It sounds like one of the best jobs in the world: head writer for Late Night With David Letterman. But for Merrill Markoe, who turns a jaundiced eye on pop culture in her new humor collection, How to Be Hap-Hap-Happy Like Me, her years at Late Night, during which she was also a producer, were hardly a dream come true.
''It was a job I would never take again as long as I will ever live,'' says Markoe, Dave's girlfriend during her stint with the show (1982-87). ''The reason I ever did it at all was the love affair with the host. There was no growth. It was kind of a sidestep into Merrill Markoe, Love-Chump.''
In 1985, Rolling Stone asked her to review the fall TV season. She soon began writing a column for New York Woman and then left Late Night.
In the new book there is a send-up of Martha Stewart (Markoe advises lithium for the overachieving hostess) and a description of a ''romantic dinner'' with Fabio (''You are funny girl,'' the love god tells her). There are, however, no pieces on Letterman. Even so, the book landed its author her first appearance as a guest on her old boyfriend's show which she claims she hasn't watched in years. (''Would you want to watch your old girlfriend on TV every night?'' she asks.)
It turned out to be fun, Markoe says so much fun that there was not enough time to discuss her new publication. ''So I yelled out at the end that it was a tell-all book about Dave featuring all the secrets everyone wants to know,'' she jokes. ''Yes, people will be angry. But the important thing is the book will sell.''