Dan Cashman can pinpoint the moment he knew what he wanted to do when he grew up.
He was 9 years old and was hosting a slumber party in his basement. His neighborhood friends were busy socializing while the television screen was flickering between scenes in the background.
Cashman isn’t sure why the television suddenly caught his attention, but he found himself transfixed.
“I remember it clear as day,” Cashman said. “I just stopped. I remember walking through the room, stopping dead in my tracks, sitting on my sleeping bag and pillow and just staring up at the TV.”
David Letterman was introducing the guests — Chicago film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert — on his late-night talk show.
“I don’t know why, but I was fascinated by it,” Cashman said. “I started watching him as much as I could at that young age. … It was shortly after I started watching Letterman when I said ‘I want to do that when I’m older.’”
And he did — at least part time, in addition to his full-time job as a communications professional.
The earliest version of “The Nite Show with Danny Cashman” first aired on a WB affiliate from 1997 to 1999. Cashman and a group of friends would get together every couple of weeks to film the show with a single camcorder. Using sheets as a backdrop, 90 episodes were aired in total.
“We didn’t know what we were doing. None of us,” Cashman said. “None of us had a TV background. We were all kids in college — high school for some of us — throwing a TV show together and putting it on the air. Looking back, that’s just crazy.”
After his college experience with late night television, Cashman began yet another incarnation of “The Nite Show.” Another 45 episodes were filmed and aired before it was canceled.
“I thought it was done. I thought it was over with,” Cashman said.
Cashman then went to work at Gov. John Baldacci’s office as a communications professional. Later, he started his own business, Cashman Communications, and was approached about starting up the show again.
“I said, ‘No way. Not a chance in hell.’” But still he started to think about it.
“Suddenly, I got about as high and mighty as I’m gonna get and said if this is going to happen I need it to do certain things. I need people who know what they’re doing shooting it, I want it to be in a place where there’s an audience and I want it to be on [WABI TV5], not thinking there was a prayer that any of those things would happen,” Cashman said.
“And then they all happened.”
Since 2010, “The Nite Show with Danny Cashman” has recorded 197 episodes in front of a live audience with shooting done by the New England School of Communications and live music provided by the Jump City Jazz Band. The show initially was taped at the Next Generation Theatre in Brewer before moving to Husson University’s Gracie Theatre last year, which offers NESCom greater flexibility technically.
“It’s modeled after talk shows hosted by David Letterman and Jimmy Fallon and Johnny Carson. … We have the same setup. We have a desk, we have two chairs, we have a monologue, we have a comedy bit, we have a house band, we have an audience. All of the things you would see on a national late-night talk show we try to bring to our local version. … We’re trying to bring a piece of New York or Los Angeles to Maine,” Cashman said.
“The Nite Show” has hosted guests such as “Weird Al” Yankovic and Count von Count from “Sesame Street,” which Cashman said was one his favorites. Other famous guests have included Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, Gov. Paul LePage and former host of “Double Dare,” Marc Summers. And then there are the recurring guests, such as Maine humorist Tim Sample and Ric Tyler of WVOM radio, among many others, who drop by every so often.
The 30-minute weekly show airs on three television stations and is set to pick up a fourth. In September the show will begin airing on Portland CBS affiliate WGME. “The Nite Show” will air on four Maine broadcast television stations with the addition of CBS 13 and cover the state in all three of Maine’s TV markets — Portland, Bangor and Presque Isle.
The show recently ranked No. 1 on Saturday late nights in eastern and central Maine, beating out “Saturday Night Live” in the Nielsen ratings. It has also been nominated for four New England Regional Emmy Awards, but Cashman always keeps the show’s humble beginnings in mind.
“When it first started it was so rough around the edges. We are trying to make something that people are excited about watching, something that we’re proud to do and something that hopefully the region can be proud of,” Cashman said.
“It’s never lost on me how lucky I am. … There are nights, literally, I’m sitting on the floor at our house, falling asleep writing bits and jokes, face first in a computer. I wake up with a stiff neck, back hurting and I wonder why I do this to myself,” Cashman said. “And then I think … because there aren’t many people who get the chance to do this. And it’s nothing but fun.”
As for the future of the show, Cashman says it’s here to stay in Maine and that the idea of lengthening it to an hour has been kicked around. In an interview back in 1997, he had two very specific dream guests in mind as well.
“Back then my answer was David Letterman and Jewel, and that’s still my answer. I have no idea if that will ever happen. I’m thinking probably not, but we’ll see,” Cashman said.
The next taping of “The Nite Show with Danny Cashman” will take place Wednesday, September 16 at 6 p.m. in Husson University’s Gracie Theatre. Tickets are free of charge and can be requested at brownpapertickets.com/event/1586109. “The Nite Show with Danny Cashman” can be viewed Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. on WABI TV5 , 10:30 p.m. on WPFO Fox23 and at midnight on WAGM-TV.