Letterman Is For Glovers

To understand this story, you must first watch this video [windows media player].

That’s Crispin Glover on Late Night With David Letterman. If you can’t see the clip, or you just want to immerse yourself in the sheer lunacy of the appearance, check out the transcript of the “interview” over at Waxy.org.

Anyhow, I saw this episode when it first aired in 1987, and, at the time, it was pretty much my only exposure to Crispin Glover (aside from his role as the father in Back To The Future, obviously). My best friend, on the other hand, was a big Glover fan: he would tape all of Glover’s television appearances (which is how I saw this Letterman bit); he would see any film that had Glover in any role, no matter how minor; and he would occasionally subject me to portions of Glover’s record, including the nightmare-inspiring Clowny Clown Clown.

So fast-forward a few years to 1991 and the long-delayed release of Crispin Glover’s film Rubin & Ed. My buddy is psyched because not only is Rubin & Ed premiering at Seattle’s own Grand Illusion Cinema, but Crispin Glover himself will be on-hand to answer questions after the movie. Sensing that I will become infinitesimally hipper by attending this event, I agree to go along.

But I still don’t really know anything about Glover, aside from his freak-out on Letterman. So I prepare by reading up on Glover, hoping to learn enough to ask an in-the-know-sounding question during the Q &A. And one of the things I discover in my research is that Glover has offered an explanation for his bizarre behavior on the Late Show. According to an interview he gave later, he was “in character” throughout his appearance on Letterman, behaving not as himself, but as Rubin, the titular character from Rubin & Ed.

Armed with this one fact, I go to the premiere of Rubin & Ed feeling like a true fan — after all, while thousands of people saw the Letterman interview, I am one of the few people that knows The Secret True Story behind the event: that Crispin was having one over on those gullible American to unhip to know the truth. And Rubin & Ed totally validates this theory: the Rubin character wears the same clothes that Glover wore on Late Night, he exhibits the same mannerisms, and acts every bit as deranged as he did on the talk show.

The movie ends and out comes Crispin Glover. The crowd becomes all humble and respectful, and I quickly realize that I am the only phony in a room full of True Believers. Most of the questions are phrased not so much to elicit a response from Glover, but to showcase the knowledge of the asker; e.g., “I noticed that the sound engineer on your album Big Problem Does Not Equal the Solution. The Solution = Let It Be also served as the gaffer in your movie Twister, so I was wondering blah blah blah.” That kind of thing.

As the Q&A session is drawing to a close, I am amazed that no one has yet asked Glover about Letterman. Maybe, think I, maybe I am the only one in the room who knows The Secret, that it was not a disaster but, in fact, a brilliant piece of performance art. So I raise my hand and resolve to prove myself equal to the other Crispinphiles in the room. Glover calls on me almost immediately.

I stand, and say “Is it true that, when you appeared on the Letterman show a few years ago, you were simply practicing the Rubin character we saw here tonight?” Of course I already know the answer — of course it’s true, I read it! — but I just want to show off the one bit of knowledge I know.

Glover suddenly looks profoundly sad. There’s a long, expectant pause, and he says “I — I don’t, don’t like to talk about that show ….”

Every person in the room turns to me and scowls. You made Crispin sad! You asked about the Letterman show, the very show that he doesn’t like to talk about! What the hell kind of Crispin Glover fan are you?!

I sit down in my seat and sink as low as I possibly can.

32 thoughts on “Letterman Is For Glovers

  1. The person who once made me listen to the entire Clowny Clown Clown “song” also had a giant pet rat named Buttercup. Ever since, Crispin Glover has been linked in my mind to giant rats. When “Willard” was released I was satisfied with the psychic harmony of it all, but I would still rather poke my eyes out with a Bic pen than go see it.

    (River’s Edge, however, is brilliant.)

  2. I’ve never seen Letterman look so afraid…

    At one time Glover was on MTV and showed his art work, which was a collection of (mostly) melted plastic automobile models. You should have asked about those, instead.

    “I can kick!”

  3. I called him once, one of his albums had his home phone number. We didnt talk about much, he seemed busy, but we made plans to visit the butthole surfer’s ranch (it never happened).

  4. I remember that interview well. My friend Mit wanted to knickname me “Crispy” in honor of that interview and my surface resemblance to Mr Glover. I turned that one down and ultimately wound up as “Wretch”.

  5. You covered up the fact that yesterdays post was posted several times instead of just once. And now The Party will kill me for knowing the Truth.

  6. He must’ve been tripping or something, that was halirous. I think Letterman was worried Crispin was going to attack.

  7. My guess is that he decided to revert to character just to answer that question. Or maybe the character isn’t so hard to put on after all – see Herman, P. W. et al.

    OK, I’m British, and I haven’t ever knowingly seen PWH, so maybe it’s not like that at all. But my response is phrased so to showcase the knowledge of the poster. It’s time for the big Shooooooowcase Shoooooooowdown!

  8. All this time I thought Crispin was doing an impersonation of my brother on Letterman’s show.
    I agree with Miranda. River’s Edge is a work of genius. Twisted “I can kick” genius, but genius none the less.

    Trivia: Crispin Glover is NOT related to Danny Glover.

  9. I saw him driving last week. He had his window down and the song – I got my mind set on you…- was blaring…when he drove by a car with a girl in it, he would let go of the steering wheel, slow down, and shoot at her with his index fingers…more genius…

  10. Slightly off-topic, yet slightly related:

    My mother and I were in NYC a few years back, and happened to be walking by the Ed Sullivan Theatre while they were taping the Letterman show. There was a crowd of people gathered around the stage door and, being the true New Yorkers we are, we wandered over to see what the fuss was about.

    We stood there for a moment or two, and then Aidan Quinn came out the door and started towards his limo. He stopped to sign a few autographs and there was a general hubbub in the crowd. My mother asked me who that was. I told her. She asked me to repeat myself. There was a lot of noise, so I spoke louder.

    As that was happening, Mr. Quinn finished signing and headed off to his car again. The crowd simultaneously quieted down just as my mother spoke “WHO THE HELL IS AIDAN QUINN? NEVER HEARD OF HIM!”

    Yup. Can’t take Mom anywhere…

  11. Matthew, I’m pretty sure I was there the night you asked that question. Did they also show a short film of his which had something to do with Olivia Newton John? It’s all so hazy now. I also seem to remember Mr. Glover was late.

    Anyway, the next time he was on Letterman, Dave asked him about the previous appearance, and Glover went into a long story that seemed to have nothing to do with the question. Just as he was finishing and seemed to be bringing it around to the actual topic, Dave cut him off, went to a commercial, and that was it. We never got the complete explanation. I never heard that he was acting in character. You never know with that guy, he’s a nut.

  12. He was equally weird in Jim Jarmusch’s “Dead Man”, where he gave Johnny Depp the third degree, albeit very offbeat, near the beginning of the film. As for his meltdowm on Letterman, see his appearance in Dead Man, or simply think Andy Kaufman.

  13. Maybe it was just more “performance art” and now you hold a very special place in Crispin’s wee heart. Maybe.

    Thanks for being part of my “100 Blogs, 100 Comments”

  14. the interesting thing i noticed is that except for the mop top, he looks like a total hipster. as opposed to 1987, where i’m sure he was going for a different look.

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