“Thank you and good night.”
It’s been a week since David Letterman left The Late Show, and I still feel blue about it.
You know that feeling you get when you’re counting down the last few days of a holiday and you’re dreading the day it will end and you have to go back to reality? Like you want to slow down time but it seems to move even faster? That’s what those last few episodes of The Late Show felt like.
I didn’t expect to be this emotional about Dave’s leaving, but that last show and final Top Ten had me bawling. (I do seem to measure everything emotionally by the amount of crying I do. I should think up a new scale like a cry-o-meter or something.) It was fitting that there really was no guest – just the Top Ten heavyweights like Baldwin, Seinfeld, Fey, Martin, and of course, Bill Murray. Each guest meant something to The Late Show, and to us loyal viewers too.
Although I have to admit that I haven’t watched the show regularly in the last couple of years. I just saw snippets on YouTube every now and then. It wasn’t for lack of interest – I just couldn’t figure out what channel and time it was on. But you know why I still consider myself a fan of the show? I started watching Dave when I was in college, that time when I was trying to “find” myself, or more to the point, “make” myself. I was just escaping the confines of high school and figuring out what I wanted. Dave was part of that, because I felt like such a badass staying up late at night and watching irreverent comedy. I remember looking forward to watching his show at the end of every day. The Late Show was where I first heard The Shins. Augustana. Matisyahu. Macklemore. It’s where I first saw Pete Sampras. I remember that Joaquin Phoenix interview. And that time that Dave had to have quintuple bypass surgery and they had to have guest hosts like Bruce Willis and Bonnie Hunt. I watched Drew Barrymore flash Dave. And Paul McCartney performing on the theater marquee. And of course there was that epic U2 week.
I watched the show every day, no matter who the guest was. Even if it was just Stupid Human Tricks the whole hour, I still would’ve watched. Letterman was the only show I watched even if I didn’t know who the guest was, because I was there for Dave. He had this sardonic, dry humor that I really got. He asked intelligent questions, and he really listened to his guests talk. And when an athlete was on, you could see Dave light up like a little boy meeting his heroes and being a nerd about it.
The people who mattered in comedy respected him. It showed in the way Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Carrey said goodbye after the Final Top Ten. And Jon Stewart always said that Dave was the gold standard.
Now who are we left with? The Jimmys? To be honest, I don’t find Kimmel all that funny. And Fallon? I’ll grant that he has some funny bits with all the singing and games he plays with his guests. Plus he started Lip Sync Battle, which I love, so I have to give him that. But that’s all he has. He doesn’t really seem sincere. It’s actually fitting that he took over The Tonight Show from Leno, because he has that same sycophantic style Jay had. Corden seems like he’s trying so hard to impress. I feel like the only ones left who can do sincere are Conan and Meyers. Can you imagine Fallon being sincere? I haven’t seen it, and I cannot imagine it.
With all the tributes to Dave, I’m a bit scared for Colbert. Scared for him because of the shoes he has to fill, but also scared for me. How good is he going to be? I don’t really know Colbert’s comedy, because I’ve only ever seen him in character for The Colbert Report. Will he be in character for The Late Show? How is it going to pan out? Will it still be a talk show, or will it become just YouTube fodder like the current shows?
People throw around the expression “end of an era” quite loosely, but in Dave’s case, it really is the end of an era. There are no “talk” shows anymore. I want those shows that actually have funny and witty conversations, and don’t just rely on gimmicks or whose only goal is to go viral. I can hear myself, and I know I sound like a grumpy old person whining about the good old days. But they’re gone and I miss them.
Good night, Dave. Thanks for everything.