Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Goodnight, David Letterman

Tonight is David Letterman's last night on late night television after 33 years. So much has been written and said about Dave and his legacy, and it seemed fitting for me to (mostly) let the words of his peers be my tribute to him today. When Dave's dear friend (and kissing buddy) Julia Roberts made her final appearance last week, she summed up in one sentence my deepest feelings about Dave: "I just want to say David Letterman I love you, and I thank you for all of the joy and the laughs and the intelligence you have brought to us for 33 years."

You see, it occurs to me that it is indeed his intelligence that sets Dave apart from his modern peers. I love Jimmy Fallon, I watch his show quite often and he will be my go-to guy in the days to come- but the truth is I don't want to live in a world where Jimmy is the "King of Late Night." Jimmy's Tonight Show does sketches and broad comedy gags better than anything SNL does anymore, but his interviews consist of fawning all over his guests and telling us that their new horrible movie is "just the best." Dave was just the opposite. As Julia Roberts said to him recently, "Stupid people annoy you." And it's true. In just the past few weeks Dave did lengthy and in-depth interviews with former President Clinton, President Obama and Michelle Obama- and we learned things. He inspired us after 9/11; he shared a heart attack and personal scandals with us in very courageous ways. Letterman has often joked over the years that the road to the White House went through the Ed Sullivan Theater- and he was only partially kidding. His interviews could make or break a candidate. But even while being intelligent, Dave always made us laugh. In these past few weeks we saw Tina Fey rip off her dress, announcing that in honor of Dave it was the last dress she would ever wear. We heard Cher tell Dave that she loved him, but that he is "still an a**hole." We witnessed George Clooney handcuff himself to Dave and tell the startled host, "You ain't going anywhere!" The audience gasped as the great American actor Al Pacino made an unannounced appearance just to read the numbers for a Top 10 list. Not the actual list; just the numbers! We watched as the comedian Norm MacDonald wept while telling that Dave that he loved him. Last night we watched Bill Murray jump out of a cake for the final "regular" show. And this same mixture of comedy, intelligence and emotion has been going on for 33 years. So one last time, I want to say #ThanksDave. It's going to be weird knowing you aren't there. And as promised, here are some things others have said as we bid him a fond farewell...

In their own words...
He was, for me, and I think many comics of my generation, an incredible epiphany of how a talk show or how entertainment or how television could… for God’s sake, the man put a camera on a monkey. There are so few people that can innovate that format. And then…to be an innovator with longevity, I mean, damn. The list is Dave. I think the list is Dave. - Jon Stewart on The Daily Show
"As I write this, there are only 10 shows left before the funniest, most inventive and smartest man who ever wore an Alka Seltzer suit goes fishing for good. None of us who discovered Dave on our own and claimed him as our own will ever be able to satisfactorily explain to the younger people who didn’t what he did, what he meant and what he means. I guess it doesn’t matter. It’s only an exhibition, not a competition. Thanks Dave. For whatever it’s worth, you’re my favorite. (And Paul, I love you too.)"  - Jimmy Kimmel in Time Magazine

"Dave was a true revolution- and I believe his innovations are up there with the light-bulb and the Twix Bar." - Conan O'Brien in Entertainment Weekly

David Letterman gave us 33 years of innovation, fun, and just plain weirdness… but mostly fun, and he opened our eyes to the type of comedy that could be done on television...he taught us that comedy could be both smart and stupid." - Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show

Adam Sandler sang this tribute after telling Dave that long ago he, Spade, Farley, Rock and the rest had realized that Dave was better than they were:

(While speaking to Dave on the show) “When I heard you announce that you were retiring I thought, ‘he’s got to be joking.’ And then I remembered, ‘wait, you’re not funny.’” - Steve Martin

"And as far as I'm concerned, just for me, that's what is happening here now. May 20th will be the day the comedy dies. Yeah." - Ray Romano (referencing the song American Pie on is last appearance).

Jay Leno could not be reached for comment, but if he had said something it would have been something someone else (probably Howard Stern) already said. Because that's what Jay does.

(On The Late Show Monday night) "Like everyone else here, on Thursday I'm just unplugging the boob tube and ripping out the cord. I can watch anything else I need to see in 7 minute clips on YouTube." - Tom Hanks

"Of all the great opportunities and great moments we have had because of this show, our first time on Letterman has to be right at the top."  - Mike Greenberg on Mike & Mike In the Morning

(While speaking to Dave on the show) "Let me just say this. The truth is, what you have meant to all of us- all of us as fans- and I'm going to tell you why I'm going to say it. I've watched you , Dave- I've been at home, I've watched you in my underwear. There are not many men I have watched in underwear. Here's the thing- what you've meant to us- all of us- with so many of the laughs and everything else, but also walking us through the times when we didn't know what to do- like 9/11 and where we weren't sure when we could laugh again. You may be going off the air, but you belong to us for the ages, my friend." - George Clooney

And that's just about all there is to say. I am a big fan of Stephen Colbert, and I hope he will do well. But to be honest, "I wouldn't give his problems to a monkey on a rock!" Following David Letterman is a lot like following Babe Ruth. There is only one Greatest of All-Time. Dave, of course, would say it's Johnny Carson. But it's Dave. Norm MacDonald said it's got to be true! 

Goodnight Dave. 


  1. Anonymous5/20/2015

    Great post! I will miss Dave too. His CBS show has always been great. But his NBC show changed the world. If NBC had a time machine, there would be no Jay Leno years, no matter who won the "ratings war." Dave is and always will be the man! - Eric Thomasson

    1. I agree with every word you wrote, Eric...and that never happens! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Couldn't have said it better myself.

    1. Thanks, Paul. Missing him already...


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