During my high school years in the early- to mid-2000s, I got into a routine beginning at 11:35 p.m on weekdays.
My cable box would be firmly set to CBS at that time, where I would spend the next 60 minutes watching The Late Show with David Letterman. Once the final note played in the musical number’s closing act, I’d switch the channel to NBC for Conan O’Brien.
That was my late show fandom. Dave and Conan.
In a way, I grew up with these guys. Their humor, their commentary and their schtick became part of my everyday life. I appreciated the way they each went about their business. Which was in very different ways — but understandable considering their 16-year age difference.
Conan is now on basic cable, and Dave, at 66, is still going strong on CBS — for one more year, at least. During the taping of Thursday’s show, he announced he would be retiring in 2015, ending a 22-year run at the helm of the “Late Show.” When you include his 11 years on NBC prior, the 33 years trumps the 30 accumulated by legendary host Johnny Carson.
Now we know how both Conan and Letterman ended up on their respective networks, and both stories intersect with Jay Leno. But let’s not go there. You all know the story.
I genuinely just want to express my thanks to Mr. Letterman.
He’s had his share of criticism and controversy, but, even with his landmark tenure as a late show host, I truly believe that his humor was mostly unappreciated. In my opinion, he was a comic genius who understood his target audience, and never strayed from who he was in order to please others. He did things his way.
He’s a masterful interviewer and –unlike most other hosts — has always been unafraid to make his guests uncomfortable by asking a question that they weren’t expecting.
Perhaps his humor is something one had to learn to appreciate. It wasn’t slapstick, or immature, but more chic, and dignified. And I’ll never forget his “Greatest Moments in Presidential Speeches” bit, which, to this day, is the only late night sketch that ever rivaled Conan’s Walker, Texas Ranger clip lever.
Here’s a great list compiled by Mashable of his show’s top moments, including his amazing monologue from his first show back after 9/11. Worth the watch.
While I used to watch the show religiously at a point in my life, it saddens me to say that I haven’t much in the past handful of years. Other things have just taken priority for me at 11:35 p.m. But I’m confident in saying that it’s still been the same old Dave. The man is a legend who will be remembered with the Bob Hopes and Johnny Carsons as far as variety programming is concerned, and he’s set the bar for how future people in his position should handle the job.
And it’s nice to see him go out his own way, with class. That Jay Leno guy could learn a thing or two.
Saying that “a big part of my childhood is gone” is awfully cliché, and so I won’t, but I will say that I will always fondly remember my teenage and young adult self, curled up in front of the TV before bed, ready to watch another episode of The Late Show with David Letterman.
If there was a “Top 10” list of late night hosts, you’d be number one in my book.