Goodbye to Television's Last True Late Night Legend


Traditional and true late night television has come to an end, as we say to goodbye to a legend. The last of the greatest talk show hosts signs off after over 3 decades of unforgettable moments on broadcast TV.

We will truly miss you Dave. There will never be anybody else like you....EVER!

Life as a shorty shouldn't be so rough
Just a year or so ago I wasn't a fan of Letterman. I thought he was boring and a bit of a jerk, but over the last year or so I've watched more and more of Letterman's show. Most of it was on youtube, whether recent clips or older shows, and I have grown to really appreciate Dave. It started when I watched an episode with Louis C.K. as a guest. I really respect Louis, so when I could see his respect for Dave I knew something was there. So I watched a little more. I started to see it, especially when I watched clips of Dave while the Conan and Jay stuff was going on. He's funnier than I gave him credit for too, so I guess what I am saying is that I jumped on board a little too late. Now I am sad to see him ago. Him and Ferguson leaving near the same time is a tough pill to swallow.

Without Johnny Carson Dave wouldn't be where he was. And wouldn't have been the success he has been. Johnny gave him his start and from then on, David Letterman has become the legend and icon he is today. Plus when Johnny ended his years on the Tonight Show, he started to write the monologue for Dave.

They used to show his show over here on satellite tv sometimes in the mid 90's. That's when I saw this.

Very, very happy HK.
5-time MoFo Award winner.

These are the musings I put on my Facebook page, last night....

They Don’t Exactly Give These Shows to Chimps: Why I’ll Miss David Letterman

David Letterman is doing his final late night broadcast tomorrow, and the last one with formal guests is airing tonight (Bill Murray and Bob Dylan). So I have typed out some thoughts about how much his shows have meant to me. I was eleven when "Late Night with David Letterman" debuted in February of 1982. I was in sixth grade at the time, and though my family have always been TV junkies, I was definitely not allowed to stay up until 12:30am to 1:30am to watch the show. By middle school I could sometimes finagle a Carson monologue after "Hill Street Blues" or whatever movie one of the networks may have been running (back when they still did that) and the local news, if I dragged my feet slowly enough. But not Letterman. However, during the summer I had no set bedtime and would delight in staying up to watch television all hours of the night. This is when I first discovered "Late Night" for myself. It's also when I discovered simulated sex acts on Showtime, but that is a different story.

My parents were big Carson fans. Who wasn't? So I had been watching "The Tonight Show" irregularly for years, at that point. I would also watch the Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas afternoon shows with my Mom after school sometimes, so I knew what a talk show was supposed to be. Even at twelve years old I understood that "Late Night with David Letterman" was different and weird, which perfectly suited me. Some of the subversion and deadpan mocking of the format was beyond me, certainly, and other elements were just so silly and bizarre, often intentionally juxtaposed with that which was subtle or that referenced pop culture and history I didn't know. Happily it turned out I didn't have to know, say, who Bella Abzug was to laugh at a bit that randomly mentioned her penchant for floppy hats, or whatever other allusions and parodies and just plain non-sequiturs were tossed into the mix every night. I was instantly drawn in by its anarchic tone, chaos, fun, deconstruction, and ironic worldview.

So every summer night, and for any other vacation from school, or on snow days or what have you, anything that might have lifted my bedtime restriction, I would be up until 1:30 in the morning soaking in the brilliant insanity of "Late Night". Initially I could at least watch it every Friday night…until frickin' NBC decided to cash in on the exploding MTV phenomenon by making Letterman's show do new episodes only Monday through Thursday so that they could air "Friday Night Videos" after Carson at the end of the week. I was completely uninterested in seeing the network debut of whatever new video they were pimping. I wanted my "Late Night with David Letterman", Damnit. I penned several angry and what I thought were brilliantly witty missives about said injustice and dutifully sent them to the show, hoping that Dave might join in solidarity with my righteous outrage in his "Viewer Mail" segment. As far as I know, he never did…though since "Viewer Mail" aired on Thursday night episodes, how would I even know?

There were also prime time anniversary specials that I could catch up on, and at some point along the way we got a VCR with a timer on it (fancy!), so I could record episodes occasionally. By the time 1988 rolled around and I was a senior in high school and then into college, I had a TV in my room, so I could finally start watching Letterman every single night. Which I did, almost unfailingly. Like any show, it is definitely more than the host, and "Late Night" had great writing staffs that kept feeding this insanity machine, and there were recurring segments with the likes of Larry "Bud" Melman, Chris Elliott (who is still my hero), the NBC Bookmobile Lady, director Hal Gurnee, Meg the Simon & Schuster publicist who happened to have a window office across the way from Dave's office, and a cavalcade of whoever and whatever they could find for Dave to play off of, annoy, or be annoyed by.

Everybody knows about the Top Ten Lists, Stupid Pet Tricks, and Smalltown News. But for me the best moments were often the oddest yet most simple and sometimes unscripted, with Dave wandering the halls of Rockefeller Center with a bullhorn, pestering the staff and guests of "Live at 5", staging elevator races with random strangers, or having the "winner" of the rush hour hordes crossing Sixth Avenue be greeted with a wreath and bottle of Champaign when they reached the other side first, as if they had just won the Kentucky Derby. The Late Night Thrill Cam that became the Late Night Monkey Cam, going out and crushing things in an industrial press, throwing all kinds of crap off of a five story tower, or any of those amazing taped remote pieces, especially before he got to be super famous, where he'd visit local restaurants and dry cleaners or wander through a New Jersey neighborhood, even a visit to a viewer who had written that she didn't like the sneakers he wore and surprise her during her shift at Sears, or getting thrown out of the GE building by security after that company had acquired NBC.

For all of that creativity, Letterman's interview demeanor seems to be what a lot of more casual viewers (and not just Cher) focused on in those early years, noting that he could be so sarcastic and dismissive and even come off as mean at times, which Johnny Carson never did, even if a guest actually deserved it. Dave is as quick-witted as any host who ever sat in one of those host chairs, and he didn't suffer fools. Especially showbiz fools. And that, too, was revolutionary and refreshing. But you could also tell through those interviews who he respected, who he was in awe of, and who his friends were. To his friends he was loyal and made them seem like the coolest guys in the room, like comics Jeff Altman, Tim Thomerson, and George Miller, or actor Michael Keaton, who appeared on a late '70s Mary Tyler Moore variety show with Dave before either was known and even before Keaton was Bettlejuice or Batman he was a favored guest. And then there were those celebrities that were always known as great TV guests, no matter where they go, like Bill Murray, Steve Martin, Bruce Willis, and Martin Short as examples, who reveled that they had a place to go and try out their own weird ideas and stunts and half baked bits. Whatever costume or song or pre-taped silliness they were game for, Letterman was equally delighted to participate. And it seemed like he could talk just about anybody into anything, like the episode where the audience was sent home and the show was taped in his office, where he eventually persuaded guest Teri Garr to take a shower ("I HATE you! Why am I doing this?!?").

After eleven years and 1,800+ episodes, NBC decided to go with Jay Leno as Carson’s replacement at 11:30. Dave moved the show up the street from 30 Rock to the Broadway district, and CBS put him up against "The Tonight Show". The theater was nicer, the suits were better, the white sneakers were gone, the band got a permanent horn section, and the budget for those silly props and stunts and whims seemed to increase, but "The Late Show with David Letterman" continued to bring me the special brand of Letterman that I now needed daily. Once ensconced in that neighborhood he made stars out of local merchants like Mujibur & Sirajul and Rupert Gee, and stage manager Biff Henderson, among others.

Signaling how far he had come from upstart to being a top commodity in the industry, Dave hosted the Oscars in 1995, as Carson had done five times in the '70s and '80s. Dave's stint is a broadcast which over time has become somewhat infamous (even though it enjoyed huge ratings), at least infamous from a critical standpoint and in the minds and memories of some Oscar viewers. Most people who didn't like Dave's Oscar show seem to most dislike that, well, he kind of did his show. Of course I loved it, and it is by far my most favorite of the Oscar telecasts I have watched since 1980, and I have watched them all. If you want to subscribe to the idea that Dave somehow blew his shot or ruined the integrity of that awards show or whatever, that's up to you. But you're wrong. And would you like to buy a monkey?

As the years rolled on and on at CBS, I suppose Dave "mellowed' a bit, on air, and the show became less relentlessly inventive than it had been in the initial years. But it was still Dave and that off-kilter sense of humor, and I still loved it. I love it to this day. If he had re-upped his contract for another five or ten or fifteen years, I'd still be watching every night. After the trifecta of his quintuple bypass heart surgery, the September 11 attacks, and the birth of his son, Letterman seemed to either consciously or subconsciously decide to throw what little caution he may have had left to the wind. It all seemed to re-energized him, and he became more overtly political and even let himself show honest sentimentality on the air. All of which made me love him and the show even more, which I didn't think was possible.

Even if you never regularly watched the show or never like Dave, some of those moments have become television lore: Andy Kaufman and Jerry Lawler’s brawl, Cher calling him an asshole, Crispin Glover kicking his big shoes, the Velcro and Alka Seltzer suits, Madonna's F-Bomb tirade, Sean Connery’s jet pack, Richard Simmons and the fire extinguisher, Drew Barrymore flashing her boobs, Dave and Steve Martin's Gay Vacation, Joaquin Phoenix and his beard, Paul McCartney playing outside on the marquee of the Ed Sullivan Theater, and on and on. But while those moments are iconic, it is the day-to-day hilarity and rhythms of the show that I will remember and treasure the most. And that I will miss the most.

Twenty-two years at CBS, with another 4,200+ episodes. That's over six thousand episodes, and thirty-three years total in late night television, which is three more than his idol/mentor Johnny Carson. I loved Johnny, of course, but David Letterman is my guy, forever and always. So very many hours of entertainment, belly laughs, and memories. Thanks, Dave, My TV Pal. I'll never pelt you with rocks and garbage.

"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra

Traditional and true late night television has come to an end, as we say to goodbye to a legend. The last of the greatest talk show hosts signs off after over 3 decades of unforgettable moments on broadcast TV.

We will truly miss you Dave. There will never be anybody else like you....EVER!
Truly an original...the end of an era...there's only one David Letterman, the likes of which we will never see again.

Randomly, here are two Dave monologue jokes that have stuck with me, over the years....

"Olympic Gold Medalist skier Picabo Street is returning to her home town in Idaho a champion, and she's generously giving back to that community by donating a new wing to one of the local hospitals. They're naming it in her honor: The Picabo I.C.U."

"Iconic entertainment legend Frank Sinatra is releasing a new line of premiere neckwear this spring. They're calling them 'Frank Sinatra's Alleged Mob Ties'."

And a few of my favorite Top Ten lists...

10. Fleet's in!
9. Who's Frying Eggs?
8. Better than that Crap Linda Evans is selling
7. SixtySomething
6. If Symptoms Persist, Contact Your Doctor
5. Suddenly, Exxon!
4. Kennel Cough
3. Joan Collins' latest Cynical Attempt to Cash in on Her Popularity before
the Whole World Gets Sick and Tired of Her Once and for All
2. Really Old Spice
1. Next!

10. William Shakespeare: His Poetry Rates a Ten
9. A Chemical Process in Three Stages: Lather, Rinse, Repeat
8. Girls with Thin Eyebrows: Hideous Freaks of Nature
7. Cliff Notes Versus Monarch Notes: Two Views of Hamlet
6. Circles, Flowers, a Smiling Guy: So Many Ways to Dot the "I"
5. The Pushy Overbearing Mother Figure in Literature
4. Pretty Leaves I Found Outside Somewhere
3. Black Americans: What I Hope to Say When I Meet One
2. Philosophy: Why Don't They Spell It with an "F"?
1. The Male Organ: What It Might Look Like

10. Heart
9. Kidney
8. Vincent
7. Trachea
6. Joyce
5. James
4. Bladder
3. Timothy
2. Spleen
1. Dick

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Please Quote/Tag Or I'll Miss Your Responses
I thought I'd watch yesterday... Bill Murray and pie, come on, give me a break.

I think Colbert is better, but think his old show is the best format, and even that was getting redundant, and not really drawing blood like a satirist should, but as a lot better than Jon Stewart, who I also used to like.

I saw this by accident, I recommend checking out all the Harvey Pekar appearances, there are about 5, I'll paste one.

Well, that was a nice final show. I've never been a big Letterman fan, but I felt like checking it out.

Save the Texas Prairie Chicken
It might sound crazy, but I found this to be terribly depressing. From the time I was a little kid he was the only one that I cared to watch. I would watch Johnny Carson and then David Letterman. Then Johhny retired and my viewership went only to Dave.

My mother has always talked about how she loved his daytime show. She said she never missed it. She was so disappointed when it went off the air. And then he got the chance to be on at night. She made sure to watch him then (she always liked to compare his crazy antics to Steve Allen's).

My life and his talk show career are pretty close in the total of years we've been around. So, he has been a part of my life as far back as I can remember.

I try to watch the others and I can't. If there is going to be someone on that I really like, I will watch that person. But for the entire show, I can't do it. They just don't entertain me like David Letterman has always done.

So, yes, this is a very depressing thing to happen. It was inevitable, but I always wished it wouldn't.

Thanks, Dave, for making my life a little better at night no matter how bad my day may have been. You will be missed.
I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity - Edgar Allan Poe

I loved the NBC Letterman show more than the CBS one, but there were great moments on both shows. I've got to say that I didn't like his being more overtly political in his later years. I enjoyed his back-and-forths with the likes of Billy O'Reilly and others at his desk, but I didn't like his continuous political rantings during his monologues that were barely jokes. You could see and hear his venom very clearly. That aside, his humor was always great and off-kilter.

Holden, I loved the clips you provided, such as the McDonalds/Taco Bell clips that had me in stitches again. I loved Teri Garr, whether taking a shower or not. I agree that the Oscars with Dave was the very best one. This is my favorite part of that telecast:

This is my favorite Letterman skit of all-time, because of what seemed to be Dave's genuine fear of wild animals:

"Miss Jean Louise, Mr. Arthur Radley."