Several years ago I did a zine called Generation Exploitation. It lasted about five issues until the inflation of photocopy costs crippled my hobo bank account. Generation Exploitation was never particularly significant, collecting dust in the few book stores that bothered to maintain a zine section long after the do-it-youself boom subsided. An exception was Baltimore, where it became inexplicably popular and I eventually found myself funneling dusty, unsold issues from places like Quimby's in Chicago, and sending them over to Atomic Books where they consistently sold out.
Generation Exploitation was not particularly good. However, the second issue did feature a lengthy interview with comedy record legend Woody Woodbury. I was twenty-three years old at the time I chose to interview the eighty-one year old man whose face was so familiar to thrift store vinyl sections. It was the first interview I ever conducted and it received a fine response. People were saying that I should start interviewing all the old comedians before they die. I would reply, "Yes, yes I should," and of course never did anything. I have enough anxiety palpitating through my chest when I have to phone my relatives, let alone a famous hero of mine.
Earlier this year I received a writing assignment that gave me little choice but to confront such anxieties head on. If I wanted a handsome payday, part of the deal was to wrangle an interview with Dick Cavett - otherwise the article in question would not be published. So I phoned Dick Cavett. We spoke about the topic at hand and we eventually veered off in random directions, discussing old showbiz as if we were two old nerds on a park bench. We spoke of the enigmatic unfunniness of Wayne and Shuster, the brilliance of Jack E. Leonard and much more. After Cavett missed a New York Times deadline by an hour, we closed the conversation and Cavett paid me a nice compliment when he said, "I wish [all the interviews] were this much fun." It was then that I decided to kick those anxiety palpatations in the balls and go ahead and interview every old comedian I could.
So today I present to you this transcript of a conversation I had with the comedy legend Shelley Berman. In the coming weeks, you will find more interview transcripts from several more folks including Gary Owens, Alan Young, Bill Persky, Bill Dana and so on. After the jump you'll find links to some of the other interview transcripts conducted so far.