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He never enjoyed an extended run of success since his programs and specials were not big ratings-getters, but Dick Cavett is one of those talk show hosts who gained the respect of the critics and the intelligentsia for his thoughtful work.

He got his big break in the TV business as a writer on “The Tonight Show” when Jack Paar was the host. He was a stand-up comic through much of the 1960s. In 1968, he got his shot at television on a daytime program called “This Morning.” The following year he got his own late night talk show on ABC that went head-to-head with “The Tonight Show” known for its wit, intellectual endeavor and unique guests.

The show only lasted a few years but Cavett displayed how one could meld comedy with very intelligent discussion. The show might have been more successful if it hadn’t gone up against Johnny Carson’s program. Cavett did a talk program for CBS in the mid-1970s and for PBS from 1977 to 1982, but not with the degree of notoriety he achieved in the late 1960s.

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