Here Steve O'Donnell recalls the "Kafkatoon" hassles of dealing with NBC's Standards Department back when he was the head writer for Late Night with David Letterman.
The first two paragraphs:
Lord knows, I'm a burly, adult man. Why am I standing in a fuzzy brown bunny costume yelling into a phone at a representative of NBC's Broadcast Standards Department? And why is there a snare drum hanging around my neck?
The show has already started. Paul Shaffer and the band are pounding out the last couple bars of the Late Night theme. I can see on a control room monitor that the sliding doors to the backstage area are closing behind Dave Letterman. When the applause subsides, the "opening remarks" will begin. I've got only a minute or two to convince the (presumably) non-bunny-suited executive on the other end of the line that the Top Ten List the writing staff has just finished slapping together, "Signs John Hinckley Is Rehabilitated", does not amount to a plea for the release of an attempted assassin. "These are jokes!," I'm screaming for the thousandth time since becoming Head Writer. "They actually emphasize how not rehabilitated Hinckley is!" There's a pause as the Permanent Employee considers what the Temporary Employee is saying. "Then why not title it 'Signs He's Not Rehabilitated'?" How do I explain to this perfectly decent man that then it would be pretty much devoid of what little humor we could cram into it in the previous hour's frenzied gagathon?
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The following is the first paragraph of this 1986 Newsweek cover story about Late Night:
Steve O'Donnell, head writer of NBC's Late Night with David Letterman, is trying to explain his boss. He's having a hard time. He needs props. "Take the giant doorknob," he says, referring to a Late Night prop that is exactly what it sounds like. "Maybe in the 1930's some comic had a prop that was a giant doorknob, and his take on it was: 'WAAH! IT'S GOOFY!!' It's different with Dave. Here's a guy standing there on network television saying calmly, 'This doorknob is really large. It's much bigger than it ought to be. It's just plain big.' I don't know. Maybe every generation reinvents the wheel for itself. Or the giant doorknob."