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the inner dog

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Merrill Markoe---In Touch with her Inner Dog

Merrill Markoe is the multiple Emmy Award winning former head writer and producer who co-created Late Night with David Letterman. As far as I’m concerned, he is one of the funniest women on Earth. She was responsible for conceiving many of the "signature bits that are still a hit today" on Letterman, including "Stupid Pet Tricks," "Stupid Human Tricks," and the show's offbeat remotes. She was also a regular contributor to HBO's Not Necessarily the News and a writer-correspondent for Michael Moore's TV Nation, Lifetime Magazine, and Comedy Central. Her writing has included TV scripts for Newhart, Gary Shandling, Sex in the City; magazine articles for Time, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Cosmopolitan and others; and six books. She has hosted daily talk radio shows and acted in Dream On, Friends, and Suddenly Susan.
Markoe has an irreverent sense of humor and enjoys exploring diverse topics such as showering with your dog, self-improvement, and relationships between men and women. In 1987, when she left the Letterman show, Markoe vowed to never "help another white man in a suit develop a creative, innovative show." (I TOLD you she’s funny!)
Her book, “What the Dogs Have Taught Me” is reviewed in this issue’s Dog Eared section.

She lives in warm, sunny California with her two dogs, Puppy Boy and Hedda. Puppy Boy took the liberty of answering the questionnaire for Merrill, who was busy putting the finishing touches on her new book due out next spring/summer. It’s about a woman who talks obsessively to her dog. Hmmmm…we think we like it already.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

For once, everywhere I go everyone has the good sense to be fully equipped with appropriate items for throwing (ie: the green ring, the yellow squeezy ball, Stinky Mickey, Filthy Headless Froggy, the purple barbell, the faceless Santa, etc.) and then they each take the initiative without me having to stare and beg.

What is your favorite treat?
The one they give Hedda . And it has been clear to me from day one that when two seemingly identical treats are being distributed, she always gets the good one.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Able to be even more persuasive, bigger and even more charming, like say a big baby panda, so people wouldn’t be so cavalier about pretending they have no idea what I want when I pile toys in their laps and stare at them. .

What is your most treasured possession?

The green ring. Or the yellow squeezy ball. Hmmm..Stinky Mickey? Not to cast any aspersions on the purple barbell or Filthy Froggy. So I would have to say The Partial Crab. And Faceless Santa. And of course, the green ring.

What is your most endearing quality?

I would have to say my consideration for others. I know that everyone wants to throw something, but not everyone wants to throw the same thing. So I always try to pile a variety of things in their laps. I try to provide everyone with access to that critical juncture where preparation meets opportunity. It’s the job of a good host.

Assuming there is such a thing as reincarnation, what or who might you have been in a former life?

I would have to say Mr. Zig Zigler, Master Motivator, author of “See YOU at the Top.’ His motto was “Always be closing.’ Mine is “Always be piling stuff in people’s laps and staring at them until they throw it..”

Is there anything that embarrasses you?

Well, yes. Let’s say you pick up the green ring and throw it. It’s barely out of your hands before I bring it right back except sometimes by some inexplicable fluke that goddamn Hedda gets to it first despite the fact she’s doesn’t even really care about the game. People in show business tell me that everyone occasionally has a bad night. You can’t take it personally.

What is it that you dislike most?

The people I live with do this stupid thing where they try to use the word “walk” just to watch my ears go forward. Believe me, I am not proud of having an involuntary excitement reaction to the words “Christopher Walken’ or “Milwaukee!” and “Luke Sky Walker.”

What is your greatest fear?

A world in which everything is bolted down. What would be the point?

What is your greatest accomplishment?

Well, I have a special instinct for always knowing just where a projectile should be dropped to inspire resisting participants. For instance, when the gardener comes I might drop the green ring in to the fertilizer and then Faceless Santa in to the hole with the hose. If someone is asleep, with their back to me, I know to pile the toys behind their neck.

What is your favorite place?

I like to always be in proximity to a potential thrower, wherever or whoever they may be. You can’t hope for a game unless you hang out with the players.

What do you really like in other dogs?

I like them to get the *#@! out of my way so I can get on with my game. Which is why I am not asking, I am TELLING you to please sit down and pay attention. I have something to bring you.

Do you have a motto?

Yes. I need to get it translated in to Latin. My motto is: ‘Here. Throw this. Come on At least Throw the green ring, or the yellow squeezy ball. Then how about Stinky Mickey? How about Headless Froggy? Have you tried picking up the purple barbell?. It wouldn’t kill you to throw it. Come on Pick it up. Pick it up. Pick it up. Pick it up.”

Photographs by Cami Johnson,