Most rude talk show hosts

Discuss the latest news and rumors in the magic world.

Postby Bruce Arnold » 01/04/02 04:16 PM

Who would you pick as being the most rude talk show hosts of all time, at least as far as magic guests? My hands down winner would be Tom Snyder of Tomorrow fame. I've seen him try to grab the deck right out of a performers hand, amongst many other really rude behaviors.
In second place would be David Letterman, although he seems to have mellowed out somewhat.

Bruce Arnold
Bruce Arnold
Posts: 16
Joined: 01/19/08 01:00 PM
Location: St. Petersburg, FL

Postby Brian Marks » 01/10/02 11:17 AM

David Letterman has had many complaints from guests including Madonna. Maybee he has mellowed form his behavior with guests in general.
Brian Marks
Posts: 918
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: Nyack, NY

Postby Bill Mullins » 01/10/02 04:00 PM

Tom Mullica does not have anything good to say about his appearance on Letterman, many years ago. However, when David Roth was on about 3 years ago, he seemed to be treated well.

Bill Mullins
Bill Mullins
Posts: 3719
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Huntsville, AL

Postby Steve Hook » 01/11/02 12:46 AM

Over the years, Dave has turned from combative and insulting (he was VERY harsh with some guests back in The Day, as you probably remember) to extremely cynical and sometimes even courteous. He HAS mellowed.

But I saw that Mullica show. I'd been to the TomFoolery and knew Mullica was a genius, so I was really looking forward to the performance. Letterman treated him like a troublesome streetperson, interrupting him constantly. Tom handled it very, very well, though I think he was surprised, if not shocked.

My other vote for host would be Mariett Hartley being infantile while Darwin Ortiz attempted to do some false shuffling, etc. This was on one of the morning shows she briefly hosted. She didn't last long. Not sure that a lot of people like her.

Apparently this mega-network couldn't come up with an appropriate adjustable chair to get Darwin at the right height/angle, so he was sitting on a big phone book. Just before he starts his standard but excellent shuffle sequence, she interrupts him to start making fun of the fact he's sitting on a phone book. I think she even pulled it out from under him. This from a woman who, years later, is peddling "How to Get Rid of Your Glasses Without Lasik Surgery" on the radio. What a career move! Good gosh, the things magicians suffer through.

Steve H

[ March 02, 2002: Message edited by: Steve Hook ]
Steve Hook
Posts: 782
Joined: 10/21/08 11:50 AM
Location: North Carolina, USA

Postby Brian Marks » 01/11/02 02:13 PM

Letterman did not give David Roth an easy time nor did magicians. David was doing chinc a chinc when Letterman started messing with the coins. Magicians complained that David should have done Ammar's shadow coins but the coin Letterman fooled with most would have had a shell on it.
Brian Marks
Posts: 918
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: Nyack, NY

Postby Guest » 01/17/02 08:09 AM

I remember seeing Derek Dingle on Synder's show a couple of times, and don't remember him being treated badly at all. Maybe I was just too excited to be seeing Derek. Though I generally love Letterman, he's pretty rough on Magicians, I remember Mullica but didn't see Roth. Letterman basically treats all such acts with the same contempt he used to treat Kamar, the discount magician who did many appearances on the show and received much abuse. I think Penn & Teller's cockroach production was a victory for our side!

Postby Guest » 01/17/02 12:14 PM

I think the article on Mac King in January's Genii sheds some pretty good light on why Letterman (with roots in stand up comedy) may give Magicians a hard time.

Mac gets into how stand up comedians generally feel about magicians.

One thing on Brian Marks' comment on Roth performing Shadow Coins instead of Chink-a-Chink, I don't think that would ever happen. I remember Roth at a recent lecture explain the routine and say, this is how it is done sitting at a table "As God originally intended". I thought that was funny and very telling as to his opinion on the matter. Humor aside, Roth's reason for prefering his original method is the final show of both hands opening palm up away from the table, which cannot be done with Shadow coins.

Postby Brian Marks » 01/17/02 01:57 PM

David selected his version for various reasons including what you have said and not having anything extra on the table that Letterman could grab aka a shell. He mentioned having watched many tapes of previous magicians on Letterman as well as other shows and was worried to a certain extent about grabbing. Several other instances were mentioned on this thread. This thinking along with finishing clean were put into selection of tricks that David used. He did chink a chink, winged silver and a one coin routine if I remember correctly. In each case nothing extra was to be found except for an extra coin.
Brian Marks
Posts: 918
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: Nyack, NY

Postby Guest » 01/17/02 03:05 PM

I would have loved to see the seen the show. Roth is one of my favorites.

Postby Guest » 03/02/02 07:09 PM

Letterman acting like a jerk? Jezz' thats a hard one to believe !!! I don't know of a single person that watchs this loser. NOT ONE. Cher has him pegged to a tee. A**hole !

Postby Pete McCabe » 03/03/02 12:51 AM

I watch Letterman. Everybody I know watches Letterman. But I don't know that many people.

I've been in the audience twice and met Letterman backstage once (a friend of mine was a guest). Dave was incredibly nice and everyone I know who's worked for and/or with him says the exact same thing.

HOWEVER, on his show he treats magicians "badly," interrupting, making jokes, etc. He does this with everyone on his show. That's just the way he does it.

It's maybe not the best thing for a magic trick, so maybe most magic acts shouldn't go on Letterman. Certainly any act that can't stand up to that kind of thing will fall down.

I'm sure that's one reason Penn and Teller go on -- they are in control and they select (or invent) material that will work well under those conditions.

Having said that, Dave has certainly mellowed since his heart attack and the 9/11 attack, both of which softened his barbs considerably.
Pete McCabe
Posts: 2138
Joined: 01/18/08 01:00 PM
Location: Simi Valley, CA

Postby Jeff Haas » 03/03/02 03:49 AM

Penn & Teller's agenda on a talk show is, in Penn's words, to "freak out the meat puppet" (the host) since magic gets diluted by being filtered through TV -- but human reactions get lots of airplay.

I've noticed that ever since Letterman figured this out, he doesn't get involved with their stuff. He sits at his desk, and lets them do their piece over to the side, and then walks up afterwards and tells them "Good job!"
Jeff Haas
Posts: 924
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: San Mateo, CA

Postby David Britland » 03/03/02 09:15 AM

The award for the rudest TV host I've ever seen has to go to an Australian interviewer on a breakfast show.

The magician started by displaying a packet of cards and made the mistake of saying something along the lines of, "Here's a trick with eight cards."

"Eight?" said the host, sceptically. He was right to be curious, there were in fact nine and you spend the rest of the routine waiting for the host to pick the cards up and count them. He doesn't, but the tension is palpable. This is not a host who enjoys being fooled and he's a pratt throughout the entire segment.

The worst point comes when the host, totally unprovoked, reaches into the magician's jacket and takes out his wallet. It was a Kaps wallet, and you are on the edge of your seat waiting to see what will happen next. Somehow, he doesn't find the gimmick.

It ends with a disastrous ring to keycase. The pull jams and you can see the magician desperately trying to shake it loose in order to conclude the effect, while the co-host, a woman, keeps asking about the fate of her ring.

The magician does produce it and somehow gets through the show without hitting the host. Watching it on tape just gives you goosebumps.
David Britland
Posts: 71
Joined: 01/24/08 01:00 PM
Location: England

Postby Matthew Field » 03/05/02 01:42 PM

Originally posted by Brian Marks:
Magicians complained that David should have done Ammar's shadow

Can someone give me a reference for Ammar's "Shadow Coins"?

Matthew Field
User avatar
Matthew Field
Posts: 2635
Joined: 01/18/08 01:00 PM
Location: Hastings, England, UK

Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 03/05/02 01:49 PM

Originally posted by Matthew Field:

Can someone give me a reference for Ammar's "Shadow Coins"?

Matthew Field

According to his website, it's on "Easy To Master Money Miracles, Volume 2"

Jim Maloney_dup1
Posts: 1709
Joined: 07/23/01 12:00 PM
Location: Northern New Jersey

Postby Matthew Field » 03/05/02 02:49 PM

Thanks, Jim!

Matt Field
User avatar
Matthew Field
Posts: 2635
Joined: 01/18/08 01:00 PM
Location: Hastings, England, UK

Postby Guest » 03/05/02 05:36 PM

Ok. So maybe there are some who like and watch Letterman. I'm honestly glad to hear you had a good experience with the man. I can not look past his rude and ignorant attitude towards a good number of his guests. He deserved what he got the night Cher called him a Assh*** on national TV. He is still living that one down.
Its just my opinion. I hope no one gets in a knot about it.

Postby John Pezzullo » 03/06/02 03:37 AM

David Britland wrote:

The award for the rudest TV host I've ever seen has to go to an Australian interviewer on a breakfast show.

Bloody Australians!

They can be so rude and tactless. It must be something that they're taught in kindergarten.
John Pezzullo
Posts: 455
Joined: 03/16/08 05:19 AM

Postby Richard Kaufman » 03/06/02 08:42 AM

I'd like to put in a good word for Tom Snyder. I watched his "Tommorrow" show for man years and saw some classic programs of magic with great magicians including Vernon, Dingle, Ricky Jay, and the infamous appearance with John Scarne trying to cut to a crimp in the deck and missing repeatedly (the crimp was on the side of the deck facing the camera: everyone in the audience could see it EXCEPT Scarne).
I've always thought Letterman was a putz, and he treated Mullica terribly.
I didn't see the Roth appearance, but people don't seem to get the point that Roth does his ORIGINAL Chink a Chink, not the stupid variant by Chris Kenner that Michael Ammar performs (aka Shadow Coins). It's a crap variation that incorrectly emphasizes everything that is beautifully underplayed in Roth's original handling.
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine
User avatar
Richard Kaufman
Posts: 22227
Joined: 07/18/01 12:00 PM
Location: Washington DC

Postby Guest » 03/06/02 10:51 AM

Ouch! I know that the coin effect is off topic, but I just wanted to say that I wouldn't call the coins on the floor effect a "crap variation". I've seen all three of these guys do it. And as done by Ammar and Kenner, I think it looks better on the floor. And its more unique, and I'd even say practical. (You'll find more rug covered floors than close-up mats). No discredit to Roth, its basically HIS effect. But really, the variants are a thing of beauty.

Postby Bill Mullins » 03/06/02 01:33 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
I'd like to put in a good word for Tom Snyder. I watched his "Tommorrow" show for man years and saw some classic programs of magic with great magicians including Vernon, Dingle, Ricky Jay, and the infamous appearance with John Scarne

I also saw Harry Anderson on the CBS version at least twice. Obviously, Snyder _liked_ Anderson, so Anderson came off quite well (I think he did a version of Polaroid money on one appearance, and demonstrated a coin ladder on the other).

Bill Mullins
Huntsville, Al
Bill Mullins
Posts: 3719
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Huntsville, AL

Postby Ryan Matney » 03/06/02 07:11 PM

During Harry Anderson's appearances Tom allways put his glasses on and leaned forward like he was genuninly interested. He laughed and applauded at the right places. I allways thought Tom Snyder seemed like a magic fan.

The Foo Can
David Acer's Swiss Pack-Now Shipping!
Ryan Matney
Posts: 768
Joined: 01/18/08 01:00 PM
Location: Hurley, Va

Postby Guest » 03/30/02 07:53 PM

I worked for Letterman, one night when he was guest hosting the Carson show,,,I was supposed to saw him in two with the buzz saw,,after we went all throught the aggravation of constructing a special gimmick for him,,he backed out, and we used my wife Kathleen,,he gave it to us pretty good, and I enjoyed every minute of it,,,,whats that old saying ? if you cant stand the heat, dont ---- with the thermostat. Kramien

Postby Cugel » 04/02/02 02:35 AM

In regard to David Britland's anecdote, I believe the hapless magician was Bob Jardine.

The host was Gordon Elliott, and he was certainly offensive on that occasion. Maybe that's why he was talent spotted and offered more money to move to the US to host one of those amusing shows where trailer park residents reveal details about their infidelities and then biff one another.

User avatar
Posts: 441
Joined: 01/26/08 01:00 PM
Location: Overworld

Postby Terry » 04/02/02 06:17 AM

The host was Gordon Elliott
I remember this trash TV guy from years ago. Over-stuffed Jerry Springer wannabe.
Posts: 1257
Joined: 01/18/08 01:00 PM
Location: Kentucky

Postby Bill Duncan » 04/02/02 10:50 PM

Originally posted by Andrew Wimhurst:
In regard to David Britland's anecdote, I believe the hapless magician was Bob Jardine.

The host was Gordon Elliott...
Would that be the guy who now "follows food" on the cooking network?
Bill Duncan
Posts: 1382
Joined: 03/13/08 11:33 PM

Postby Guest » 05/03/02 03:27 AM

In the late 90`s a german Late night host called Harald Schmidt (the "german David Letterman") did an unbelievable trick to a Magician named "Mr.Cox".
Mr. Cox performed mentalism and sealed a prediction in a prediction box that had to be kept save till the next show. In the meantime Schmidt hired a locksmith to open the box and filmed the empty piece of paper inside.
Next show Cox performed his Prediction trick. The show after Schmidt exposed the whole thing including a slow motion of the swich. It was both embarassing for Cox and irritating for magicians to see this happen.

Postby Guest » 11/05/02 07:45 AM

For those who want to see the David Roth on Late Night with David Letterman clip, I have aquired a copy in Real Media Player format.

I don't plan on leaving this file up long term, so those that want to download it now it can be found at If for some reason that link does not work by clicking it, just copy it and paste it in your address bar. Or just right click the link and choose "Save Target As" and save it to your Hard Drive.

It is a 2.86 meg file.

I think David Roth did quite well on the show. He was fooling Letterman quite well. I thought the comment about "FAXING" the coins from one hand to another Letterman said was pretty funny, and some good patter inspiration.


Postby Sean Macfarlane » 11/05/02 09:35 AM

That made my night. Thanks Dan
Sean Macfarlane
Posts: 201
Joined: 04/04/08 01:26 PM

Postby Guest » 11/05/02 06:14 PM

I agree with Dan Watkins on this one. In fact, I'd go a bit further; I think Letterman's antics during the Roth set actually elevated the piece to a much greater level.

David Letterman's job is to bring comedy to his guest interviews; in Roth's case, he had the further role of playing the audience assistant, and anyone who performs in the real world knows that an audience assistant can often be much funnier than the magician. So, in Letterman's world, Roth was supposed to be his comic foil; it IS, after all, Letterman's show. What made Roth shine was his ability to field the Letterman gibes, and even turn the tables and make Letterman HIS straight man a time or two.

The upshot is that it really couldn't have worked out better for David Roth. He came well prepared - knowing what to expect - and Letterman got burned BADLY (and everyone there knew it). The routines Roth performed were all "grab-proof", as PROVEN by the several times Letterman GRABBED. Meanwhile, Letterman had the audience rolling with laughter, which is his job. In Letterman's case, that was clearly his role and he filled it well. The real beauty was that Roth was completely ready with dry-wit responses and nothing Letterman did or said could fluster him.

From an audience point of view the magic couldn't have been stronger. Here was their representative (Letterman) sitting as close as possible and grabbing away at everything in sight, proclaiming over and over about how badly he was being fooled. There is no better way to bring the experience of the moment to a large audience than to really astonish your on-stage helper.

Ultimately, this could well be considered Roth's finest hour (or finest five minutes, anyway), and if I personally had to choose between an overly involved spectator (such as Letterman was) or a bump-on-a-log wallflower, I'd take Letterman any day of the week.

Thomas Wayne

Postby Guest » 11/05/02 08:46 PM

Thats a dead on analysis Thomas, I agree wholeheartedly.

Postby Pete McCabe » 11/06/02 12:57 PM


Thanks for saving me the trouble of posting the exact same thing.

Dan Watkins:

Thanks for the clip. It's terrific.
Pete McCabe
Posts: 2138
Joined: 01/18/08 01:00 PM
Location: Simi Valley, CA

Postby Doug Brewer » 11/12/02 03:01 PM

Thanks Dan for posting this! I can't tell you how long I've wanted to see this clip. I don't believe Letterman was at any time being rude, but instead I'd say he was thoroughly enjoying Roth. He was like any spectator who gets "into" the magic - he's an exaggerated example, of course - but he looked like he was having fun.
Doug Brewer
Posts: 120
Joined: 01/25/08 01:00 PM
Location: San Diego, CA

Postby Kendrix » 11/14/02 02:15 PM

I am not a big fan of Kreskin, but Letterman abused him when he was doing some mentalism work.
Macauly Culkin was on the show and every time Kreskin asked him anything he said "I don't care"
It is one of the reasons mentalism never did much for me until I saw Larry Becker and Lee Earle.
Posts: 162
Joined: 01/31/09 02:36 PM

Postby Guest » 12/07/02 11:19 PM

I just want to say thanks for posting that clip of Roth on the Letterman show! I remember meeting Roth at Tannen's many years ago. I nervously asked him about the Classic Palm. He took me to the back room where magicians would show or breifly discuss tricks and spent about a half hour on the right way of classic palming a coin. Great guy.


Postby David Alexander » 12/08/02 01:17 PM

I've met Tom Snyder a couple of times - "call me Tommy" - and found him perfectly pleasant. My memory of watching him on his old show with Scarne was that he was respectful of John who was years past his prime.

There is a story about Blackstone Sr that well illustrates the concept of "working strong." Blackstone was hired to do a TV show with Milton Berle, then the biggest thing on television. Berle was notorious for crashing acts and making a general pest of himself at the expense of other performers. Old Man Blackstone had his own set of Big Brass Ones and was a very BIG star in his own right.

During the show, broadcast live, he brought Milton out and showed him a trunk. This had NOT happened in rehersal. Harry told Milton to get in the trunk and examine the bottom. He did. Blackstone dropped the lid, locked it, and said, "Now we'll get on with our show," and proceeded to perform with Mr. Television in a locked trunk on the stage. As the show was live, nothing could be done. When Blackstone finished, he let Milton out of the trunk. Berle knew he'd been bested by a master and let it go, but I don't think Blackstone was invited back.....

While I didn't see this happen, I did watch Harry Junior remind Milton of the story, which Berle remembered. He didn't say a word in complaint and spoke respectfully of Senior. As well he should have.

A few years ago there was a magic special out of a Los Angeles theater, hosted by Bill Shatner, Star Trek's answer to David Letterman, one of the world's great fatuous asses. Shatner was making endless smart alec comments during rehersal, always with the idea of putting himself in a "clever" position. It seemed that this would happen during the broadcast, with Shatner wandering from the script as it pleased him...for isn't the world all about HIM, or so he thinks.

Harry Jr put Shatner in his place by saying to him, "Nimoy was right. You DO overact!" Shatner was quite subdued when Harry performed.
David Alexander
Posts: 1550
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Aurora IL

Postby Kendrix » 12/08/02 03:45 PM

I have seen clips of John Calvert doing the "Balls in Mouth" routine on Red Skelton's show. To be able to perform toe to toe with someone like Skelton, was a real challenge. John pulled it off.
Posts: 162
Joined: 01/31/09 02:36 PM

Postby David Alexander » 12/08/02 04:28 PM

Red Skelton was a real pro who refined hiscraft in burlesque. He recognized Calvert as another consumate professional and gave appropriate courtesy. John, being one of the strongest performers to ever walk the boards, commanded respect from his audiences and other acts. The respect he received from Skelton was well deserved.

And on Letterman, Bob Arno did a reasonably good turn with him with his pickpocket act. Clearly, Arno wasn't about to take any crap from Dave, something Letterman understood. He tried, but Arno was a bit too strong and kept control.

It isn't just magic that gets badly treated. Some years back I was on a talk show for something other than magic. Early on, the host interrupted me several times, not the other guest, just me, virtually every time I started to speak.

When we went to commercial I pulled him over and quietly said that if he interrupted me one more time I'd shove his wireless mic someplace he'd find uncomfortable, that I'd do it on camera (the show was taped live) and then walk off leaving him without an integral part to his show. I said it casually and sincerely, smiling. He believed me and behaved.

Never assume that you're dealing with professionals who want you to show well. Especially today, the idea of humilliation seems paramount in producer's minds. Fox is about to launch "Joe Millionaire." It's The Bachelor with a twist. They guy appears to be a millionaire, but is a carpenter who makes $19,000 a year. Everyone will know except the women who compete for him. They will, supposedly, be shown to be relentless money-grubbing gold diggers. This is a program seen as "entertainment" by network executives, upon which a lot of money has been spent. No doubt, many will watch.
David Alexander
Posts: 1550
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Aurora IL

Postby Guest » 12/09/02 10:42 AM

Dan, thanks for the clip. I have to agree with Thomas Wayne. David Roth controlled the situation beautifully, just as you would expect from someone who has performed for many audiences of all descriptions. It's a great lesson in spectator control. The best part is when Letterman says "Now hold on!" and Roth says "No!" and continues without missing a beat.

The coin work was great, the spectator control was brilliant.

Postby Guest » 12/09/02 05:48 PM

Thanks Dan for the Roth clip. Watching David brings back my childhood memories of him and the tunafish salad sandwiches at the Governors Cafeteria.


Return to Buzz