David Letterman has taped his last show ever. In a mere three hours it will broadcast here on my coast and then that’s it. What’ll I do tomorrow, and the rest of my life without David Letterman? For as long as I’ve existed he’s been on television five nights a week. Tonight absolutely feels like a lifetime friend is dying.
I’ll never forget what made me a fan of Letterman. He was taping a week of shows in Los Angeles some times in the mid-nineties. My entire family was watching the episode and he did a bit where he was driving around in a convertible. He went through a Taco Bell drive-thru and ordered something like 500 tacos. Cut to seconds later Dave’s driving down the street with a car full of tacos. In one shot he’s seen throwing a taco as hard as he can into the open window of the neighboring car. When this happened my Dad absolutely cracked up! I thought it was funny too, but I didn’t know if it was OK to laugh at this. You’re not supposed to throw food out of your car! I was young and still learning about humor. Seeing my Dad react in this way convinced me that this Letterman guy was the real deal. I will follow him for as long as I can. And I have.
David Letterman was important to me. It’s always been so much more than just a chuckle in the evening before bed. He was a goofball from Indiana that won over Hollywood and in doing so won over America. Or at the very least, he won over COOL America. The greatest litmus test to find out if a new person in your life was worth hanging around or not was to find out if they were a Letterman person or a Leno person. I’m not going to say that anyone could host a late-night talk show, say things in a funny tone, and ask celebrities questions, but Jay Leno made it seem like more than half of the population was capable of turning in this bare minimum style of hosting. Dave hosted for the real people simply by being himself. Sure he softened up in his later years, but you could tell he wasn’t taking notes from the network brass about what comedy works and doesn’t work for them.
The one trick I can most consistently rely on when I have doubts in myself is I can be funny. It’s helped me in so many situations. I have no doubt if I never got into watching Letterman that I would be a human being without a well-defined talent. With 100% assurance I can say that I’ve never watched an episode of “The Late Show” and not laughed. Absolutely the show’s writers and producers deserve credit for the show being so funny too, but when it all comes to it those jokes and premises don’t mean shit if a dolt is out there delivering.
Alan Kalter, Dave’s announcer for the past 20 years (who I just found out shares the same birthday as me from looking up his wikipedia!) has me in stitches with his goofiness. He’s got a golden throat and a comical confidence that keeps me hanging around every time he throws to commercial for his absurd one-liners. I loved the remotes Dave would send Biff and Rupert on. And of course Paul Motherfuckin’ Shaffer. He was perfect for Dave. I’m going to miss not hearing his signature cackle and the out-of-left-field questions and statements he’d make in between Dave’s desk pieces.
Dave was a man with integrity too. Every Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has been on his show to share their story with the world. Every fleet week the entire audience is completely members of the US Military. After 9/11 Dave was the first talk show host to return to air after the attacks. He’s owned up to his mistakes and apologizes without any hesitation when it is needed. After his open-heart surgery he had the entire medical staff on his show to thank them publicly for saving his life, and he did this every year on the anniversary of his surgery. During the writer’s strike a few years back he paid his ENTIRE staff out of his own pocket the exact same salary they always got. This went on for months too. I have to imagine it cost him over a million dollars but he did so without a single complaint. It was well documented that Leno only started paying his staff when the media got wind of Letterman doing this and asking if he was doing the same.
Now that Leno’s off the air I can say I genuinely have some varying degree of interest in all the remaining late night talk show hosts. I’ll watch them now and again when there’s an interesting guest on, but I don’t see any point in continuing to be an every night late night talk show watcher. They’re all funny, but NONE of them are David Letterman funny. THAT is a fact.
Watch Conan O’Brien give his heart felt goodbye to the man who left such gigantic shoes to fill as his successor to NBC’s “Late Night”.
Try not to get emotional while Jimmy Kimmel bids adieu to his comedy hero
Even Norm Macdonald gets choked up when talking about his love and admiration for David Letterman
He single-handedly changed the boring format that talk shows were turning into. There would be no Jimmy Fallon playing wacky games with celebrities, there would be no masturbating bear on Conan, Jimmy Kimmel would never have a chance to get a large group of celebrities to sing about him fucking Ben Affleck, Craig Ferguson wouldn’t have a venue to do ANYTHING that his show ever did, Stephen Colbert could never ask a Congressman the dumbest questions ever right to their face, and Jon Stewart would never deliver a satirical news story.
And that’s precisely it; David Letterman has always been so much more than just a goofy guy to have some laughs with while he talks to your favorite movie star. He represents true talent. He speaks for all of the underdogs out there. The man sitting behind that desk is exactly what we want to be and is doing it exactly how he wants to do it. Only he’s the only possible person in the entire world who could pull it off so well.
What’ll I do with only memories and old youtube clips to keep me funny? What’ll I do without a reliable good time waiting for me at the close of every weeknight? What’ll I do when my hero is gone forever?