Monday, May 18, 2015

There's No Better Man Than David Letterman

I know it's hard to accept but it's true: Adam Sandler is right. 

Last week, Adam did one of those signature songs of his, this time in tribute to David Letterman as he winds down to his final shows as host of the Late Show on CBS. As his is want, Sandler's song was by turns funny and awkward but also, believe it or not, sweet. One of the refrains from that song was "There is no better man than David Letterman." 

I must say that Adam Sandler is right. 

Adam also sang that "No one makes my mom wetter than David Letterman" but I cannot attest to the veracity of that claim nor do I want to. 

This week (Wednesday, May 20th) brings us to the end of a journey that began last year when David Letterman announced his intention to retire. We knew that as the count down reached the final weeks and days, we would see a plethora of stars with a variety of farewells, some silly like 
Tina Fey's #LastDressEver tribute

OK, I referenced this particular bit so I would have an excuse to post this pic of Tina Fey. Let's face it, this is as close as I will ever get to a naked Tina Fey. And my heart is sad. 

But back to David Letterman. 

What has been remarkable is just how heartfelt these actors and comedians have been in their praise of David Letterman. When even Norm McDonald's facade cracks as he chokes back tears to say that he loves David, it's hard to deny the sentimentality that underscores every moment in the last of these episodes of The Late Show With David Letterman

Which is kind of weird given Letterman's beginnings in late night television. Letterman was ringmaster over a comic circus that eschewed the sentimental and embraced ironic detachment. As an interviewer, Letterman was not much for fawning over his guests as he mocked the conventions of a TV talk show. David Letterman gained a reputation of not being a very nice host which was a bit undeserved. Letterman struck me as a polite and gracious a person but he was also breaking down the tropes of television. If Johnny Carson set the standard for charming deference, David Letterman was on a mission to see how far he could push against such conventions before...or until...they broke. 

\When David Letterman moved from Late Night at NBC to the Late Show at CBS,the edges of Letterman the rebel began to smooth out. As the calender pages turned from the 20th to the 21st Century, he had settled into the role of Grumpy Old Guy. And who could blame young viewers who, if they watched Late Show, just didn't get it. What was the big deal with David Letterman? He looks like he can barely tolerate whoever he's talking to. The times he seemed genuinely enthused for this endeavor were few and far between. 

For a guy like David Letterman, for whom being a TV talk show host is hot wired into his DNA, letting go of this show would be a hard thing to do, even if it no longer brought him the same level of joy and satisfaction it once did. What else would he do?

But having made the decision to move on, Letterman has upped his game, it seems. That's not just Jerry Seinfeld or Steve Martin in the chair next to his desk yet again. It's Jerry or Steven in the chair next to his desk for the last time. The moments of his show are no longer something to be endured but to be savored. 

But to the guests who have come thru the Ed Sullivan Theater for one last show, there is a sense of finality beyond just the ending of this program. When Johnny Carson left The Tonight Show, it was his intention to find something else and come back to television. He never did. Could the same fate await David Letterman after May 20th? 

That would be a shame for Letterman as much as it was for Carson. David still has a keen mind and a sharp comedic wit. It would be a loss not to have those talents involved with some project or another. 

Still, from all the interviews and post mortems on the end of the Late Show with David Letterman, I feel that if this end is indeed the last of Letterman on TV, Dave will be OK with that. He has other things on his mind. Whenever Letterman speaks of his young son, Harry, that's when the joy and the energy are most evident. 

And maybe the key word in that is "joy". Much has been made over the last 3 decades of Letterman's penchant for dissatisfaction with his work. Here was a man who was virtually built to do what he did and do it so well, yet he seemed to have so much difficulty accepting any joy that came from it. 

So maybe that's all David Letterman's next project needs to be: accept and experience joy. 

OK, that sound very "new agey" which seems like a very out of character way to wrap up a post about David Letterman. So how about a Top 10 list? 

Here we go! 

Top Ten 
Things David Letterman Will Need To Do on May 21st. 

  • #10  Get his security deposit on the Ed Sullivan Theater back from CBS.
  • #9    Turn in his building keys to Les Moonves
  • #8    Join Kathy Lee and Koda on the Today show for a morning cocktail. 
  • #7     Have Paul Shaffer placed in climate controlled storage.
  • #6     Release the CBS Orchestra to roam free in Central Park. 
  • #5     Buy Alan Kalter one last bag of cocaine for old times sake.
  • #4     Write up cardboard sign that says "Will Host TV Show For Food"...just in case. 
  • #3    Secret sauna date with Jay Leno
  • #2    Ask random people if they would like to buy a monkey.

And the #1 Thing David Letterman Will Need To Do on May 21st: start his first shift at the Home Depot! 

Thank you, David Letterman! Good night and drive safely.

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