Co-producer, Jay Leno’s The Tonight Show, 18 years
Author, Behind the Curtain, (2014)
Producer, The O’Reilly Factor
Writer, NBC News
Los Angeles bureau chief, CNBC
Has worked as a reporter, anchor, executive producer, and bureau chief for local and national network television organizations
Has written for USA Today, Reader’s Digest, Huffington Post, etc.; BA, Political Science, Northwestern University
MS, Journalism, Kansas State University
Married to Mary
2 grown children
Former Tonight Show Producer Talks Faith in Hollywood
The 700 Club
BEHIND THE SCENES
When Jay Leno and his production team hired Dave, he was nervous. Dave had a background in news and felt he wouldn’t fit in. Jay wanted to bring a variety to The Tonight Show, which was known for booking popular entertainers. The lead guest on the first show was Billy Crystal who was very funny. The second guest, an economics reporter, was Dave’s responsibility. The interview wasn’t exactly memorable but eventually Dave got the hang of it. For the next 18 years, Dave booked some of late night’s most memorable guests including the first sitting president to ever do late night television. “I had seen Obama speak as an obscure senator,” says Dave. “I immediately began working on booking him for the show which took about 5 years to do.”
Dave originally wrote his book from a Christian perspective, like he was the Christian in the lion’s den in Hollywood. After 4 chapters, Dave says it came off way too preachy and self-righteous. There is definitely a Christian message in the book. “I wanted it to be more about Jay’s legacy to late night and how I was blessed to have a small part in it,” says Dave. He tried to lead by example and brought up his faith whenever possible. Most people accepted Dave on his terms. “I think people respect those who stand up for what they believe in, as long as they’re not hypocritical,” he says. Dave says he never wrote his book to be a “tell-all” or to sell out on his friends. “I don’t think of celebrities as divas; I think of them as friends.” Some media outlets twisted some of the stories which ended up in gossip tabloids. One of those stories was about Eddie Murphy, who could have asked The Tonight Show to provide him anything to appear on the show. Instead Eddie provided a simple list for the green room which included various sodas, waters and candies. The tabloids spun the story. Sadly, Dave says that was never his intention. “Eddie could have asked us to send him to Paris; but instead he gave us an inexpensive and ordinary list,” says Dave.
Many, but not all, of the jokes were written to push an agenda. For example, jokes that implied members of the Tea Party were racist were usually written by someone who believed that. “I give Jay a lot of credit,”says Dave. “He tried to be even handed. Jokes are the most powerful weapon of all. You can’t hate someone if you’re laughing at their jokes,” he says. Most of the time, Dave often tried to influence program choices, but says his ideas were shot down most of the time. He was grateful that his collegues and Jay respected him and sought out his point of view.
Other than Presidents Obama and Bush, Dave says some of his favorite guests included Dennis Rodman (who was a great guest but always late), and former President Jimmy Carter (the only guest, who grew up in the Depression and took everything extra from the ready room). Jay’s favorite guest was John Kennedy, Jr. It took Dave 6 years to convince Jay to have him on.
Dave grew up in a family who prayed to God out of tradition. One day his neighbors, who were Jehovah’s Witnesses, shared their faith with Dave who started attending their church. “They were the first ones to tell me I had worth,” says Dave. Soon he started attending United Church of Christ in Chicago. The pastor visited him at home and invited him to play guitar for some of the services, which meant a lot to Dave. Today Dave and his family attend Naazrene Church where he serves on the board, plays on the worship team and sings in the choir. “My commitment to the Lord didn’t happen in an instant; it took place over time,” says Dave. “I’ve been blessed; I’ve been surrounded by God’s messengers at important junctures in my life.’
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