I don’t watch much late night television these days. I guess it has to do with the fact that I work a day job and have to wake up early each morning, and probably more so because I don’t technically have television (cable is so expensive). I’ll catch the funny moments from the late night shows on the Internet the next day – lip-sync contests on Fallon, parodies on Kimmel, and guest interviews on Dave. With David Letterman retiring, I’m extremely sad to see him leave the scene, because he introduced me to late night almost 15 years ago.
I was in high school when I finally got a television in my room – took years of complaints, tears, and begging for my parents to hook up cable in my room. Of course, once I had it, I took full advantage. It was rebellious to watch television during the night. After your parents went to bed, the fact that you had access to watch whatever you wanted just felt great. I couldn’t fall asleep without sneaking in a little TV, and this is where I found late night television. Anything else was reruns and terrible programming. Late night was fresh, new, and exciting. Every night was a new episode, with interesting guests. I was immediately hooked.
In the early 2000’s this was a time when late night had only two real options: Jay Leno orDavid Letterman. I’d go back and forth between the two during commercial breaks. To Jay Leno’s credit, he did have some funny moments – his interviews on the streets or small sketches could be a riot, but to me, he was always putting on a show. He was up in front of an audience, playing a part. His jokes were well rehearsed, tested, and his sketches had no spontaneity. You have to respect that – he was performing. The problem was, we never got to know who Jay really was. He was too busy trying to be funny to let his personality come out.
David Letterman was different. He was a firecracker – you never knew what to expect from him. He made fun of the game. He never took the job he was doing seriously. He toyed with the late night formula. He mocked it, tested it’s boundaries, and laughed along with it. David Letterman didn’t put on a show - he fooled around on one. He’d squirt bystanders on the street in front of his theater on camera, drop watermelons off the roof, and drive around with a convertible full of tacos. He’d go into his audience and offer them odd prizes like a can of chili. He was simply making himself laugh, and that’s what made him genuine.
His interviews were even more interesting. He didn’t kiss up to the celebrities or stroke their egos – he made them squirm. Dave would asked them strange questions, tried to get a rise out of them, and pushed their buttons. He set the ball up and let them hit it. He didn’t want the spot light; he simply wanted them to make him laugh. They were his entertainment, not the other way around.
I watched David Letterman nightly throughout high school and went to bed each night with a smile on my face. Throughout the next 10 years I’d randomly day dream about what I’d say if I got to sit in the guest chair. I’ve always wanted to meet him, joke with him, and make him laugh. Nothing seemed better than making David Letterman smack his desk in laughter. Sadly, I’ll never get that chance. David Letterman retiring is a sad day for comedy. He’ll be great missed.
Did you like Dave? Let me know in the comments below!