Hamptonites Alec Baldwin and Dick Cavett sat down in the bowels of Manhattan’s 21 Club and enjoyed a conversation for this week’s Sunday edition of The New York Times.
With Times journalist Philip Galanes directing the conversation, the two men had a lively chat over lunch and discussed their jobs as talk show hosts—now that Baldwin has his Up Late with Alec Baldwin show on MSNBC—and other topics, including Richard Nixon, Broadway and managing depression and the equally difficult paparazzi. Baldwin ate an omelet while Cavett munched on 21’s Dover Sole.
In the conversation, Galanes notes Baldwin’s unexpected turn toward the world of talk, asking, “I thought the whole point of being the host of [a talk show] was access to people who wouldn’t normally sit down with you. But you’re a star. You could set up nice dinners with any of your guests. Why add the cameras and the pancake makeup? What about a talk show appealed to you?”
Baldwin immediately referred to his love of Cavett’s work and explained how his Here’s the Thing podcast (on which he interviewed Cavett) prepared him for hosting a television talk show. “When Dick was in his big run at ABC, I watched his show, and I couldn’t watch other things. I turned off the TV when Gilligan’s Island and F Troop were cresting, and I never got into the Aaron Spelling shows. But I liked talk shows, and I loved Cavett. How he wasn’t all pre-produced and let the conversation breathe,” he said.
Later, Baldwin shared that his recent and short-lived run alongside Ben Foster (who joined the cast after a debacle involving Baldwin’s first costar Shia LaBeouf) in Orphans on Broadway “was a horrible experience, and it took years off my life. Cavett, on the other hand, said, “I remember being in a play once, and there were just 30 minutes left, and I thought, I don’t want this ever to end. It’s like being in a protective womb for a couple hours, then the poor actor has to go home.”
Bringing the conversation back to talk shows, Galanes noted Baldwin and Cavett’s differing styles, explaining the former as having a “more full-throated, upfront delivery,” while Cavett presents himself as “Mr. Sly and Twinkly-Eyed.” He then recalled some of Cavett’s most memorable interviews and his uncanny ability to get people to open up and share, as he once did with the impenetrable actor Marlon Brando.
“What I find is that when you push or try to take something from them, it doesn’t work. But when you let it breathe, when you let your segments run a little longer, they give it to you. They give it to you if you let it be their choice,” Baldwin said.
Visit nytimes.com to read the entire “Table for Three” conversation between Alec Baldwin and Dick Cavett, along with Philip Galanes, titled, “Dick Cavett and Alec Baldwin Start the Conversation.”
To see Baldwin flex his talk show muscles, watch Up Late with Alec Baldwin Fridays at 10 p.m. on MSNBC. His podcast Here’s the Thing airs every other Monday on WNYC (wnyc.org) and is available on iTunes. Recent interviews include Hamptonites Billy Joel on October 28 and Jerry Seinfeld on October 14.
Dick Cavett hosted The Dick Cavett Show on various television networks for more than 35 years, during which he interviewed a wide range of guests. Visit dickcavettshow.com to learn more. Cavett and Baldwin both have homes in the Hamptons, they starred together in the film Beetlejuice and are both supporters of the East Hampton Conservators.