When I first saw part of The Nite Show, a late-night Maine talk show that airs Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. out of Bangor, host Danny Cashman made a joke about Bowdoin graduates. As a joke it was harmless — something about how Bowdoin grads secretly wished they had gone to UMaine — far tamer than Letterman has ever been towards Lindsay Lohan, the Kardashians, or Congress. Yet, having gone to Bowdoin myself, it was biting. And that, according to Cashman, is why his late-night talk show works.
“My neighbor, who is a Bowdoin grad, has told me to cut down on the jokes,” says Cashman, a boyish-looking thirty-five-year-old from Old Town, “but having my jokes be local is a good thing. People like it. There’s no one we’ve told more jokes about than Paul LePage, yet he’s been on the show three times. In fact, we’ve told them while he’s waiting to come onstage.” And it’s not just LePage who gets into the late-night spirit. Cashman started The Nite Show when he was an undergrad at UMaine, and over the course of more than two hundred episodes he has made fun of and interviewed everyone from Susan Collins to Angus King and Eliot Cutler.
Inspired by David Letterman and formatted after Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show, the show grew a cult following but ended in 2002. Cashman took an eight-year hiatus to focus on his communications career, but brought the show back in 2010 to WABI in Bangor. Once a month, the Next Generation Theatre, usually reserved for children’s shows, is converted into the set of The Nite Show, where adults get to act like children. “Letterman said that his show’s humor should be like that of a seven-year-old. So we go for that,” Cashman says. He adds that he’s even used the program to live out his childhood dream of being on the Nickelodeon show Family Double Dare. He celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of his favorite show growing up by challenging Mark Summers, the former host, to Dare’s signature “physical challenge” where they tossed raw eggs across the stage, aiming for each other’s head. “I’ve learned to take big swings with my guests. If you’re going to go to the absurd and the asinine, you have to go in with both feet.”
All that egg tossing seems to have paid off. This past September, The Nite Show was picked up by WAGM, the Aroostook County CBS and Fox affiliate, making it the only locally produced but non-publicly funded (meaning non-MPBN) show to air across the entire state. The show also happens to be beating Saturday Night Live in the ratings. Twenty-two percent of all televisions in the Bangor area turned on at 11:30 p.m. on Saturdays last July were watching Cashman’s show, versus just 11 percent for the show that launched the careers of Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Kristin Wiig, and Will Ferrell.
Local television can often feel like a dated and dying medium, but The Nite Show’s popularity affirms Cashman’s belief in the appetite for this kind of content. “With the world getting smaller because of streaming content outlets like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, local content has gone back to being something extremely unique, and it’s something people are craving,” Cashman says. “Having the creative outlets for people who are in your local communities is compelling to people and we provide an outlet for everyone from comics to media personalities, everyday people, and athletes. It’s different than what people can see on Netflix. Television and taste will continue to gravitate towards that specialization.”
It’s a good point, and frankly, more making fun of Maine politicians the better. Just ease up on the Bowdoin jokes, Cashman.