Poet, essayist, translator, former United States poet laureate, and writing professor at Boston University
Favorite show of all time, and why?
When television and I were very young, “Your Show of Shows” deserved the boast of its title: at 90 minutes the longest; with the Billy Williams Quartet the most integrated; with Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Howie Morris, Carl Reiner the greatest cast; and Caesar’s muscular imagination; that legendary crew of writers. They did it live, every week, with a range of sketch material from suburban households to parodies of “The Bicycle Thief” and “The Magic Flute” — I had never heard of either one, but I could sense that into my family’s little apartment in a rundown part of town I was seeing something High Class, as well as tremendously funny.
Favorite show right now, and why?
“The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” because it affirms my patriotism, has made me proud of our country: that we have this level of political comedy, admired all over the world.
Favorite bad TV, and why?
Anything that involves Dennis Eckersley or Charles Barkley talking. It doesn’t matter if it’s a boring, one-sided game or if the subject is something one of these guys knows nothing about: Both of them are either genuine on camera or have the great TV gift, to paraphrase “This Is Spinal Tap,” of seeming sincere. In a way, the dumber the subject, the better the Eck or the Tub can show their wacky, intelligent, articulate combination of detached and engaged.
What’s at the top of your Have-To-Watch list?
I’m eager for the return of “Better Call Saul.” Loved it: the performances, the look, the characters, the relation to “Breaking Bad.”
Which show’s world would you want to live inside?
The shows about comedians and comedy writers: Morey Amsterdam was for me the real star of “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Loved “The Larry Sanders Show.” Come to think of it, I seem to like shows with the word “show” in the title — maybe because it’s the opposite of “university” or “literary”? Here’s a fantasy: to be a comedy writer on a staff with Rip Torn’s Artie or Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon setting the tone.