Late Show (TV program - CBS) with host David Letterman     May 16, 2000
David Hyde Pierce on Letterman, May 16, 2000. David looked very nice in a black sports coat, white shirt, black dotted tie and gray slacks.
David Letterman: Our next guest plays Niles on the very popular television program "Frasier". Please welcome the always engaging David Hyde Pierce. David. (audience cheers)
David Letterman: Here he is, David Hyde Pierce. David. (crowd applauding)
DL: Good to have you back, welcome back to New York City.
David Hyde Pierce: Thank you. It's good to be back.
DL: I understand you were doing a, something you, like a, working, you've been working since you've been in town.
DHP: Well, I'll ya. I was hosting a benefit last night for The Manhattan Theatre Club. Which is a great theater there. (crowd applauding)
DL: Now that represents something to your past? Or the theater where you were or it has some connection to your early days.
DHP: No, they paid me.
DL: Ah! (crowd laughing)
DHP: Yes. Yes, actually the Manhattan Theatre Club is one of the first theater's, first gigs I ever had as an actor coming out of college.
DL: Is that a good place for people to begin working?
DHP: It's a really cool, I mean, it's an amazing, it's got a great reputation in New York.
DL: Tough gig to get for a kid?
DHP: It is a tough gig to get.
DL: What was the play you were in?
DHP: It was called "Summer", by Edward Bond.
DL: Oh yea. (DHP turns to acknowledge crowd, which is dead silent, then cheers. Paul whoops in background. DHP mouths "thank you" and "I'll pay you later" to him)
DL: I didn't like it as well as "Winter".
DL: But it was all right
DHP: It was, no I'll tell you, it was my first, like, big part. It was a really big leading role.
DL: How old are you? You say you're like 20 or something?
DHP: I was . . . (thinking) 22. 22, 23. And . . . I sucked! (crowd laughing)
DL: Is that right?
DHP: It was such a bad performance.
DL: You knew it at the time?
DHP: Oh yea. Yea, I could smell myself on-stage it was so bad. (crowd laughing)
DL: Did other know that as well?
DHP: No, only the people who saw the show. (crowd and Letterman laughing)
DHP: I got (laughing) this play, first of all, it took place in the former Yugoslavia. Which is (crowd laughing) probably
DL: There's nothing wrong with that at all.
DHP: No, it's probably where it should have been performed as well but, (crowd laughing) and I, I was very bad. I, there was one scene, took place on the beach. I played a doctor. And I had this scene on the beach, with me in my little Yugoslavian bathing suit.
DL: Hmmm! (crowd laughing)
DHP: And this, this great actress (turns to glare at crowd) it's not that funny. (everyone laughing) This wonderful actress, Caitlin Clark, this young beautiful actress in her Yugoslavian bikini. And we did this scene and Frank Rich of the New York Times, former reviewer of the New York Time, who I think quit actually after seeing that production.
DHP: Uh, he said that I was like a Yugoslavian lifeguard muttering my lines into her breasts. (crowd laughing)
DL: Well, I mean, that's not so bad.
DHP: Well, (crowd applauding)
DL: I'd pay to see that.
DHP: Thank you! Thank you. Nice work if you can get it.
DL: Were you discouraged by your performance and the review?
DHP: I was until I read John Simon's review.
DL: Um hm. And he said?
DHP: He said that I was "bottomlessly bad". (crowd laughing)
DHP: Which I thought was an acting comment and then I thought it was just a comment on how I looked in a bathing suit. So either way, it did not make me happy.
DL: But as a beginning actor, somebody just looking for a career, did you question, did it fill you with self-doubt about "well, maybe this isn't for me"?.
DHP: Yea! And it was a while (laughing) till I worked again. But, um, I don't know. I guess those are the things, that was early on and it's hard knocks and you get over them.
DL: Right. Well, that's one of the things, you have go through that, everybody has to go through. And it's situations like that that separate the men from the boys. You went on to have a great, successful well-regarding career.
DHP: Thank you.
DL: Others might have wilted and gone somewhere else.
DHP: That's right.
DL: Good for you.
DHP: I made up for a lack of talent with perseverance.
DL: Yea, no, no, no. (crowd applauding)
DL: How are things at home? The dogs all right?
DHP: Uh, thank you. You always ask about the dogs.
DL: You have a lot of dogs?
DHP: I have two dogs. Mabel is the younger, Emma is the older. And uh, let's see. Mabel has put on a little weight. And Emma has become a lesbian.
DL: Really? (crowd laughing) And how, um, when something like that happens, how can you tell?
DHP: Well, if you put your two thumbs (demonstrating) on her spine and you feel down the sides. If you can't feel ribs, she's put on a little weight. (crowd applauding and laughing, DHP and DL staring straight-faced at each other)
DL: I see . . . (both start laughing)
DHP: Oh, the other thing you mean?
DHP: Not the same
DL: I'll take either one.
DHP: Yea, well, you know. I found out, I was. I have like a spare bedroom that when it's not being used as a bedroom it's kind of a big empty room and the dogs like to play in there. And on of their favorite things is when I go up and sort of play with them, cuz like, you get down on all fours and they think that's so cool cuz you're the master and you're sort of coming down to their level and we have a good time. (crowd laughing) No, it's, it's, no. Now they're going to be taken away from me. No, it's nothing like that. (Letterman can't stop laughing, crowd and DHP join in)
DHP: One of the things, one of the things that they really love is when I like, roll over on my back and you know, play submissive because it's like they know that I'm just doing that for their benefit and they jump all over me.
DL: Yes, it's a signal to dogs.
DHP: That universal signal to dogs that it's ok to play. And so a few weeks ago (crowd laughing) and to other people but that's a different thing. (crowd laughing)
DL: Not only to dogs.
DHP: No, no.
DL: Not only dogs.
DHP: I saw Richard on Friday night. (referring to Richard Simmons) So I was there rolling around on my back waving my paws and no one was playing with me.
DL: Oh no.
DHP: And I looked over and, as so often happens in a three-way, someone gets left out. (crowd laughing)
DL: I wouldn't know but I'll take your word for it.
DHP: It's true, it's true. Like laughter of recognition from the audience.
DL: I see, yes.
DHP: And I look over and, there is Emma, uh performing
DL: That's enough!
DL: And as an owner I guess you just kinda, I mean it's (gibberish) nothing wrong with that I guess, is there?
DHP: I just want her to be happy.
DL: Yea. (crowd applauding and laughing) I think it's a good thing you're out of the house for a while.
DHP: Yea, leave them some time together.
DL: Ah, we have plenty of more things to chat about if you can hang around.
DL: All right. Stick right there, we'll be right back here with David Hyde Pierce.
DL: David Hyde Pierce. And I mentioned this before, but every year on the show or whenever I see you or think of your name I always think of Wilfred Hyde White.
DL: Fine, fine British actor. There's no connection, the name similarity means nothing really?
DHP: No. No. And . . . so there.
DL: How about, tell me about your trip to Italy. Was this a vacation?
DHP: It was. I was on vacation. I went for a couple of weeks to Italy which was great, I'd never been.
DL: It's fantastic isn't it?
DHP: Yea, have you been?
DL: Yes. You can't get a bad meal, you can't take a bad picture.
DHP: Oh . . . (crowd and DL laughing)
DL: What's the problem?
DHP: Uh, well, you can.
DHP: Yea, I, uh D: Where all did you go?
DHP: I was in Venice and Florence and Rome. (man in crowd claps) Are you from there? That was the same ma that was laughing at my bathing suit. Do you know what those people wear in Italy? What are you talking about?
DL: Did they get that flooding problem fixed in Venice?
DHP: No, it's still happenin'.
DL: Oh, darn.
DHP: It's very sad. The taxis, you can't find a taxi, it's ridiculous. You know, in Rome the problem is pickpockets.
DL: I didn't know that.
DHP: Yes. Well, it's not the only problem, they probably have other problems. But uh, it's my favorite problem.
DL: Your favorite Italian problem (crowd laughing)
DHP: If you read the guidebook it warns you about the pickpockets in Rome and they have this whole system. If you've been there you know about it, where they come out, like a kid an older kid will come out
DL: You saw this. This actually happened to you?
DHP: This happened around me and it tried to happen to me. And it has happened to friends of mine. I feel like we're talking about the dogs again.
DL: Yea, well. (crowd laughing) I believe a lot of people wish we were talking about the dogs again. DHP (laughing): No, no. This is really important. They come up with a map
DL: Now who are "they"? Is it adults?
DHP: Usually children. Or they look like children (crowd laughing) I don't know what that means. And they have a map and they hold it right up like this so you can't see below the map and they ask you directions in broken English while actual children, tiny, tiny, children come rushing around you and rifle your pockets. And they run away and
DL: On my god!
DHP: you're left wearing just your underwear. But the problem is, that since that's in every guidebook, now any time anyone comes in Rome and asks for directions you scream and flail at them and say "get the hell away from me!". So now they have a new technique. Which also, this did happen to me twice. Which is, and this is not children, this is a woman, of a certain age, flops her breast out (crowd laughing)
DHP: I think I should just stop there.
DL: What else could there possibly be?
DHP: She, uh, is breast feeding on the street. And the idea is that you come walking (someone in crowd reacts, DHP responds) well yes, but this is for profit. That she comes walking down the street and you're so aghast you go (gasps in horror) and while you're doing that little urchins come around and pick your pockets.
DL: That's awful.
DHP: The flaw in their technique, which I discovered
DL: un hm.
DHP: Is that this is not a good look for everyone.
DL: Ah! (crowd laughing and applauding) So you're not entirely distracted.
DHP: No. Sometimes instead of going "oh!" (gasps in shock) you go "Ah!" (shields face with arms). And then you see the (crowd laughing and applauding)
DL: Did you, what parts of the country did you really love? I mean,
DHP: Well, it's all pretty great. Um, it was, I did, I went to the opera in Rome.
DL: Oh! What a magical experience.
DHP: It was. I went to the opening and I'm actually, although I play one on TV, I don't actually go to the opera very much. Play what on TV? (laughing)
DL: An opera.
DHP: Although I play an opera on TV . . .]
DL: An entire opera.
DHP: And opera-phile, an opera . . .
DL: Buff, maven.
DHP: I don't know, help me.
DL: Umm, thanks Paul. Paul: Any of those, any of the above.
DHP: He saw "Summer" and that's all that matters. PS: Yea, loved it.
DHP: So I went to the opening night of "La Traviata" which is great. And "La Traviata", I don't know, of course you all know, (looks at crowd, dead silence at first) it's the story of Camille
DL: Takes place on the beach in Yugoslavia.
DHP: That;s right, with the bathing suits. And the dog lovers, No it's a, Oh, dog lover, I have a whole new meaning for that word now. (crowd laughing)
DL: Anyways, so the opera, you're at the opera
DHP: Oh, the opera. I' at the opera and it's the story of Camille which is this woman who falls in love with this guy but she, in the end she gets consumption and she dies. And the last act of the opera the entire act she's there singing alternating with coughing. Because, which, you know, can be very funny but it's actually very beautiful and this was a wonderful production. I'm sitting there, next to these two lovely older Italian women. The one next to me has obviously never been to the opera before because the one sitting next to her explaining everything to her. So she doesn't know what's coming. And early in the first act she had, I hear she's got this little tickle in her throat. And that starts to progress so she takes out lozenges and by the second act she's got a good sort of (clearing throat) and I'm thinking "oh my god, she has no idea what is coming in the third act.". Because you know how when you have to cough and you hear someone else cough, it makes you cough. By the third act the soprano's up there trying to sing this aria and you know, she's alternating going "whoooo" and (coughing) and my friend starts going (coughing). And it builds, by the, it's like dueling banjos by the end of the (crowd laughing). It was a nightmare.
DL: How are things on Frasier? This is the week of the season finale?
DHP: This is The Week.
DL: Now what's the big cliffhanger, somebody's getting married? Somebody's not getting married? (crowd applauding)
DHP: I, uh, my character is in love with a girl named Daphne on the show. Has been for seven years. (crowd applauding)
DL: So you're getting married, you and Daphne and getting married?
DHP: No, no.
DL: Well, that'd be great wouldn't it?
DHP: You haven't been watching! DL (laughing): All right, then it wouldn't, don't marry her!
DHP: No, no, she's marrying this guy Donny, who is, who was the lawyer who helped me with my divorce. And I'm in love with my ex-wife's plastic surgeon.
DL: Oh yea, yea, yea!
DHP: Very sensible.
DL: But if Donny dropped dead
DL: you're there!
DHP: Well, could happen. You never know. But, uh, people are hoping. I had a dinner at an Italian restaurant the other night in Burbank and the owner came up to me and said (in Godfather-ish voice) "You gotta get Daphne! You gotta at least boff her!". (crowd laughing)
DL: A lovely sentiment. (crowd applauding)
DL: It airs Thursday night. The big season finale. See what happens there. Good to see you.
DHP: Good to see you too.
DL: Nice job. Thanks for dropping by. David Hyde Pierce, ladies in gentlemen.
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