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Letterman staffers know stupid when they see it

Friday, April 12, 2002

By Cindi Lash, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Forget about hitting those golf balls out of your best buddy's navel, or making yourself bug-eyed.

Ditto for coaxing your poodle to join you for a game of pool.

Those have already have been done, so you'll have to come up with something that will really knock people's eyes out if you hope to make the local cut for a chance to perform on "The Late Show With David Letterman."

Representatives of "The Late Show" will hold auditions tomorrow in the Strip District for both the "Stupid Pet Tricks" and "Stupid Human Tricks" segments of the show. Those who audition will be considered for appearances in future "Stupid Tricks" segments, which air four or five times a year on the late-night CBS-TV talk show.

Auditions for pets will begin at 4 p.m. at the Animal Friends Inc. shelter at 2646 Penn Ave., and auditions for humans will begin at 8 p.m. at the Have A Nice Day Cafe, 1700 Penn Ave. The show last conducted auditions in Pittsburgh about two years ago.

Anyone who wishes to audition should call the "Late Show" Trick Hotline at (888) 738-8745 and leave a message describing the trick. "Late Show" staffers then will contact prospective candidates and will give them a time to report and audition.

Darren Demeterio, who coordinates tricks for "Late Show" segments, said judges look for tricks that are truly weird and memorable enough to stick in viewers' minds. Five years may have passed since Kimberly Goodman of Chicago made Letterman's audience scream when she caused her eyeballs to pop alarmingly out of their sockets, but people still wince at the memory, Demeterio said.

Judges will be choosy, often looking at up to 1,000 auditions before choosing a handful of people or pets for each segment. And they won't choose a trick that puts people or pets in danger or at risk of injury.

"We have been doing this for so long, it's hard at this point to find anything unique," Demeterio said. "When I see something that has me looking and thinking 'How in the world did they come up with this?' then that's a good sign."

So just what makes a trick stupid enough for Letterman?

Besides Goodman and her eyeballs, Demeterio's past favorites include a bald man who hurled a plunger into the air and caught it with his head and a student who chewed gum and manipulated it into animal shapes with his mouth.

"The detail was really impressive," he raved.

He also liked the trio of college students who appeared on the show a few months ago to demonstrate their approach to golf. One laid down and placed a golf ball in his navel, the second teed off and the third caught it in his mouth.

"We saw that, and we thought instantly: 'Now that is really stupid,' " Demeterio said. "When you see it, you just know."

In the animal category, Demeterio counts among his past favorites the bowling pig that used its snout to propel a ball toward rows of standing pins and the dog that played pool by clutching a cue between its teeth.

"It was amazing. His shot was pretty hard," Demeterio said. "We knew right away, he was what we wanted."

There is no charge to audition at Animal Friends. A $5 cover will be charged at the Have A Nice Day Cafe, but a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Animal Friends.

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