“Right from the day I met him on the observation deck, there was this sort of feeling of like – I know it sounds stupid but- this is destiny. I met this guy who was going to change my life. And he did. I met my wife on that show. I became known at that show. I developed what I do for a living on that show. He taught me. He mentored me. He was basically my schooling. If I hadn’t met him that day, ….I wouldn’t be sitting here.” — Chris Elliott on David Letterman
As part of our new podcast sharing select archival episodes of Ron Bennington’s epic interview series Unmasked, this week we are going back to 2013 to share another favorite- Unmasked with Chris Elliott.
The Unmasked series which began in 2008 with a brilliant hour with Patrice O’Neal has taped nearly 200 episodes since, documenting the careers of the most interesting comedy writers, directors, filmmakers, actors, screenwriters, satirists, political comedians, comedic musicians and of course, stand up comedians in the business. It is a veritable archive of the greatest comedy of our time. Past Unmasked guests have included Joan Rivers, Bob Newhart, Amy Schumer, Dan Aykroyd, Simon Pegg, Tracy Morgan, Paul Feig, Jim Jefferies, Gilbert Gottfried, Bobcat Goldthwait, Louis C.K., David Brenner, Brian Regan, and over 150 more comedy greats.
Back in 2013 Chris Elliott was promoting season 3 of his Adult Swim series Eagleheart, and spent an hour talking with Ron Bennington in front of a live audience about the show– and also about his entire amazing history in comedy. The early days of Letterman, his FOX series Get a Life, the movie Cabin Boy, all were discussed, and he talked about his multi-generational and deeply talented comedy family.
We choose episodes for iTunes because they’re personal favorites- either because they’re particularly informative, or revealing; this one we chose because it’s one of the funniest hours. Chris Elliott started his comedy career as one of the most innovative and funniest people on television, and he hasn’t lost a single step since. There’s also amazing stories, particularly about Chris’ early days working on the groundbreaking Late Night with David Letterman. He tells the story of the first time he met Dave- when he was a tour guide at 30 Rock, and it’s such a great story, and so perfectly Chris Elliott, that you’ll probably think he made the story up just to entertain you. And it gets even better when he talks about the next time they met- when Chris interviewed for a job.
Elliott and Bennington share great insights into the influence that Late Night with David Letterman had on everything in comedy today, and that can’t be overstated. You’ll hear great stories about Chris’ characters (he was the first person to ever do a Jay Leno impression on television), behind the scenes interactions and a few very cringy funny stories, like the time he publicly insulted James Cameron while out promoting The Abyss.
This episode will be an instant favorite for anyone who is old enough to be a fan of the early Letterman shows, and if you’re younger and always wondered why so many people say they owe their careers to Late Night, this is a great place to start. Elliott goes way beyond Letterman, talking about creating the series Get a Life for FOX, and how Cabin Boy (now a fan favorite) put the breaks on a career that was moving ahead at full speed.
Give this hour a listen, whether you’re a long-time fan, or just curious. You will love it.
Recorded on October 6, 2013 in SiriusXM’s Fishbowl performance studio in New York City, this is Unmasked, from the Archives, with Chris Elliott and Ron Bennington.
Or listen below.