In today’s NY Times, Dick Cavett writes about Tony Curtis and includes a clip of his show from January, 1970 (which I can’t embed, unfortunately) where Curtis sits on a stool and takes questions from the audience. As Cavett explains,
Considering that we taped “to time” and did no editing, it took a certain amount of guts to take unrestricted questions this way, but Tony was willing to do it. I’d have liked to do this on my show more often, but there were few takers.
If this was a rarity then, it happens even less frequently now. I can’t remember seeing a talk show in the last decade or two in which a guest took open questions from the audience. James Lipton used to allow his students to query the interviewees on “Inside The Actor’s Studio,” but we usually only saw two or three exchanges, all of them heavily edited.
If any host allowed this on their show today, they’d surely work in post-production to take out any clunker questions or dead spaces. Although after seeing this clip, most modern hosts would say it was a bad idea in the first place and this was proof.