At what point I stopped watching “The Late Show With David Letterman” is difficult to recall. Probably that difficulty remembering stems from not actually pulling the plug on his show in its entirety.
I came to watch Jimmy Kimmel’s show on ABC within the last six months or so. I was just tired of Letterman, something about his show had gone stale. Maybe it’s like becoming what we called in the Navy, a short-timer. We knew the days, hours and minutes before we left for civilian life and we would rub that knowledge in the face let our cohorts who had much more time left. We weren’t particularly big on doing our normal duties either.
Now a show as big as Letterman’s operation can’t just be left to go to hell in a handbasket. I have watched some episodes lately of Letterman, such as last night’s laugh fest with Bill Murray. He came out of a giant celebration cake and upon hugging Letterman, both continued to wear the cake through the episode. No, Dave still had very quality shows when I stopped watching, it’s just, I don’t know, a tiresome act.
I first started watching Kimmel when his show first aired. I think he had Mike Tyson as a week-long guest and it was very oddball and very funny. And I had never liked Tyson. That show began a process of rehabilitation toward my feelings for Tyson. But I continued on, watching Letterman and occasionally I’d watch Leno. I liked his Jay Walking skits and “Headlines.” But I’d go back to Letterman without fail. My watching mostly depended on who Dave had as a guest.
No entertainer, at least in modern TV, had the type of show like Letterman’s. I think it was interactive before interactive was cool. I liked how some of his seeming “grunts” or regular employees would perform some of the best comedy with Letterman, this would include people like stage manager Biff Henderson, who had done countless skits both on site and off to some forsaken place. Dave’s Mom also became a beloved character on the show. Rupert Jee, the owner of the Hello Deli next door to the Ed Sullivan Theater, was on a recent show. Rupert seemed over the years like he would do anything Dave asked, no matter how ridiculous the request.
Music director Paul Schafer and his bad were stars in their own right. They often had musical guests who also sat in for multiple nights. One of my favorite guest musicians and apparently Letterman’s was the rock genius Warren Zevon. The writer and performer of hits such as “Werewolves of London” and “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” played many Lettermen shows from the first seasons on NBC to the early 2000s CBS incarnation. Zevon substituted for Shafer about 20 times and Letterman had a show entirely dedicated to Zevon upon his announcement of a diagnosis for terminal cancer that eventually killed him.
Letterman educated people during the aftermath of his own heart attack and he was the perspective-in-chief in the days following that horrible day on Sept. 11, 2001. Watch below.
These were just some of my most favorable moments from David Letterman, the majority having been on CBS from the 90s on. I either didn’t have or didn’t watch TV much in the 80s when Letterman began his network shows. I haven’t watched Jimmy Fallon’s show on NBC. I don’t know if I will. And I have no idea how Colbert will be as the new man behind the desk here at CBS in the Letterman time spot. If he can give the people the humor, the goofiness, the silliness with style and yes, even the perspective, that folks deserve, I might just watch Colbert’s show as well as Kimmel’s.
Good luck, David Letterman.