Inside Late Night With Mark Malkoff Ep 1: Spike Feresten

Spike Feresten got his start in comedy while working as a receptionist at Saturday Night Live, where he began submitting jokes to then “Weekend Update” anchor Dennis Miller. Before long, as many as five of his jokes were making it to air in a given week. 

From there he was hired as a staff writer on Letterman, then Seinfeld (we have Feresten to thank for “The Soup Nazi” and “Little Kicks”), and then ABC’s legendary Dana Carvey Show, where his colleagues included Robert Smigel, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, and Louis C.K. 

But among comedy nerds, he may be most revered for hosting his own talk show, Talkshow With Spike Feresten, which aired Saturday nights on Fox from 2006-2009. The show holds the record as the Fox Network’s longest-running late-night show, and as Feresten reveals to LateNighter’s Mark Malkoff, it would have continued longer had he not made corporate sibling Fox News such a frequent target of the show’s comedy.

Most recently Feresten co-wrote and produced the Netflix original film Unfrosted, alongside his good friend and longtime collaborator Jerry Seinfeld. 

In this inaugural episode of Inside Late Night with Mark Malkoff, Feresten dishes on his late-night roots, the time he turned down a tennis date with Johnny Carson, the secret crash pad where both Jerry Seinfeld and David Letterman stay when they’re in Los Angeles, and more. 

Click play on the embed below to listen now, or find Inside Late Night With Mark Malkoff on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Show Transcript

Mark Malkoff: Spike Feresten, thank you so much for talking with us.

Spike Feresten: It’s nice to be here.

I have so many questions. First of all, Unfrosted. To me, it’s hard to do comedy. It’s hard to have comedy that just succeeds at a level. It was the cast and then you had the mascot funeral and then you had the nod to January 6th and it just didn’t stop. The casting itself. I mean, this is about late night, soou had from Saturday Night Live, Mikey Day, Bobby Moynihan, Kyle Mooney, Fred Armison, Beck Bennett and Daryl Hammond doing Ed McMahon’s voice. because this was your idea to do this film, correct?

Well, not my idea. This was a joke. If you really want to go back, a while ago I asked Jerry
–because it’s Jerry Seinfeld–you’re having a coffee every once in a while, and every once in a while, I go “Let me be a Jerry Seinfeld historian. Okay, Jerry Seinfeld, you get into a time machine. Where does Jerry Seinfeld go?” [He says], “No question. 1963. Battle Creek, Michigan. You understand why that’s a weird answer, right? 

I had no idea that there was this history as well, with Post versus Kellogg’s. 

I mean, you remember the series. His series, he always was eating breakfast cereal.

That was his thing. Sure.

So I said, not, you know, you don’t want to meet the Marx brothers or you don’t want to, I don’t know, hang with dinosaurs or Abe Lincoln. He goes, no, he goes serious men and suits talking about stupid stuff like prizes and cartoon mascots and he goes, that’s my whole world. That’s my whole thing. It’s a company town.And I’ve always wanted to see what it was like. And now it’s too late. 

I did a podcast for eight years about Johnny Carson. So at one point [in Unfrosted]–it’s set in ‘63–Seinfeld, his character is a guest on Johnny in New York, and I’m watching this and the special effects with Johnny and everything looks so cool. 

We were at one point talking about deep faking, using existing Johnny Carson footage.
And, you know, we were talking to the Carson people. They go “there’s only, I think four or five existing episodes left of the show, everything else is gone.” And we went, we went, “what?” And sure enough, the number was even less than that. I think there were only one or two episodes from 1963 in existence. 

Yeah, there’s some clips, but full episodes, no way. 

They’re gone. That was a big surprise to us. I mean, it’s really a shame. But the reason it was difficult for us is because we were doing face replacement deep fake. And at the time that technology needed, it’s a carnivore for imagery. So you want like, you know, a hundred hours of Johnny Carson and as much crystal clear photography that you throw into the computer and it spits out the image. And it didn’t really exist. The real issue there was getting the right face replacement. And then, which is just, we’re going to deep fake this part of the body. And then what are we going to do about the voice and what are we going to do about the body? And that’s where Kyle Dunnigan came in. 

He’s so good and so talented. 

So good. And he was blowing up during the pandemic on Instagram. And, you know, the whole premise of casting was who are our favorite funny people right now. And he was definitely one of them. And we said, “Do you do Carson?” And he said, “Let me work on it. I don’t want to do Dana Carvey’s Carson, the most famous Carson, but let me work on it and see if I can come
up with something.” And then he walked in with that. And his body looked right. And, you know, we put the face over the hair and it was there. And it came alive. 

I have to say whoever was the casting director needs to get a raise. I mentioned that, and then I found out that you and Jerry basically cast the thing yourselves. 

Well, Kristy Carlson, who was our casting director, was, you know, absolutely crushed it for us. And it was Jerry, Beau [Bauman] and I, who would… we had this board up, and we had all the parts up, of which there were many. And we would, you know, go, “All right, let’s
dream big: who would we love to play this part?”

I mean, it seems like other than Daniel Day Lewis (who I heard Seinfeld wanted), that everybody… I mean, it just really, really worked. So when you were at Saturday Night Live, when you were an intern and then receptionist, you were writing jokes for Dennis Miller, one or two would get on and then up till you were getting up to five on “Weekend Update.” You leave, then, to write for Letterman. At what point–you have no inkling during this time that Lorne wanted to hire you as a writer. Nobody says anything to you. So obviously you get Letterman. You’re gonna go over there. But then you find out they were going to hire you as a writer?

That’s what I heard. I still don’t know for sure. But I did work for Lorne right after that as an
intern on a show called Night Music with David Sanborn, which was a Sunday Night music show that was, it had a little bit of comedy in it in the first year. And I was told by the Broadway video folks that like I’m the writers assistant, but they would like me also to kick in some writing.

I just want to fill in. I heard Lorne was very not happy when you left, which is a compliment to you.

Yeah, maybe, maybe there was a call to an agent, but you know, it’s surprised me. I, you know, I’m so grateful to Lorne Michaels and Saturday Night Live. And it was, you know, for me it was comedy college. You know, I was at Berklee College of Music. It’s a great school, but it was not, it was not going to do anything for me. And I went to Saturday Night Live University, where I was a student of Lorne Michaels, and then David Letterman University. And, and that’s where I learned to do what I’m doing.

Somebody that I was friendly with, that I had lunches, three hour lunches with was [former NBC late night executive] Rick Ludwin. I have to say, if he was alive, he would be so tickled that you included him in the movie. Just, he would be smiling. 

We love Rick Ludwin. He, you know, he’s responsible for Seinfeld getting on the air. He loaned some of his late-night budget to Jerry in that first season and got them more episodes. And that’s when the show started catching fire. 

For the episode of Seinfeld [that you wrote] in ’95, “Little Kicks,” where Elaine is the bad dancer. So you write this thing, and then does Robert Smigel call you on behalf of Lorne? Is that what happened?

I think he did, yeah. I’m trying to get on the right side of Lorne right now, and you’re not helping me!

Oh, okay. Do you want me to talk about this? We can edit it out.

I’m joking. I think at the time, you have to imagine, the show is so big at that time. We have, in the last season, we have helicopters over us while we’re shooting outside. It was, you know, there was no real internet. There was nothing bigger than Jerry’s show. So any time, you know, real life seeped its way into a Seinfeld episode. It had the potential, “The Soup Nazi” is the perfect example. 

Which you wrote.

The morning after that episode airs, that guy was surrounded. The real guy in New York was surrounded by press. His life was turned upside down, right? And so, yeah, “The Little Kicks” was inspired by, you know, me seeing Lorne dance at a party. And I think, and nor would I want this, I wouldn’t want Lorne’s life to be turned upside down. And Robert was just like, hey, can you not mention that this was inspired by Lorne? So I didn’t. 

I get that. And in Lorne’s defense, from talking to Smigel and other people. And I think I’ve heard you say this. He wasn’t a bad dancer. It was just this guy who is a figure that was, some might say, intimidating. And I think you said once on your podcast, which is amazing, Spike’s Car Radio, that he was a guy who you were intimidated by, and just had so much regard for, dancing. And it just, the visual kind of did that.

Well, he was a bad dancer. And who cares? Who cares? He’s the Godfather of comedy in the world, and there’s no more successful producer in the world. 

Yeah. Robert said he danced one time. It was one time. 

People would kill to be this guy. I mean, he’s got the longest running career in comedy ever. And you know, it predates me and may post date me. Who the hell knows? But what I was going for was not that. It was, I’m an insecure receptionist. And this guy is the boss of this place. And he was intimidating to me, not through any behavior that he did. It was just my bad psychology. And when I saw him on the dance floor, doing the little kicks, and I, I saw a human being, a guy just like the rest of us.

He just didn’t want to be like the Soup Nazi, with everybody knowing him. There was a
book written about it. So I don’t even think you were the first person to mention it was buried for years and years. Jay Leno was at the premiere of Unfrosted with Mavis, which I thought was great. I need to ask you one more Seinfeld question, and then I’m done with Seinfeld. That episode where Kramer, he sells his life story to the boss because it’s more interesting. Was that inspired by Jay Leno buying Jeff Altman’s story about being on Dinah Shore and saying it was his?

Oh, that’s right. I don’t think it was, but there was another story where someone was buying a story. 

That was Leno. I mean, Jay told me myself, and he’s been public that he, it was like a thousand bucks to Jeff Altman to have this story for him to say that this happened to him.

There’s another one –there was another bigger one and I don’t recall what it was. Wasn’t there a Norm Macdonald story that where he was buying stories to tell in late night?

Oh, Norm would just make stuff up. I wouldn’t be surprised. I love Norm. I mean, he’s one of the funniest people ever. 

No, he would, he would talk to you and you tell a funny story about your dry cleaning going wrong and he’d go, “let my buy that, I’m gonna take that to…”

Really? He was doing that. 

Somebody, yeah, Jay, it wasn’t Jay, but there was a, there was a bigger scandal with someone who wasn’t in the comedy world who was buying stories and I do believe that was the inspiration. 

Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. When you’re going to Berklee, I mean, you get kicked out of your dormitory because you love Dave so much. I mean, what did you throw out the window that got you kicked out?

Yeah, it wasn’t because I love Dave. It was because I was bored on a Saturday night and drinking beers with my dorm mates and we were on the eighth floor of this building and we thought it would be fun to take the fluorescent light bulbs out of the hallway lighting fixtures and then drop them onto the sidewalk below and smash, you know, no one was down there and it wasn’t, you know, I understand that it’s dangerous, but we were just trying to have fun and I was, they caught us.I was also on the committee that was supposed to make sure kids didn’t do this, so it was doubly bad and they they said you can’t stay here anymore and it was shortly after that I saw Dave doing tower drops dropping fluorescent lights. 

Oh wow. So you did it first. 

No, it’s not that I did it first. I don’t know. They had probably been doing it, but I saw this guy was getting paid to do this and the network was behind it and then I and I very quickly, I mean, I was a huge fan, but I very quickly did the math that I think this is the place for me because I’m getting in trouble, but this guy’s, you know, he’s winning Emmys. 

I got to see the NBC show. I was 16, and I got to go see the NBC show in 6A and it was one of the most exciting days ever and in college, you go and see the show and you’re there and you’re tackling everybody just with confidence. I’m going to be on the show. I’m going to be on the show and what happens? 

Yeah. I was a bit of a stalker. Well, I made bets with my dorm mates that I would get on to the stage and I thought that would be it for television. If I could just get on to this guy’s stage for a second, my life would be made and I’ll go to work doing whatever it is I’m going to end up doing. And they, it was “Canada Day” and they said, “Are there any Canadians out in the audience who can just come up to the stage really quick? You’re going to hand out the lyrics to Oh Canada.” And I walked up even though I’m not from Canada and even though I say the word “out” like a Canadian. I got up on the stage and for a split second, I’m in the show.

I saw a clip, and you won your bet, but just to be in that studio, how exciting it was to see Dave and come out for the warm-up and he’s like right there and stuff. When you were writing for CBS for Dave, this is so Letterman. You go to him and you say there’s this go-kart race for charity. I want to enter the show, and Dave is like, so into this and then this is a show day. A knock on your door and who is it and what does he say? 

Yeah, Dave came down and he goes, “What are you doing here?” And I go, “I’m writing top ten entries.” He goes, “You know we got a race on Saturday.” And I go, “Yeah, yeah, I know” and he goes, “Well, you know, what have you done to the car? What are, how are we going to win?” He goes, “I don’t want to come in fifth,” and I go, “Well, what do you suggest?” He goes, “I suggest you know, you get your butt out to Long Island to the race shops and start asking them what we can do.” 

So he basically gave you permission not to write for three days? 

I said, “Really you want me to leave right now, in the middle,” he goes, “Yeah, get out there and figure it out.” So I left and I called race. I mean, I didn’t know much about cars or what he was talking about, and very quickly, you know, I explained to some guy at a speed shop, whatever that was. Back then there were speed shops. I said, “We’re racing essentially lawnmower engines. What can I do?” And they went, “Well, there are  springs. You can get something called racing gas,” and he goes, “We’ve got racing plugs and that should just get you a little or enough faster with this lawnmower engine to win.” And you know, we got out to the track Saturday and Dave was calling Rob Burnett every 15 minutes for updates. I mean, it was just, you know, it was just like Morgan Stanley, the Letterman show, it was just a dumb Wall Street fundraiser and we lapped everybody and got first place. And here’s what we didn’t know: Before we got the award, they said, “All right,we just have to inspect your car and I went “gulp” and they, they, they put the little squeezer into the gas and the gas came out purple. I had, I had siphoned off their gas and put in this racing gas. And they said, “We’ve got to take first place away from you.” And I said, “I understand.” And he says “We won’t say that you cheated,” and I go, “Well, well, what does that mean?” They go, “We’re going to give you an award for best uniforms, but you’re going to come in fifth.” He owns a racing team right now. 

Yes, because of you. You planted the seed.

Yeah, it was the beginning of Rahal Letterman racing. And by the way, we won. He was right. And you know, if you’re not, if you’re not, you know, pushing the boundaries out a little bit, you’re not racing. 

The only other time he came to your office is that summer leading up to CBS when Leno showed up unannounced, right? He showed up unannounced and came up, and Dave basically…

Oh, yeah, he might have. He might have come down. 

He hid in Bill Scheft’s office and I thought your office. 

He did, but he would come down all the time. Sometimes we exaggerate when we tell stories. But Dave was very friendly with the writers. It was always fun when he would stop by. Even more fun to pitch him. I mean, you would have loved that. That was blast. 

Yeah. I mean, over the show was at its pinnacle and the Emmys of ‘91, you’re in Los Angeles. And Letterman knows you’re a car guy. And he has, to this day I think, a lot of people have them, a hangar at the Santa Monica Airport. So Dave invites you over there and you get there. And what do you notice? What do you discover? Because you think Dave would state a five star hotel. It’s Dave Letterman. What do you discover? 

And now I know differently, but he, you know, these hangars were essentially Cessna hangers. So, corrugated steel doors like this or aluminum doors with a padlock on it and you’d open up like this. And Dave opens his up and he’s got these beautiful cars there. But in the back, he’s got a cot like an army cot and a little table with a telephone. And there was a bathroom there in this hanger. And I said, “Oh, that’s nice, you can take a nap.” And he goes, “No, I’m staying here.” The other guy who sleeps with his cars right now is Jerry. And I totally understand it. By the way, you know, this Santa Monica airport is great. It’s a beautiful, beautiful spot. It’s one of the most beautiful open spaces with Cessnas landing and taking off. It’s just got a beautiful look at the hills and on the clear day, you can see the Hollywood sign and the ocean. It’s so relaxing out there. And you know, I think for both these New York guys, they don’t get to see their cars a lot. And they’d, rather than stay in a hotel, “I’ll just sleep here.” 

I get that. They’re not people that are impressed with, you know, the five star hotel thing.So you started the pickle tradition with Late Night, correct? Because it went from you to Conan. Then it went to, I guess, Fallon and then to Seth. 

Yeah, I at least was the catalyst for it, I think, with the writers. When we were leaving NBC, we had a bunch of stuff left over and Conan was taking over for Dave. And one of the things that had been sitting in the writer’s room was this giant green pickle. And I thought, well, this is a perfect housewarming gift for our friend Conan O’Brien and the writing staff. But primarily the writing staff. So we sent that down to the writers and said, “Congratulations. Here’s the giant pickle that’s been gathering dust up in our writer’s conference room. Now it’s yours. Good luck.” 

And it still is in rotation. Talkshow With Spike Feresten. [It was on for] three seasons. I watched every episode, I believe. I want to say that if it had stayed on the air, it would still be on the air today… And you didn’t even, you weren’t even lobbying for the job. You did  like an 11 minute presentation. They’re like, no, you should be the host. You were so natural in that. I’ve never seen somebody make the leap so quickly. 

Well, I benefited from a lot of really good advice. You know, it was at a time where I could pick up the phone and call Jon Stewart or pick up the phone and call Jay Leno and call Jerry. 

What did they say? What was the advice? 

Everybody had different advice. You know, Jon, Jon said, “Look, stay off the internet for a year. Trust me.” That was his advice. Jay was like, “Tell jokes. [If] one doesn’t work. Just keep going. Tell jokes quickly.” Jerry was like, he goes “Until you learn how to perform. I want you to talk loudly. People will think, you know what you’re doing. If you talk loud, they’ll think you’re funny.” You know, and you hear that in his performance. So everybody had a different piece of advice.

And that really helped me get up to speed. And then they would fly me to New York, Fox, and meet with this mysterious guy. I still don’t remember who it is. But I walked into this small office in Manhattan. And there was this weird guy. And I would bring these VHS test tapes of interviews like with Jason Bateman and other folks. And he would critique them. And he was the guy, apparently. He’s like, “Look, I’ve worked with everybody. Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel. I’m the guy.” And he would watch these videos. And he would say things like, “You know, you know, there’s a party going on here, but it’s not your party.”And I’d go, “All right.” And he goes, “All right, well, come back next week.” It was so mysterious. And he would keep giving me these little clues. But gradually they started to make sense. Like, you know, “You’re the guy driving the bus. Hit the gas. And no one to hit the brakes.” And he would teach me these little things. And it really, it was really one of the happiest times of my life. I had great group of writers. And Fox, let it me do whatever I wanted to.

I was going to ask you creatively if they let you alone. 

They did. But, you know, it’s kind of what undid us. You know, at the time, Obama was running for president. And I had hired the funniest writers I could find. And most of them were Daily Show writers. And I let them do whatever they want. And that was the premise of the show. And when things turned political, of course, you know, we looked at Obama, but, you know, comedy is mostly is kind of poking fun where people kind of step in it. And he’s not that type of guy, but George Bush was. And Bill O’Reilly was. And Fox News was. And we, you know, not unlike Seth McFarlane, kind of pokes fun at the network. And we, I think, went a little too far. We did it once or twice, but then we did it three or four times. And I heard that, that Ailes eventually said, get rid of this guy. 

Get rid of Spike. If YouTube, if it really existed, I mean, I remember you doing the pieces on MySpace. But if YouTube had existed, with your viral pieces? I mean,your show would have exploded. I mean, the one that you did with your neighbor whose dog was doing its business on your yard? You had an elephant, you have a legal way to get your revenge on her, spraying her with a hose. Did she ever respond to you or bring that up to you or say anything? 

She was a nasty person. This was the woman who was walking her dog and it was defecating on my lawn every day. And I asked her to stop. And she told me to f off.. A very specific type of human that I think we all know, male or female. There’s a type of person that’s just vindictive that way. 

You have the camera on the hose. 

Yeah. Yeah. We, we, we set up a hose and we waited for that morning. We fired a hose at her. 

That was the funniest.  And “Idiot Paparazzi.” 

“Idiot Paparazzi” was so much fun.

Just so much good stuff on the show. It just, it was just so hard because it worked so well that to see after three seasons, something that was that was really found its voice very quickly, which just doesn’t happen a lot. 

Well, I credit my writers for that. I mean, that was the premise of the show, a writer driven show. When I, when I talked to Fox about it, I said to them, I go, when we write comedy like at Letterman, there are a bunch of jokes that we, that make us laugh that never Dave will go, “That’s not our show,” right? Or Jerry will go, “We’re not going to do that.” But they’re funny writer’s room riffs. I want my show to be the writer’s room. 

You were letting them produce pieces, which a lot of places, most places do not let them do.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I wanted them to have, I wanted them to have the experience I had and, uh, and it was great. It was a lot of fun. But we did, you know, we were on Hulu and we were the number one clips on Hulu. 

That was so, I implore people to go on YouTube. I don’t know what clips are still there, but, um, it’s really good guests and it was fun who you were putting on a lot of your friends. 

You’re the perfect person to ask about this, Mark. I’ve got all the shows right over there, and  what happened after the show was canceled was Fox scrubbed the internet of everything. And I have everything here and I’ve thought about getting them back up or throwing them up on a TikTok and small pieces… 

Spike, you have to do something with them. That MySpace kid was so funny. You take that kid and you give him this like amazing, 

Yeah, yeah. I tried to make his profile cool. He was the least cool kid on MySpace. 

Oh, you should do something with that, people want to see that. You left Seinfeld to do The Dana Carvey Show? Did you, is that why you left? 

I didn’t leave. We had a month-long vacation between seasons. And when I saw what, uh, Smigel and Dana and their crew was doing, uh, I was absolutely blown away and tickled by it. I was so drawn to it.  I begged them to let me just come be a part of it. I just said, I’ll just come and do whatever you guys want. 

What was your favorite piece you got on, if any? Because I know that it was, it was hard to get on stuff sometimes. 

Yeah, that’s a good thing, right? Because they’re picking the funniest stuff. But we got a bunch, I went with Steve O’Donnell, who is one of my comedy writing heroes from Letterman. And he and I occasionally would partner up and write like Space Ghost and do funny shows that we just wanted to be a part of their history. Some of the funny things that I remember that Jerry and I still talk about is, uh, the JFK auction bit where it’s just Bill Chott on a porch whose purchased JFK’s rocker and he’s saying “Look at me. I’m JFK.” I really loved that bit because I don’t understand why people buy celebrity memorabilia because really it’s just about bragging rights. I, I really love that sketch. 

I was at the taping for that one. I was at a couple different tapings, but I remember, um, that, uh, doing really well. 

Um, you know what I’d love to track down is I was in one of the cold opens. You know how Smigel named, um, the show after the sponsor “Taco Bell Presents” every wee?  There was a, I think in episode five or six, he said, I want you to play “Brian Teaches you Guitar” and I go, what is that? He goes, it’s, uh, it’s a, a guy who’s, uh, putting up guitar lessons on telephone poles in New York. “Brian Teaches You Guitar,” with the little tabs with the phone number. I want you to be Brian, but it got cut out of the show and I’ve never seen it. 

I was there and it was the, this is what I remember. It was the last taping that didn’t officially air. Um, I think it didn’t air on ABC, but I thought they put it up somewhere. But the joke was is they started with like, you know, um, Mug root beer and then it was a Mountain Dew and all these prestigious things. And then if you’re in New York City, you would see these ads like these on paper, “Brian Will Teach You Guitar,” and there’d be all these phone numbers you could take. And it was basically an acknowledgment that, like, we’re going down. Um, but so you were Brian on that. I do remember that.

Yeah. Yeah. And I, you know, I carry this guilt that I blew it for Robert. So, again, he’s another one of the, you know, if I’ve had to create my list of top comedy writers in the world, Smigel  is #1 or close #1. 

I mean, I think he is. I tell him that I, I mean, he’s a humble guy, but I mean, in terms of… 

Who can make you laugh harder than Robert Smigel?

He, I mean, it’s crazy. I have to send you something he did for me yesterday, which was, um, he, he wrote a sketch for when Chris Farley came back [to SNL] when he hosted the one time. And, um, I asked him about a sketch and he’s like, I have no recollection. And then he has this database. And he read the entire sketch as Farley is Rosie O’Donnell, but did all the different parts and he plays Lorne. And it was, I could not believe, um, Robert did this for me. And it was, um, it was amazing. And I mean, he’s the, in terms of a sketch comedy writer, him and Jack Handey. I mean, I think they’re maybe one and two… or [Jim] Downey. 

This is like my intern year at Saturday Night Live. You know, you’d have Herb Sargent, you’d have, you know, Dana Carby there. You had, you know, uh, you know, you know, Smigel  and, uh, there was  Al Franken. And who is the head writer there at that time? Jim Downey. 

No, I mean, it was the dream team.. 

I would walk into and watch these guys work and go, Oh my God. And then I got to see a little bit of the original, uh, Simpsons team and Letterman team. And you’re just like, if I could ever be one fifth as talented as these guys, they’re so good and so fast. 

And speaking of Herb Sargent, did he resent that you were giving Dennis [Miller] jokes? Was he territorial about it? Cause I know he yelled at you once. 

He did, but that was my bad timing. 

So that was just separate, but he was not upset that you were giving.. Cause now they have like four or five people writing Update on SNL. I think it’s four. Back then it was just Herb and Dennis, with newspapers showing up on Saturday.

Look, I was an idiot kid and I went into Dennis’ office at the wrong time when Herb was doing work and I just didn’t know that. 

He was okay. You were submitting those–that you were giving jokes. 

Yeah. Yeah. He was a good guy. Terrific. He was just like, “Sorry, you know, the timing was wrong.” And he was right. I shouldn’t have been in there. 

Did you ever meet Johnny Carson? I know you’re in Malibu when he showed up at one of the dinners. But did you meet him? 

No, I was invited to play, you know, this, this is another story that absolutely kills me. Cause right now you may or may not know, I’m tennis obsessed. Absolutely tennis obsessed. I started playing with my son when he started playing when he was 13 and I play like crazy right now. And back then, I had seen him maybe met him for a brief moment at a party of Dave’s when we were out here. But at some point I was invited to, you know, he was looking for tennis partners and he and someone, maybe someone at C.A.A. called me up and said, “Do you want to play tennis with Johnny Carson?” And I, I mean, I can’t believe I said no to this. But I said, “You know, I’m just going to let him down.” I couldn’t play like I can play now. I can play very well now. And I’m happy to play with anybody that wants to play. But that’s one another one of my biggest regrets that I didn’t just go there for this story for this moment. 

You would have made him happy because I mean, he was, if he lost, I mean, his days were ruined. I mean, if he could have taken somebody, 

I don’t want to play tennis with people like that. That’s the reason I’m happy I didn’t play with Hugh Grant. Hugh Grants is a great tennis player too. And he and I would talk about tennis on the set [of Unfrosted]. But I said, “I know who you are. I’m not going to feel good if I win. I’m not going to feel good if I lose, right?” He goes, “That’s right, Spike.” [Laughs]

So funny. I know we have to go, but I just want to mention, your podcast Spike’s Car Radio, I mean, you have James Marsden was just on, and you get Seinfeld, who does not do podcasts. He avoids podcasts. And you get them all the time. And it’s just this amazing group of people that you get to talk about your love of cars, and just comedy and just hang out. And it’s so such a, it just seems just like a warm place where you guys can all just get together and maybe not even pay attention that’s being recorded and just be yourselves. And it’s just so much fun to kind of be that fly on the wall just to kind of hang out and listen to everybody. 

That’s exactly right. I mean, you do it. You know how it makes you feel. There’s something about podcasting. You really feel good. And for me, it’s just, I’m going to do shows for me. If people listen, that’s fine. But I’m going to bring in the people that I love and want to talk to. And if we talk about cars great, or if we if we stay on comedy the whole time, or if I talk to James Marsden about his whole life or if I reminisce with Dennis Miller or I get to meet Christian Bale and Matt Damon, that’s cool. But you get to do what you know, there’s no interference. In a way it’s like stand up. It’s just here’s what I’m just going to do this. This hour is just for me and I hope you like it, too. And it lately, it’s been, you know, it’s been getting bigger and it’s scratching the late night itch. Because the one thing I learned about myself in late night is I love to interview people. I’d rather be on your side of it than on my side. 

You’re so good at it. So it makes absolute sense. The one with Dennis Miller is online somewhere and it was just.. Dennis does not like doing these things. He’ll do them for his friends. And I just loved you guys reminiscing about SNL and stuff. He does not get enough credit. Dennis for Update. I mean, that and the HBO show where he, cable was actually winning Emmys. At some would you be willing to come back in like six months, eight months? I know you’re busy, but we would love to have you a year. 

Sure. Anytime.

Really? Okay. And if not, no worries. Just ghost me. 

I love talking about late night. There’s so much to talk about. I’m a fan like you are.  I’m lucky enough to, you know, hang out with some of these folks and anytime you want. 

That’s very, very nice. And if not just ghost man, I can take it or maybe not take it. 

You’re not the guy I’m ghosting. 

Were you at the Hollywood Bowl last night? 

Yeah. Yeah. That was a show? Holy moly, was that a show. 

And they were handing out Pop-Tarts

We had our Pop-Tart car. It’s going to be there again if the, I don’t know when you’re going to post this, but there was a Pop-Tart airstream pulled by a Cadillac. Last night I heard they handed out five thousand Pop-Tarts to the hungry sand-up fans. I was backstage, which is not as glamorous as it sounds. It was just little dressing rooms for Sebastian [Maniscalco], Nate Bargatze, Jim Gaffigan and Jerry. It was, it was an amazing night. My son and my daughter, I mean, my wife and my son went. So I walked them out to their seats. Everybody was in a great mood. They were so excited and that place is such a magical place. 

It is.

And they went out, you know, the big thing was… Did I tell you this? It was who’s going to perform first out of the four. So they have a top hat and ping pong balls with four numbers on it. And at the top of the show, they all come out and they pick their number to see who’s going on. So, to you, Mark–


What was the number everybody wanted? [That’s]  the question to you.

I would want to close, I think. But at the same time, either a close or open, you know, I could Jerry always closes. I mean, he has an opener.  

They all are closers. They’re all heavyweight arena sellout comedians. And you see the problem. Yeah. So, what number do they want? What’s your pick?

For Seinfeld who’s so methodical, I would think that he would want to be last because that’s what he’s used to 

Here is, I’m going to give you clue. They all wanted the same number. What is it? One through four. You got to pick a number. It doesn’t matter if you’re wrong. 

I was going to say four, but two?  

It makes no sense but three was number one. Two was second. Four was third. And one was everybody’s last choice. And last night, Sebastian got one. Jerry got four. To me four was the number. And I thought Jerry closing at four was perfect. I don’t know why he wanted three, but those guys obviously know more about stand up. 

Seinfeld though, at the same time is always as the audience can only handle so much comedy. So maybe that was why he… 

It was twenty minutes a piece. That was it. Twenty. They could have kept going. The audience was red hot. They absolutely loved it. It was a huge success for Netflix. And you know, it’ll be next year. Hopefully there’ll be something like it. 

I really hope so. 

I had not seen something like that before just four heavyweights just out there hitting home runs for everybody. And the next guy would come up. And Nate Bargatze is the new guy. Nate Bargatze is just out of his world. 

Can you believe him? I mean, that that was one of the last late night discoveries. I mean, Fallon really put him on. and obviously a funny man, and made his name and stuff. But I feel like that was the last time a late night show really kind of launched somebody like that. 

He’s shockingly good. And it was so fun. The one fun part about being backstage is you’d go back and the other three comics would be watching the comic on stage and just rolling. Just rolling about and laughing about how good they are. They were so supportive and so funny. You know, it was so good, you know, you might think they might go, oooh whatever. He’s not so good. It was a complete opposite. They were celebrating each other. And it was a very cool thing to see.Really cool thing to see. 

Thank you so much for doing this, Spike. I’d love to bring you to come back six whatever months. 


I know you’re a busy man with your car show and just, yeah, I wish you a lot of luck. Also in your tennis game, I know you can do it. 

There you go. Playing in a couple hours. 

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  1. Myron Cotton says:

    nice Podcast