Friday, May 22, 2015

Thank You And Good Night

Hi there! Dave-El and welcome to I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You. Would you like a hot towel?

When we were last here on Monday*, I was waxing nostalgic for David Letterman. Of course, David hadn't left yet when I wrote that but I guess I was trying to prepare myself.

I wasn't prepared. 

I stayed up to watch the show. Oh hell no, this was not going to be some kind of "watch it later on the computer" thing. I was going to watch this as it was being broadcast on a television, just as God intended and David Letterman deserved. 

Watching David sprint backstage was hard to take. Damn, if he's in that good of shape, why is he retiring? Before David spoke one word, I didn't want him to go. 

And neither did the enthusiastic audience packed in the Ed Sullivan Theater, all on their feet, thunderous applause shaking the building. Don't go, Dave! People still love you!

Dave was as sharp as ever, maybe more so than he had been in years. Perhaps the importance of the night helped to focus him. Dave may not be one for accolades but he's a professional broadcaster and he knows that the viewers at home, the audience in the theater, his staff and crew, they wanted, no, deserved a good strong farewell. And we got one. 

The Top Ten List was inspired. The topic was "Top Ten Things I've Always Wanted to Say to David Letterman" and 10 celebrities came out and each presented an item on the list. At #10, Alec Baldwin complimented the Late Show for its geographic closeness to where he lives. Steve Martin told David that his "extensive plastic surgery was a necessity...and a mistake." Jerry Seinfeld wondered what he would do without David Letterman, then he thought of something so he's good. 

Julia Louis-Dreyfus won the Top Ten with her contribution: "Thanks for letting me take part in another hugely disappointing series finale." Big laughs from everyone but Jerry looked stunned (in an amusing way). 

We got some hilarious clips. One segment was a collection of bits with Dave interacting with kids; this includes the boy who sings to Dave (to the tune of "Jingle Bells"), "You are not, you are not, you are not funny!" And we got to see the classic piece from 1996 where Dave takes over a Taco Bell drive-thru. 

The show ran for about 90 minutes, a half hour longer than usual but nobody wanted the party to end. But end it had to and David Letterman spoke with a sincere affection for everyone who makes the show possible. "They're better at their jobs than I am at mine." He described CBS President Les Moonves as being a "very, very, very patient man" and thanked him for his support. He expressed his admiration for the talent of Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra and described Paul as true friend. But of all the remarks and compliments he put forth, his most touching words were for his family. His wife Regina and his son Harry sitting in the audience, David told them how much he loved them. 

And then we came to the end. David Letterman looking into camera from behind his desk for the last time said, "Alright, that’s pretty much all I got. The only thing I have left to do, for the last time, on a television program—thank you, and goodnight.” 

But the show wasn't over. The Foo Fighters ripped into "Everlong"+ over a montage of rapid fire clips from David's 33 years in television. If you thought those clips were too fast, how else can you compress a remarkable 33 year career in comedy and television over the course of 5 minute song? 

+Dave's favorite Foo Fighter song; they played it on the show back in 2000 when Letterman came back from his heart surgery. "Everlong" is also my Foo Fighters song. 

But that was an interesting thing: David Letterman could've said his final good-byes at the very end. Instead he says his piece then lets the show entertain us for 5 more minutes. 

I've seen the end of long TV runs before. I watched in awe when Johnny Carson said his farewells nearly 25 years ago. But I wasn't there at the beginning for Carson. When I became aware of The Tonight Show, from my perspective, Johnny had always been there. 

For David Letterman, I was there at the beginning. I was in college at the time when Late Night With David Letterman debuted on NBC. A lot of guys in my dorm dragged ourselves to class in the morning all bleary eyed from staying up late to watch this guy totally deconstruct the TV talk show and build something new. We had inherited Johnny Carson from our parents. This guy was most definitely our guy.  

So to find myself sitting at the other end of the journey, watching David Letterman say goodbye to late night television is a bit surreal. This can't be happening! Dave can't be old enough to retire! What does that make me? 

Uh oh. 

Anyway, we have bid farewell to the Late Show With David Letterman and perhaps to David himself as he retreats into a well-deserved time to spend with his family. Maybe we'll see him on TV in some venue or another. But I wouldn't count on it. Whatever happens next, even if nothing ever happens next, David Letterman went out on top. 




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*Seriously, you read the 3 part blog posts on elevator etiquette on Tuesday, Wednesday AND Thursday? Well, bless your heart! Which down here in the South, "bless your heart" means, "That's awfully sweet of you but you ain't right in the head." 

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