos of the seventh art. Time honored classics of the genre like Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon begin and end with the technical performance of the protagonist’s body. They act as documentaries to an ability that are framed around a fictional narrative. Because of this, many martial art films, much like drum solos, can come off as dull, numbing, and masturbatory displays for those not entirely invested in the performance itself. Despite the fact thatRiki-Oh: The Story of Ricky works itself around the most typical narrative thread for a martial arts film, (i.e. a handsome, physically skilled protagonist enters a despotic system and punches everything until there is nothing left to punch,) Ricky nor his physical abilities are the stars of the film. The stars of Riki-Oh are the victims, both of the villains and of Ricky, and the focus of the action is the boundless amounts of gore distributed to those unfortunate enough to end up in this absurd future-prison...
Christopher Martin recently graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst with a degree in English and a specialization in Film Studies. Shockingly, he is currently underemployed. In his free time Chris likes to read old science fiction novels, enjoy what little nightlife Western Massachusetts has to offer, and watch as many films as possible. He also spends too much time on Tumblr.