[Jerome I. Rodale] was extremely funny for half an hour, talking about health foods, and as a friendly gesture he offered me some of his special asparagus, boiled in urine. I think I said, “Anybody’s we know?” while making a mental note to have him back.He had the wits to know to figure out how not to say "Is there a doctor in the house?" which would have made people laugh.
I brought out the next guest, Pete Hamill, whose column ran in The New York Post. Rodale moved “down one” to the couch. As Pete and I began to chat, Mr. Rodale suddenly made a snoring sound, which got a laugh.
Comics would sometimes do that for a laugh while another comic was talking, pretending boredom. His head tilted to the side as Pete, in close-up as it happened, whispered audibly, “This looks bad.”
The audience laughed at that. I didn’t, because I knew Rodale was dead.
To this day, I don’t know how I knew. I thought, “Good God, I’m in charge here. What do I do?” Next thing I knew I was holding his wrist, thinking, I don’t know anything about what a wrist is supposed to feel like.
Next, in what felt like a quick film cut, I was standing at the edge of the stage, saying, “Is there a doctor in the … (pause) … audience?”
The show was never aired, but Cavett did watch the tape a view weeks later:
[W]e noticed three things that, incredibly, no one had recalled Rodale’s saying: “I’m in such good health [he was 72] that I fell down a long flight of stairs yesterday and I laughed all the way.” “I’ve decided to live to be a hundred.” And the inevitable “I never felt better in my life!” (The gods and their sense of humor.)That happened back in 1971. I remember something else like that from back in the 1970s. The actor Peter Finch was on the show and, if I am remembering this correctly, he -- or someone else on the couch with him that night -- talked about death and said by the time he would be on the show the next time some of the people listening to him saying this would be dead. Finch himself died a