I am stuck in the 80s. Well, mostly my musical taste is stuck in that decade. I am a regular listener to and an occasional guest on the wildly popular podcast, Stuck in the 80s. SIT80s was the brainchild of Steve Spears who was the entertainment news editor working at the Tampa Bay Times when he had the idea to start a podcast dedicated to his favorite decade. Along with the podcast came a blog of the same name extolling the virtues of MTV, Phil Collins, The Breakfast Club, Deborah Foreman, and a whole lot more. There have been a few co-hosts, but Spearsy (as his friends call him and I hope I can consider myself a friend) has been the heart and soul of the show since it first dropped in 2005.
The podcast focuses on mainly the music, movies, and many other aspects of the pop culture of the 80s. Except one. Television. Not that television never comes up, there just isn’t a lot of talk about it. It is a whole untapped aspect of the decade that Spearsy has yet to mine. I often wonder why he hasn’t. My guess is that when a kid is coming of age, as Steve was in the 80s, there isn’t much time to watch television. I know I didn’t watch much in the 80s. Prime time television anyway.
There’s a whole blog I could write about Stuck in the 80s, and I’ll do that at some other time. I wanted to use this article to correct, at least slightly, the omission of television in the 80s talk on one of my favorite podcasts. And that correction is Late Night with David Letterman.
Well, not the entire show. No, there’s too much there for me to do in one blog post. Instead I want to talk about one of the best parts of those early years of Late Night: Chris Elliott. And more specifically his characters. And even more specifically his “Guy Under The Seats” character. Of his many, many characters; which included The Panicky Guy, The Conspiracy Guy, The Terminator Guy, along with his impressions of Marv Albert, Jay Leno, and Marlon Brando, the Guy Under The Seats was my absolute favorite.
Chris is the son of Bob Elliott, who was the Bob half of the comedy duo Bob & Ray. Bob & Ray’s style of comedy was about as dry as one can get in comedy. Their deadpan delivery while satirizing American society was sometimes taken seriously. They would often appear on the Tonight Show where the audiences could seem perplexed by these guys, but Johnny Carson loved them and would laugh hysterically.
Chris inherited his father’s deadpan delivery and love of oddball humor. Chris normally adopted an air of superiority when he would join Dave at the desk. He would often put down Dave’s show as a dog and pony kind of act, but as The Guy Under The Seats, he would routinely get downright insulted by the host’s lack of enthusiasm with the night’s bit. Chris would interrupt the show by popping up through a trapdoor in the bleachers, do some humorous bit and talk to Dave, Dave wouldn’t be too impressed, Chris would get offended and then he would threaten Dave. He would end most of the Guy’s appearances by slowly descending back under the seats while letting Dave know, “I’ll right here! Making your life a living hell! I’ll be watching you!”
I loved it!
There were lots of things I loved about Late Night, which I will write about in the future. Chris Elliott and his Guy Under The Seats are just where I decided to start. There’s an hour long video on YouTube featuring many (maybe all?) of these bits. Go here and love it, too!
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