The Yes Men's Mike Bonanno on How He Obtained, Why He Sold David Letterman's '90s 'Late Show' Set
As bidding on the set pieces ends, Bonanno talks about the role the late '90s dot-com boom had in his acquiring those items and how selling them will help with his new documentary, 'The Yes Men Are Revolting.'
As David Letterman marked the end of his 33-year late-night career last week, Mike Bonanno of the comedy activist duo The Yes Men took to eBay to see if anyone would be interested in purchasing some pieces of the early '90s Late Show set that he acquired more than 15 years ago.
The auction, which ended Wednesday morning, attracted 14 bids with the set going for $20,100.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Bonanno says he fished the set pieces — three buildings that made up part of the New York City skyline behind Letterman's desk — out of the trash in 1998 or 1999. The previous owner, a dot-com company that had gotten the set pieces from Letterman's show, Bonanno says, was dumping them on the street.
He explains that he hoped he would use the set pieces. However, with Letterman's show ending and Bonanno and his Yes Men partner Andy Bichlbaum's new documentary The Yes Men Are Revolting available on digital platforms on June 9 and in theaters three days later, Bonanno thought this was the right time to see if someone was interested in buying them.
"The whole purpose of having [those set pieces] was to do something fun like tape a show in front of [them]. I'd rather not get rid of [them]," Bonanno tells THR. "Our latest film, which is called The Yes Men Are Revolting, is coming out really soon ... and we're trying to release and promote it on a shoestring. It just seemed like it was the time to sell [the set pieces]."
Specifically, Bonanno says that funds from the eBay sale will support the "ambitious program" The Yes Men have planned in connection with the release of the documentary.
"The film is about mobilizing people around climate change. We have a very ambitious program in mind for getting people involved with an online platform and other elements — lots of organizations we're collaborating with," Bonanno says. "It requires an outlay of cash upfront, so that's what it's going to go towards."
The Yes Men impersonate business execs to raise awareness about what they believe to be corporate crimes against humanity and the environment. In The Yes Men Are Revolting, they target organizations like Shell Oil, Gazprom Oil and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Bonanno says that after he made the video he used to promote the set pieces, he started to have mixed feelings about the sale.
"I got so excited making the video that I didn't want to sell it anymore," he says. "I could see having fun, but it's time for someone else to have fun."
Indeed, Bonanno hopes that the buyer will put the set to good use, and perhaps one day donate it to a historical organization.
"Obviously somebody really cares about it if they're willing to pay that much anyway, so it's good to know that it's going to a place where it will be preserved if not played with," he says. "Somebody who has that kind of money — eventually they'll probably give it to a museum anyway."