The Night David Letterman Made Chuck Machock A Running Gag

Tonight David Letterman will host his 6,028th and final late-night talk show. In one of them he did a running gag that spoofed my basketball broadcasting partner Chuck Machock.


In 2009 while in New York City to broadcast the Big East Tournament, I attended my first taping of a Letterman show with former Cincinnati Enquirer beat writer Bill Koch and we learned that Dave comes out and takes a question or two from the audience before the show begins.

The following year I was able to get tickets again and planned to see the Late Show with my former college roommate, but he had to cancel at the last minute and I attended alone.

For whatever reason I was picked to sit in the front row, so when Dave came out to take questions from the audience I stuck up my hand and began frantically waving like Horshack from “Welcome Back, Kotter.”

Dave picked me and asked where I was from. I told him Cincinnati and that I was in New York to broadcast the Big East Tournament on WLW Radio (knowing that he had listened to the station as a kid growing up in Indiana). After he informed the audience that WLW was one of the nation’s most legendary radio stations, I invited him to be a guest color commentator on the Bearcats’ first tournament game and added that I might actually need him because my broadcast partner had once been kicked out of an NCAA Tournament game for yelling at the referees.

Here’s a photo of Chuck being escorted off the court by a cop in the 2003 NCAA Tournament game between Cincinnati and Gonzaga.

Chuck with police

And here’s a photo of CBS using a telestrator to point out where my color analyst was supposed to be sitting.

Where is Chuck

Dave began laughing hysterically and asked me for all of the details. By the time I finished telling the story about Chuck getting tossed in Salt Lake City, the opening theme song started and it was time for the show to begin.

About 30 seconds later, Dave ran out on stage and here’s how his opening monologue began:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t usually do this, but since it’s a Friday night and you’re in such a great mood, I thought I would kick off the program this evening with an impression. This is my impression of a college basketball radio announcer getting kicked out of his coverage of the NCAA Tournament.”

The audience erupted as the camera cut to me laughing like a hyena in the front row.

Me on Letterman (2)

“The announcer is seated courtside,” Dave continued, “and he’s broadcasting the game back to…oh, let’s just say Cincinnati. The color commentator is such a homer that when there’s trouble for the home team – the Cincinnati Bearcats – he becomes so incensed that he jumps to his feet and starts heckling the referee.”

More applause and laughter from the audience.

“And it goes something like this,” said Dave. “Foul! Are you crazy! What are you blind! What are you trying to pull! That’s a foul!”

And just like that, Dave’s ad-libbed imitation of Chuck Machock became a running gag throughout the rest of the episode, complete with the addition of Cincinnati sponsors.

“He wasn’t traveling!” Dave suddenly yelled later in the monologue. “What are you blind! That’s not traveling! And we’ll be right back after this message from Kroger.”

After each rendition of Dave’s out-of-control basketball announcer, the camera cut to me doubled over in laughter at the Ed Sullivan Theater.

Me laughing on Letterman

“Harrison brings the ball up to half court,” Dave said a few minutes later. “Bounce pass to Johnson, Johnson dribbles to the key, comes back out, takes a shot from three-point range. It’s good! What! His foot was on the line! His foot was on the line! What’s the matter with you ref! You’re out of here! And we’ll be right back after this message from Queen City Tires.”

Unfortunately, one segment during the live taping didn’t make the broadcast. Just before doing the Top 10 list, Dave read a card that explained what happened to Chuck and introduced me in the audience. I was surprised that it got edited out because it tied the whole gag together and would have made more sense to somebody watching at home.

Still, it was a great experience. The only thing that would have been better is if Dave had actually joined me on a Bearcats broadcast.

One final note. I was living in Boston at that time and lost my recording of the episode when we moved back to Cincinnati. If any Bearcats fans were taping the show that night and still have the recording, please let me know. I’d love to have a copy.

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