Next month, you and Dick Cavett will appear in an HBO special together. It’s a reunion for you and the long-time talk-show host. How do you two get along?
We got on fine. He’s sly. There’s a lot of hidden stuff. He hides behind a cloak of gentile correctness and then boom, there’s a big Jew joke that comes out of him.
Do you think comics get funnier as they get older?
Not necessarily. They tend to drool more, that I know.
You were friends with Catch-22 author Joseph Heller. His daughter just published a book about him. If your son Max, a novelist, wrote a book about you, what would he call it?
I think he would call it My Father? and put a big question mark after it. His mother was so beautiful, and he turned out to be so beautiful that maybe she had an affair with the iceman.
It seems like “The 2000 Year Old Man,” the improv routine you started with Carl Reiner in the 1950s, might be history’s longest-running party trick.
You can’t say party trick. We are profound. We talk about rocks. We talk about God. We talk about Jesus, sandals. There are no tricks here.
You’re making a horror movie about a pizza-delivery man. What will it say on the poster?
It’s going to say, “If it’s the pizza man, don’t answer the door.”
In a 1966 Playboy magazine interview, you were asked, “How do you feel about the current Jewish kick in American humor?” That was 45 years ago. What’s wrong with the gentiles?
I wouldn’t say that. There are too many non-Jewish comics that are funny. They scare me because then we’ll have to find another way of making a living. We’ll go back to prizefighting. We’ll be Kingfish Levinsky and Max Baer once again.
You wrote in your high-school year-book that you wanted to be president of the United States. Was that a joke?
I don’t think I was kidding. I think I was crazy.
What do you think of the job Obama’s doing?
You got to be so damn tough to get what you want, and he’s not that kind of guy. The common man is in a lot of trouble. That’s all I can tell you. I sound like The 2000 Year Old Man now.