The Incomparable

247: Monkey Cam

 

  the uncomfortable is brought to you by [TS]

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  world be Izar re new world.com for more [TS]

  information [TS]

  when you're a kid television is a [TS]

  daytime thing for an evening thing but [TS]

  at some point you go to bed and the [TS]

  grown-up stay up late and watch things [TS]

  you're just not allowed to see the [TS]

  nineteen seventies that forbidden things [TS]

  could be boiled down into a person [TS]

  Johnny Carson he was the thing that our [TS]

  parents watched late at night least [TS]

  sometimes and in the days before most [TS]

  families have VCRs if you were up at [TS]

  eleven-thirty with an earache or some [TS]

  other horrible affliction and your kid [TS]

  you never saw Johnny Carson [TS]

  well I loved Carson but it always felt [TS]

  to me I was too young and you know it's [TS]

  the lack of wisdom the foolishness of [TS]

  you think I thought well of course he's [TS]

  going to retirees kind of all right [TS]

  not that I was sick of a show but I [TS]

  thought of course you know where as you [TS]

  know in Letterman surround partner and [TS]

  right around the same age so I'm sure [TS]

  somebody who's in their twenties now [TS]

  it's gonna think the same thing well of [TS]

  course Letterman's retirees you know [TS]

  just kinda old when cars were retired in [TS]

  1992 was a huge television event but of [TS]

  course Carson is retiring [TS]

  he's kind of old funny how time works [TS]

  now it's 2015 and the main comedy figure [TS]

  of my generation David Letterman is the [TS]

  old man and I find myself right where [TS]

  those fans of Johnny Carson war two [TS]

  decades ago saying goodbye to an [TS]

  immeasurably influential performer to an [TS]

  audience full of younger people who seem [TS]

  just as this old guy who's been on TV [TS]

  forever [TS]

  there's no single performer who has had [TS]

  more influence on my sense of humor on [TS]

  my appreciation for certain kinds of [TS]

  comedy [TS]

  even my understanding about how [TS]

  creativity works then David Letterman [TS]

  yeah that guy that cranky 68 year old [TS]

  guy who has been on television for more [TS]

  than 30 years now that guy this is the [TS]

  incomparable number 247 for may 2015 I'm [TS]

  Jason snow it's david letterman's last [TS]

  week on the air so let's send them off [TS]

  right [TS]

  in the nineteen seventies the nation [TS]

  discovered a young comedian named david [TS]

  letterman if I discovered you mean never [TS]

  noticed an Indiana native radio and TV [TS]

  broadcaster david letterman moved to LA [TS]

  in search of fame but what he found was [TS]

  a community of comedians who respected [TS]

  him and a series of forgettable [TS]

  television appearances on shows like the [TS]

  Starland Vocal Band show Mary Tyler [TS]

  Moore's post sitcom variety show Robin [TS]

  Williams got him a guest-starring gig on [TS]

  an episode of Mork and Mindy where David [TS]

  Letterman ultimately succeeded though [TS]

  was on The Tonight Show with Johnny [TS]

  Carson took a liking to him kept asking [TS]

  him back and ultimately made him a [TS]

  regular guest host NBC also had its eyes [TS]

  on data Letterman but with Carson at the [TS]

  height of his powers the question was [TS]

  what could they do with him so they did [TS]

  the logical thing they put them on the [TS]

  middle of the morning right after the [TS]

  Today Show I was 15 years old in the [TS]

  summer of nineteen eighty when David [TS]

  Letterman got his morning show and [TS]

  everybody knew David Letterman had no [TS]

  business doing a morning show but that [TS]

  was the slot that NBC had for him and in [TS]

  that day of very constrained Spink turd [TS]

  television programming schedules and [TS]

  priorities you made the best with what [TS]

  you had he did game shows as well he was [TS]

  a whiz at password and pyramid and [TS]

  whenever they could they should warn him [TS]

  in you know on one of you know whenever [TS]

  johnny was taking a vacation which was [TS]

  usually tomorrow [TS]

  thats Sarah Bernhardt former TV critic [TS]

  at the Kansas City Star and someone i [TS]

  met on the Internet specifically because [TS]

  of our love of david letterman and what [TS]

  a surprise when I discovered that the [TS]

  other TV critic i know Tim Goodman of [TS]

  the hollywood reporter was also watching [TS]

  that unlikely david letterman show that [TS]

  aired in the mornings in 1980s yeah is [TS]

  that I discovered when he had a show in [TS]

  the daytime [TS]

  oh you were one of the morning show [TS]

  people all right they show that was [TS]

  inappropriate for morning [TS]

  yeah this random and it was like Edwin [TS]

  Newman was one of those that yeah i was [TS]

  so weird back then and I was discovered [TS]

  that in those days and then and then [TS]

  just don't know i mean a little more [TS]

  jaded now because I've been the TV great [TS]

  for so long and there's been so many [TS]

  hosts there but [TS]

  at the time when I wasn't and I was a TV [TS]

  fan I was like a kid this guy to me i [TS]

  felt like i was watching the revolution [TS]

  man this guy that this guy was great i [TS]

  didn't know all the influences he had [TS]

  but I did know and now of course I know [TS]

  but how refreshing in and funny and [TS]

  Goofy he was um and that you had to [TS]

  watch that was great for him to have his [TS]

  own platform other than an occasional [TS]

  television special they had to give him [TS]

  something and so he did morning [TS]

  television as nobody has ever done [TS]

  morning television and the response to [TS]

  that I mean they cancelled him it as we [TS]

  all know NBC would because the [TS]

  housewives who made up the bulk of [TS]

  daytime TV viewing in 1980 did not get [TS]

  David Letterman but the rest of us who [TS]

  are on summer vacation that summer we [TS]

  flock to the show and when NBC announced [TS]

  that they were canceling him [TS]

  people flock to 30 rock to sit in the [TS]

  aisles even impose a fire hazard is as [TS]

  Letterman famously point out on one of [TS]

  his shows and be part of what they [TS]

  thought was television history by the [TS]

  time Letterman's morning showing off the [TS]

  air after about four months [TS]

  NBC knew he had something and the king [TS]

  of late night Johnny Carson just signed [TS]

  a new contract to give him control over [TS]

  what aired on NBC after his show went [TS]

  off the air so NBC cancelled Tom [TS]

  Snyder's tomorrow show and made space [TS]

  for a Carson produced talk show hosted [TS]

  by david letterman when he came back for [TS]

  good on februari first 1982 it was [TS]

  already established that he would be [TS]

  doing the anti Johnny Carson show what [TS]

  he had already done two morning [TS]

  television he was going to do too late [TS]

  night television and then some [TS]

  I'm making the anti Johnny Carson show [TS]

  wasn't just a good idea it was actually [TS]

  required the King had spoken the [TS]

  Letterman Show couldn't resemble the [TS]

  tonight show too closely [TS]

  Johnny Carson also have a very strong [TS]

  survival instinct and even though he [TS]

  would sometimes joke about you know he [TS]

  had those those jokes when his monologue [TS]

  was dying he had those those saver jokes [TS]

  and one of his more famous one was just [TS]

  walk off now and let Letterman take over [TS]

  the show Johnny despite [TS]

  kidding about it knew that he needed to [TS]

  step up his game and he needed also to [TS]

  protect his turf and in 1981 you're the [TS]

  king of late night what you mostly do is [TS]

  protect your turf so he dictated terms [TS]

  to David Letterman who although Dave [TS]

  adore johnny was put under some rather [TS]

  humiliating i think creative constraints [TS]

  the the first of which was he was not [TS]

  allowed to have a band of more than four [TS]

  members and he was not allowed to tell [TS]

  more than I think for jokes in his [TS]

  opening monologue and several other [TS]

  features that day would not be allowed [TS]

  to have on his show less it remind [TS]

  anybody of The Tonight Show Starring [TS]

  Johnny cars i remember i don't know what [TS]

  the specific contract said but i know [TS]

  that there was is that I think was a [TS]

  time length on the monologue this is [TS]

  john gruber writer of daring fireball [TS]

  with the monologue Dave just embraced it [TS]

  like the the monologue on I thinks [TS]

  people who are only familiar with the [TS]

  modern Letterman showed the late show [TS]

  with they went back and watched some of [TS]

  the eighties ones with us like me and [TS]

  you would be dying and just crying [TS]

  laughing and they would be like wait a [TS]

  minute that was the monologue like three [TS]

  stupid jokes one of them which didn't [TS]

  make any sense at all and David just [TS]

  turn it and show his ass to America and [TS]

  walk to his desk like three quick jokes [TS]

  and be out and it was just sort of like [TS]

  the way David's attitude was the time [TS]

  made it seem as though we are legally [TS]

  obligated to have a monologue but so [TS]

  here's here's your stupid monologue a [TS]

  comedy of those early shows was that a [TS]

  bunch of people who were aware of the [TS]

  rules of television simply couldn't or [TS]

  wouldn't follow them and would [TS]

  acknowledge that fact explicitly and i [TS]

  believe that was how they opened the [TS]

  morning show they had been Larry but [TS]

  Melman come on and say oh this week we [TS]

  don't know why we allowed this to happen [TS]

  please look away this is phillip michael [TS]

  who I've known since college where we [TS]

  both said and wrote a lot of things that [TS]

  tried to be funny and a little hot to [TS]

  the style of David Letterman because of [TS]

  Letterman I I you know started watching [TS]

  Ernie Kovacs reruns and again it even [TS]

  though that was a show that was on [TS]

  decades earlier it looked like something [TS]

  should not be allowed on television [TS]

  because if they would just do the the [TS]

  these ridiculous things and and then [TS]

  send them abruptly move on to something [TS]

  else and and I think I think there's a [TS]

  certain genre of a show that appeals to [TS]

  that that mindset Merrill marco who is [TS]

  his girlfriend and writer on the show [TS]

  said hallelujah i mean we're delighted [TS]

  to have these rules and restrictions [TS]

  because it means we don't have to do the [TS]

  Johnny Carson show means we were free to [TS]

  go off and turn everything on its head [TS]

  that's exactly what happened they may [TS]

  have already been heading in that [TS]

  direction the Carson's edict that the [TS]

  Letterman Show not resemble his show [TS]

  push them even further in the direction [TS]

  of making this absurd unshown a talk [TS]

  show that was a parody of itself [TS]

  anyone who grew up understanding the [TS]

  rules of television that even with [TS]

  comedy it was serious business to be [TS]

  undertaken by professionals would see [TS]

  Letterman Show and not quite understand [TS]

  what they were watching the man at the [TS]

  desk was an affable Midwestern a blazer [TS]

  tie and slacks but also tennis shoes and [TS]

  his show was demolishing what we all [TS]

  thought were the rules of american [TS]

  television it was a pretty slippery [TS]

  slope from 4-9 topical jokes in the [TS]

  monologue in a small band to Paul [TS]

  Shaffers rant storming out the door in [TS]

  and chris elliott coming out from behind [TS]

  the seats and Dave puttin on a suit of [TS]

  sponges and jumping in a giant bowl of [TS]

  rice krispies and so on [TS]

  he decided he would raid everybody [TS]

  else's talk show treasure chest first [TS]

  and foremost Steve Allen but but also [TS]

  you could definitely see Jack Paar and [TS]

  of course his hero regis philbin all [TS]

  wound up sort of on his stage because he [TS]

  was under strict orders to tend to not [TS]

  be Johnny and opened it worked out great [TS]

  for him it's a weird-sounding analogy [TS]

  but to me it makes a lot of senses to me [TS]

  Letterman is a lot like quentin [TS]

  tarantino in a way that Letterman to me [TS]

  clearly internalized all those rules of [TS]

  TV and he understood them specifically [TS]

  as TV like he is just young enough that [TS]

  he grew up with TV being the pervasive [TS]

  ubiquitous influence in American culture [TS]

  that it you know that [TS]

  has been for at least since the fifties [TS]

  whereas those rules of TV and like the [TS]

  rules that like The Tonight Show [TS]

  personified predate TV like the rules [TS]

  for a variety show or sort of the same [TS]

  as the rules for any kind of state show [TS]

  like you know the Bonneville or anything [TS]

  like that it's it's like a theater [TS]

  production right the tonight show is [TS]

  like it wouldn't be that different if it [TS]

  wasn't being televised and it was just a [TS]

  celebrity show that was put on for the [TS]

  300 people in the studio audience [TS]

  whereas what Letterman did was he [TS]

  understood all those rules and could [TS]

  just play with dance within the lines [TS]

  and to me that's like what Tarantino [TS]

  does with all of his genre movies where [TS]

  he's internalized all these movies and [TS]

  he makes his movies within the cracks of [TS]

  those lines now I don't want to [TS]

  overstate Letterman's influence here you [TS]

  can point to plenty of rule-breaking [TS]

  shows in the seventies and eighties [TS]

  Monty Python's Flying Circus and [TS]

  Saturday Night Live being two great [TS]

  examples but i'd argue what made the [TS]

  Letterman Show more shocking was that it [TS]

  didn't look like an anarchic [TS]

  sketch-comedy show it looks like a talk [TS]

  show we understood what talk shows were [TS]

  and this is what made it much more [TS]

  subversive David Letterman didn't invent [TS]

  irony and he he didn't even invented on [TS]

  television that that was what is an [TS]

  elder than the nineteen seventies what [TS]

  was different about Letterman was that [TS]

  he just made it so much more broadly [TS]

  humorous and and accessible even though [TS]

  he he famously you know didn't smile or [TS]

  laugh at his own jokes except the mock [TS]

  himself Letterman really was a lot [TS]

  easier to take then you know mr. Mike or [TS]

  or Eddie Murphy or any of the kind of [TS]

  edgy or comics that grace the saturday [TS]

  night live arena but but there's no [TS]

  doubt that the reception of SNL whose [TS]

  creator Lorne Michaels also never wanted [TS]

  to be like Johnny Carson's show that [TS]

  that really did set the stage for what [TS]

  he did [TS]

  india not co-writes about technology for [TS]

  the Chicago sun-times among other places [TS]

  and is one of the biggest david [TS]

  letterman fans I know it's been said [TS]

  very correctly that a lot of the things [TS]

  that he brought to late-night had been [TS]

  done by steve allen before the idea [TS]

  we're going to [TS]

  go on the street we're gonna do we're [TS]

  gonna be sooo teabags and dumped into a [TS]

  giant tank and make iced tea for [TS]

  everybody yes Steve Allen did that but [TS]

  the fact remains though that it's like [TS]

  looking at the the first Macintosh just [TS]

  like looking at the first iphone you can [TS]

  see here is what everything looked like [TS]

  to the before Letterman had a show and [TS]

  then here's what everything looked like [TS]

  after he had his first season uh late [TS]

  night with david letterman and then you [TS]

  can't say that they were that in 1983 [TS]

  1984 people were suddenly discovering [TS]

  steve allen and raping him [TS]

  it really was Letterman who brought this [TS]

  into a modern sensibility and I'm sure [TS]

  there's a lot of other things about [TS]

  going on a society of that time that [TS]

  sort of beg for a skeptical no jaundiced [TS]

  eye on things that were big in the [TS]

  seventies this is the reagan-era this [TS]

  was a factor era and so you're sort of [TS]

  promoting the idea of let's just go with [TS]

  the assumption that if if the previous [TS]

  generation thought that was the coolest [TS]

  thing ever [TS]

  maybe we can just sort of step back from [TS]

  it and tear apart a little bit but again [TS]

  everything changed after Letterman and [TS]

  it wasn't because of stood a delayed [TS]

  fuse on Steve Allen tonight show all [TS]

  right now I wish I could say that I got [TS]

  in on the ground floor of this one but I [TS]

  didn't I was nine years old when the [TS]

  morning shows on the air and 11-1 late [TS]

  night with david letterman premier now I [TS]

  have a distinct memory a first seeing [TS]

  late night in a hotel room in [TS]

  Pennsylvania we were there for my [TS]

  mother's 25th highschool reunion and my [TS]

  parents were downstairs the party late [TS]

  into the night I fell asleep i think [TS]

  with the hotel room TV on [TS]

  I woke up maybe when they were coming [TS]

  back from the party i don't know but [TS]

  there was this strange gap-toothed man [TS]

  who was definitely not Johnny Carson [TS]

  doing strange things on television I did [TS]

  not understand it it wasn't until about [TS]

  three years later maybe 1985 when I [TS]

  began to understand the appeal of David [TS]

  Letterman the thing is I have no clear [TS]

  memory of how i went from not [TS]

  understanding him to taping his show [TS]

  every single night but John Gruber story [TS]

  is probably not too far off from mine [TS]

  i'll tell you what i remember there is a [TS]

  very vivid memories of this so i was [TS]

  born in 1973 and at some point in the [TS]

  eighties there was a show hosted on it [TS]

  was on NBC and was hosted by admin man [TS]

  and Dick Clark [TS]

  it's like to clark and McMahon's [TS]

  bloopers and practical jokes and for [TS]

  whatever reason it you know it passed [TS]

  the test in my household and sisters two [TS]

  years younger than me and my mom were 33 [TS]

  would watch TV together tonight because [TS]

  my dad worked third shift so and we all [TS]

  liked it and on this show they would [TS]

  occasionally have bits from late night [TS]

  with david letterman they would just [TS]

  like some of the remote bits that he did [TS]

  would they would just show them on to [TS]

  fill space on the the dick target at [TS]

  mcmahon show NBC had like an hour to [TS]

  fill and Dick Clark in a big man we're [TS]

  happy to do it and so they would fill it [TS]

  with Letterman bit sometimes not every [TS]

  week but every once in awhile they have [TS]

  a bit from the Letterman Show that would [TS]

  make sense at eight o'clock and they [TS]

  were the best things in my opinion and [TS]

  and part of what made it great was that [TS]

  Letterman himself wasn't anywhere near [TS]

  his famous he had his own 1230 talk show [TS]

  but he he could go out in public and not [TS]

  be mobbed and it was Letterman and a [TS]

  camera crew going around Manhattan to [TS]

  find diners and every one of these [TS]

  places had a sign in the window that [TS]

  said best coffee in New York it was just [TS]

  Letterman going in with a camera guy and [TS]

  telling them hey you know there's a [TS]

  place two doors down down the street and [TS]

  says best coffee in New York the [TS]

  reactions were all across the board like [TS]

  some people like to be like it just like [TS]

  an old Greek guy ran the place and be [TS]

  like no my coffee the best but he would [TS]

  be insistent like it wasn't just that he [TS]

  put the sign up just you know like [TS]

  instead of just saying hot coffee they [TS]

  all there was just a thing and Letterman [TS]

  made it hilarious and that is it made me [TS]

  want to desperately made me want to [TS]

  watch his 1230 show which has like an 11 [TS]

  to 12 year old was sort of a stretch it [TS]

  would have had been after nineteen [TS]

  eighty-four cuz that's when we got a VCR [TS]

  in our house and um I had seen you know [TS]

  the clips the wacky stunts and the the [TS]

  thrill cam and monkey cam and and that [TS]

  that sort of jives with my my [TS]

  sensibility at the time and the first [TS]

  episode I remember taping I believe the [TS]

  stump that night was they were following [TS]

  the Australian Stock Exchange throughout [TS]

  the program and and and so there was [TS]

  this ticker of [TS]

  australian stocks uh like running [TS]

  throughout the program and occasionally [TS]

  Paul Shaffer they invested in the [TS]

  company and Paul Shaffer would [TS]

  occasionally scream oh god were ruined [TS]

  whenever the the price drops so I i [TS]

  remember that bit and you know that that [TS]

  worked for me I thought that was great [TS]

  those bits what was so effective about [TS]

  them of course was that a generation [TS]

  could claim them as their own right [TS]

  stupid pet tricks and Dave in the velcro [TS]

  suit and chris elliott and Biff [TS]

  Henderson and everybody Melman right and [TS]

  Larry bud melman handing out hot towels [TS]

  to arriving visitors at the Port [TS]

  Authority Bus Terminal and showing it [TS]

  amazingly bad microphone technique all I [TS]

  found so endearing it yeah how long have [TS]

  you been [TS]

  he was just priceless I must have seen [TS]

  it before this one episode that sticks [TS]

  out in my mind but the episode that [TS]

  really sticks out was the was one in [TS]

  which it's open the opening shot is of [TS]

  the audience leaving this leaving the [TS]

  studio and just a shot of letterman in [TS]

  his office saying that look it's that at [TS]

  the door of his office saying it's just [TS]

  too hot to do a regular show so we we've [TS]

  sent the audience home and they did the [TS]

  entire thing legit inside his office [TS]

  where Paul Shaffer had a little pistol [TS]

  casio keyboard work on his lap that is [TS]

  Terry car was the cast and yet he had [TS]

  her like basically older brother little [TS]

  sister berated her into like taking a [TS]

  shower [TS]

  you know even though like the shower [TS]

  doors had it in his office then cover up [TS]

  towels you can see anything she clearly [TS]

  was like not interested in doing that [TS]

  but was just so justjust attitude to [TS]

  stop talking about it but this was the [TS]

  one that really made me into a letterman [TS]

  fan just realizing that my god this is [TS]

  nothing like anything I had seen on any [TS]

  other show all kinds of respect for for [TS]

  the Carson show but it was a format that [TS]

  had been really locked in for at that it [TS]

  must be the early eighties mid 80 so [TS]

  this has been like at least two decades [TS]

  and they they don't tamper with that [TS]

  format the idea that you have [TS]

  talk show where they would do something [TS]

  as wild as this just got this block me [TS]

  into becoming a lifelong Letterman fan I [TS]

  remember the first time I actually [TS]

  watched late night with the actual show [TS]

  and it was a similar type situation [TS]

  right you know still wasn't allowed to [TS]

  stay up that late at home i was on a [TS]

  field trip to Washington DC and I was in [TS]

  sixth grade so I must have been like [TS]

  around 12 and you know like typical [TS]

  sixth-graders we were up we're wired you [TS]

  know wide awake and it got to be 1230 I [TS]

  think we're watching HBO I think well I [TS]

  actually i think i actually specifically [TS]

  remember the HBO movie we watched it was [TS]

  a chuck norris Vietnam movie i think it [TS]

  was missing in action it was an HBO [TS]

  movie it was rated R so it felt like we [TS]

  were already getting away with something [TS]

  in a bunch of sixth grade boys in a [TS]

  hotel room and then the the the movie [TS]

  was over and I realize holy shit it's [TS]

  1230 we can watch shut the Letterman [TS]

  Show and I've always wanted to watch it [TS]

  and the show had already started it must [TS]

  have been about 10 minutes in and my [TS]

  friends bed net didn't even had never [TS]

  even heard of it [TS]

  they didn't even know what it was they [TS]

  they were you know more or less of the [TS]

  opinion that we should look for another [TS]

  Chuck Norris movie because we've got HBO [TS]

  right where it is hotel room with HBO so [TS]

  I flip to NBC and I remember exactly [TS]

  what was on it was a monkey cam they had [TS]

  a monkey strapped our camera strapped to [TS]

  a monkey and he was running around the [TS]

  studio and they were the footage was [TS]

  first person perspective from this [TS]

  monkey that they had set loose in the [TS]

  studio and I thought it was amazing i [TS]

  was like this is the type of stuff I [TS]

  thought would be on the show and my [TS]

  friends were like what the hell is this [TS]

  grouper we got it were turning this off [TS]

  and I no no and I thought it was and the [TS]

  only good get let me have like three or [TS]

  four minutes of it and then it would [TS]

  Dave they were like this makes no sense [TS]

  we're turning it off [TS]

  we're switching whatever it was a monkey [TS]

  camp first time they don't like I saw [TS]

  the monkey cam doesn't i was like oh my [TS]

  god that's not this gel yeah like this [TS]

  is great or or just like the idea that a [TS]

  grown man says you know what what if we [TS]

  dropped a bunch of stuff off a building [TS]

  let's just do it let's just shoot that [TS]

  you learned that there was stuff in the [TS]

  past but he was he really did become the [TS]

  map [TS]

  sir of the tapes segment and I think [TS]

  more so than anybody think he's you know [TS]

  if he wasn't the original idea for it [TS]

  he certainly was the person who who [TS]

  honed it and who mastered it and of [TS]

  course now that's all we think about [TS]

  with late night is that it's like the [TS]

  video bits that they're taped and then [TS]

  or not I guess sitting behind a desk or [TS]

  even like a Carson moment at the desk [TS]

  with karan tacker something like that [TS]

  it's all Letterman's tape this everybody [TS]

  does those now so that and to be there [TS]

  when that happens was great [TS]

  attaching a monkey to a camera and [TS]

  having it run through the studio keeps [TS]

  coming up I remember distinctly the [TS]

  first time to show try this it didn't [TS]

  work because they got a small monkey and [TS]

  the camera was too heavy to get a bigger [TS]

  monkey eventually ended up with a chimp [TS]

  named zippy anyway the comedy bits are [TS]

  definitely what linger in the memory an [TS]

  entire show done on an airplane [TS]

  cresselia its various characters the guy [TS]

  into the seats the suit of suet elevator [TS]

  races in 30 rock interrupting the live [TS]

  at five News set across the hall but the [TS]

  core of the show of any talk show the [TS]

  interviews [TS]

  those were subversive to in their own [TS]

  way you didn't suffer fools and that was [TS]

  really knew on late-night that's that [TS]

  that's the thing [TS]

  so to treat him to give you a look like [TS]

  you just being the idiot now right [TS]

  he would make people embarrassed if they [TS]

  did something embarrassed in their life [TS]

  he was like okay you're not going to [TS]

  actually walk onto my show and not [TS]

  pretend you didn't make this book where [TS]

  you know you're you're naked in it or [TS]

  whatever you know you you can't come [TS]

  here and pretend that this embarrassing [TS]

  thing that it's been in the news didn't [TS]

  happen i'm gonna ask you about it and I [TS]

  love that you know and so you know been [TS]

  Billy Idol kaymar came out and he was [TS]

  like doing this whole thing about how [TS]

  rock and roll in blood what he was and [TS]

  then let us look at them like you just [TS]

  absurd ass basically and then he says [TS]

  that he sees oh yeah drugs running and [TS]

  he's like your parents must be very [TS]

  proud [TS]

  it's just really pleasant person is like [TS]

  but you know i like that that you're the [TS]

  host of a late night show at that time [TS]

  you think when you hear they are to [TS]

  promote their movie or a book or [TS]

  whatever and he just wasn't having it [TS]

  so I'll [TS]

  that and it and it was just it felt like [TS]

  fresh anything can happen why are they [TS]

  allowing this to happen and then that [TS]

  that um uh really uh touches a button in [TS]

  the the teenage anarchist mind that yeah [TS]

  we're getting away with something here [TS]

  that that a guy can put on an [TS]

  alka-seltzer suit and and or or a Velcro [TS]

  suit and put that on TV and sometimes [TS]

  that even when the jokes fall flat is as [TS]

  they often get in the monologue it it [TS]

  had a whole of sense that someone had [TS]

  snuck into a studio and was doing a show [TS]

  and the network people didn't quite [TS]

  understand it again another great bit [TS]

  that I think really cemented that show [TS]

  with me was when GE bought NBC and and [TS]

  they brought the fruit basket and it [TS]

  just went disastrously with the with the [TS]

  GE handshake [TS]

  uh-huh so ya I i would agree with your [TS]

  theory that at a certain age you want to [TS]

  see TV that doesn't feel like it should [TS]

  be TV i think for people who are younger [TS]

  than me and therefore awful conan [TS]

  o'brien did that with the that the [TS]

  various bits that that we're kind of [TS]

  confusing to me because I was an old man [TS]

  by the time conan o'brien it is stride [TS]

  oh yes conan o'brien now that name [TS]

  brings up a couple of different areas in [TS]

  which NBC managed to cause intense drama [TS]

  in the programming of late-night [TS]

  television more about that moment after [TS]

  we hear from our next sponsor this week [TS]

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  route for sponsoring uncomfortable your [TS]

  friend your friend of yours is taking [TS]

  over here next May so you want to [TS]

  address this [TS]

  hello yang to address it's a it's a no [TS]

  I'm not angry I'm not angry at NBC about [TS]

  this night not angry at jay leno about [TS]

  this not not angry at you or the tonight [TS]

  show about this i mean realistically if [TS]

  it were not for you I wouldn't wouldn't [TS]

  have a show then you know I wouldn't [TS]

  have socks actually 43 and now even if [TS]

  the network and come to me and they say [TS]

  Dave would like you to have this show [TS]

  and then then a week later they said [TS]

  Dave we don't want you to have the show [TS]

  then you could be angry about right but [TS]

  I have a show if you do and an NBC can [TS]

  can do whatever they want with the show [TS]

  so i was i was never never angry now [TS]

  would I would I like to have the show [TS]

  whole sure [TS]

  Johnny Carson retired in 1992 and NBC [TS]

  have a choice to make [TS]

  jay leno had been Carson's permanent [TS]

  guest host for years but Letterman had [TS]

  been his host and waiting for a decade [TS]

  so who did NBC one on the air at [TS]

  eleven-thirty david letterman worshipped [TS]

  Johnny Carson The Tonight Show was his [TS]

  dream job and NBC chose the other guy [TS]

  the guy who would really come to [TS]

  prominence in large part to his [TS]

  appearances on Late Night with David [TS]

  Letterman he was this treasure this [TS]

  national treasure two millions of his [TS]

  fans who felt the insult of Dave's being [TS]

  turned down for The Tonight Show gig and [TS]

  it being given to the schmoll jay leno [TS]

  whose reputation had been just in the [TS]

  sewer until his good friend dave pull [TS]

  them up and said Jay I know you bombed [TS]

  hosting the Tonight Show for Johnny but [TS]

  here come on over and I'll have you do [TS]

  your wheel what's your beef on my show [TS]

  and and folks love you and Jay was so so [TS]

  grateful for this favor that Dave didn't [TS]

  he began stabbing him in the back [TS]

  I remember um liking window at one point [TS]

  when he was a regular guest on later use [TS]

  a good levy was a really good Letterman [TS]

  guests in fact I still um when my I [TS]

  still quote a thing from one of the the [TS]

  leno appearances whenever my wife lisa [TS]

  is is complaining about something all [TS]

  it's the so have we reached the what's [TS]

  your beef part of the program which is [TS]

  what he said to Solano and even when he [TS]

  was on the guest host on the the tonight [TS]

  show it was it was still pretty [TS]

  hey this is neat because it's it's [TS]

  someone who's young and has a has a has [TS]

  a worldview not unlike our own and and [TS]

  then he became the the the host through [TS]

  you know [TS]

  Makka nations we weren't privy to at the [TS]

  time but it just seemed some middle of [TS]

  the road and and and watered down and [TS]

  the end over the years you you just felt [TS]

  every last edge of [TS]

  take 10 being buffered off until he was [TS]

  a bowling ball basically i think the the [TS]

  transition from Carson Letterman would [TS]

  have been fine from Carson's point of [TS]

  view because I one gets the the [TS]

  impression from reading biographies to [TS]

  to the extent that Carson he had a yet [TS]

  more of a a bond with with Letterman i [TS]

  think but it would it's very hard to [TS]

  replace Carson and it's very hard to as [TS]

  Conan O'Brien found it's very hard to [TS]

  step into this 1130 time slot where [TS]

  you're entertaining my dad who has [TS]

  stayed awake through the evening news [TS]

  and just want something not terribly [TS]

  threatening or challenging to to come on [TS]

  the air now my feeling about which I'll [TS]

  say more in a minute is that we all [TS]

  dodged a bullet when NBC shows jay leno [TS]

  over David Letterman for the tonight [TS]

  show with Erin Barnhart pointed out to [TS]

  me that if we knew then what we know now [TS]

  about the composition of TV audiences [TS]

  things might have actually turned out [TS]

  much differently not just for Leno and [TS]

  Letterman but maybe even for Johnny [TS]

  Carson we don't know because [TS]

  demographics were not widely circulated [TS]

  in the nineteen eighties they're not [TS]

  even widely measured really until the [TS]

  nineteen nineties but the market [TS]

  research that NBC did internally showed [TS]

  that within a very short period of time [TS]

  younger people were preferring Letterman [TS]

  Carson and this was driving all kinds of [TS]

  advertising sales and really whether it [TS]

  was true in public or not there was a [TS]

  genuine business competition going on [TS]

  now between the 1130 and 1230 shows on [TS]

  NBC late-night and and this is the thing [TS]

  that people don't always think about but [TS]

  had that kind of demographic research [TS]

  been done in 1990 1991 1992 the time [TS]

  when Jay Leno and his manager Helen [TS]

  Kushnick we're making the big press for [TS]

  him to succeed Johnny Carson as the host [TS]

  of the tonight show what if Dave's camp [TS]

  had been able to point to those sheets [TS]

  of demographics and the news media had [TS]

  access to that kind of research showing [TS]

  that among 18 to 34 year old male [TS]

  viewers dave was beating the pants off a [TS]

  book Johnny and Jay how would late-night [TS]

  history have been different if if that [TS]

  kind of data that we now take for [TS]

  granted had been widely circulated that [TS]

  now but that's not how it went [TS]

  Letterman went to CBS which at the time [TS]

  was still looking its wounds from its [TS]

  attempt to launch the Pat Sajak show ya [TS]

  the guy from wheel of fortune against [TS]

  Johnny Carson I remember the front page [TS]

  of the newspaper the day that David [TS]

  Letterman announced he was making the [TS]

  move [TS]

  here's a picture of david letterman and [TS]

  behind him is the CBS logo the picture [TS]

  said it all the classy blackrock CBS I [TS]

  all in all an ivory yeah its iconic [TS]

  picture and it was a great triumph it [TS]

  was a great triumph for CBS it really [TS]

  change the fortunes of the network in [TS]

  hindsight I think it makes him it makes [TS]

  his career seemed more accomplished [TS]

  because he was the first person to [TS]

  successfully create a arrival to the [TS]

  tonight show when he moved to CBS he was [TS]

  going to an organization that [TS]

  desperately wanted him and was really [TS]

  eager to make make it very clear how [TS]

  much they wanted them wanted him more [TS]

  than that they were giving him ownership [TS]

  of the show so at no point could the [TS]

  network say we're doing it this way we [TS]

  say we want you to do it that way they [TS]

  can't fire him and replace them they can [TS]

  cancel the show but that's certainly [TS]

  something that the they certainly [TS]

  understood at the time to BS had nothing [TS]

  going on in late night and here came [TS]

  David Letterman with the chance to be a [TS]

  hero he could create an entirely new and [TS]

  hugely profitable business for CBS and [TS]

  do it while staying in New York [TS]

  continuing to play the underdog and [TS]

  righteously rage against NBC and all the [TS]

  while doing a version of his old show in [TS]

  a new place instead of trying to be [TS]

  Johnny Carson under the eyes of some NBC [TS]

  executives with questionable judgment [TS]

  and itchy trigger fingers [TS]

  well I a 1000% agree with that because [TS]

  look even when counting out the job it's [TS]

  like be careful what you wish for [TS]

  and he always wanted to be in that chair [TS]

  do you want to be in that chair yet [TS]

  because you have to [TS]

  there was only one Carson and then after [TS]

  that you had to be Leno and and you [TS]

  couldn't have any sharp edges there was [TS]

  no right angles and Letterman is alright [TS]

  giggles so it's like you're totally [TS]

  right he got to stay in New York where [TS]

  he belongs and he got to be bitter and [TS]

  he did his stuff his stuff where he was [TS]

  made fun of the NBC when he was on NBC [TS]

  was great and even when he went to CBS [TS]

  making fun of me bc was even better so I [TS]

  it definitely worked out for the best of [TS]

  44 late night I think and who knows how [TS]

  it would have worked on a long run but [TS]

  he's on the record i know as having said [TS]

  that if he had gotten the tonight show [TS]

  which he definitely wanted his plan was [TS]

  definitely did you know keep it was go [TS]

  out to burbank and more or less do the [TS]

  Tonight Show as it was no like he would [TS]

  just be taking over and doing it and you [TS]

  know and he had guest-hosted before and [TS]

  you know Jay Leno and guest I mean you [TS]

  know more or less jay leno just turned [TS]

  his weekly guest hosting gig into what [TS]

  he did and let me know Letterman plan to [TS]

  do the same as an institution that he [TS]

  just thought you couldn't you you [TS]

  couldn't mess with that letter was the [TS]

  perfect choice for the tonight show [TS]

  Jimmy Fallon also the perfect choice [TS]

  with tonight show because this is the [TS]

  comfort food part of the time show after [TS]

  after Carson it was never going to be [TS]

  the tonight show after that Jerry [TS]

  Seinfeld had a very very smart thing to [TS]

  say and I think Bill Carter second book [TS]

  about the second NBC late-night crisis [TS]

  saying that what none of us understood [TS]

  was that when Carson left the tonight [TS]

  show he took the tonight show with him [TS]

  and so this beat stop becoming an iconic [TS]

  show and started becoming the deliverer [TS]

  of ratings and the the golden arches [TS]

  that people would think of as a familiar [TS]

  and okay this is a safe place to stop [TS]

  from 1130-1230 to do really innovative [TS]

  stuff you're gonna have to go to comedy [TS]

  central going to go to CBS you even have [TS]

  to go to TBS because it's not going to [TS]

  happen that between eleven-thirty and [TS]

  1230 at NBC now looking back I can see [TS]

  why NBC gave the tonight show to jay [TS]

  leno I really can [TS]

  Dave have an approach to television it [TS]

  was a gorilla approach there was a [TS]

  take-no-prisoners of quality to it and [TS]

  despite the fact that he always wanted [TS]

  to be the next Johnny Carson he was just [TS]

  never able to effectively suppress that [TS]

  it was [TS]

  really part of his humor it was part of [TS]

  his appeal and for better for worse it's [TS]

  it's what made him effective but it [TS]

  always meant that he wasn't going to get [TS]

  the NBC job and it probably didn't mean [TS]

  he was a better personality to launch a [TS]

  late-night talk-show franchise and [TS]

  another network which is a tremendous [TS]

  legacy for him at CBS as much as a [TS]

  letterman sort of true in wasn't doing [TS]

  quite the late-night stuff once you got [TS]

  the late show on CBS [TS]

  he was still doing odd and unusual [TS]

  things like will it float not on to [TS]

  where I i don't think that would have [TS]

  gone over like a led zep 144 the tonight [TS]

  show's audience of my parents who are [TS]

  easily confused [TS]

  yeah it's it's ridiculous we have no [TS]

  right to feel any sense of ownership [TS]

  about that but it did feel great to know [TS]

  that Letterman did not have to inherit [TS]

  his dad's show he was able to create his [TS]

  own business and his own business being [TS]

  incredibly successful in and of itself i [TS]

  think that I thought that was a great [TS]

  validation that Leno or jimmy fallon [TS]

  they really do need to have that name [TS]

  brand on their show they need to have [TS]

  that legacy in order to have a [TS]

  successful show they need to have that [TS]

  the power of that brand behind them [TS]

  whereas Letterman is his own brand [TS]

  he brings his own staff he brings its [TS]

  own sensibility as a nominal [TS]

  editor-in-chief of his entire show [TS]

  he takes his own sensibility with him [TS]

  it's hard even to imagine the the kind [TS]

  of excitement but but even then you know [TS]

  we were in a 40-channel world with cable [TS]

  TV but but most of what you saw on cable [TS]

  TV was reruns in fact the e-channel at [TS]

  that moment was on a nightly basis [TS]

  showing an old Letterman repeat from his [TS]

  from his NBC late-night days so there [TS]

  was still precious little original [TS]

  programming on TV especially in late [TS]

  night and so the idea that CBS was now [TS]

  going to also do a late night program [TS]

  and the David Letterman was going to be [TS]

  hosting I mean my god the world almost [TS]

  stopped on its axis for about an hour [TS]

  they're Letterman not getting the job [TS]

  and and going out and just being himself [TS]

  and being in New York that's when you [TS]

  you create your followers and that's [TS]

  when you he really showed that to true [TS]

  genius he was and it clearly rubbed off [TS]

  on so many so many other people for [TS]

  late-night to me of course there'll [TS]

  never be anything quite as exciting as [TS]

  as seen David Letterman take the stage [TS]

  for the first time it at CBS and [TS]

  transform that you know rundown old [TS]

  theater into it into a television shrine [TS]

  again and entertain America but but also [TS]

  entertain me to feel like almost like a [TS]

  victory or graduation or something that [TS]

  moment of like what we knew it all along [TS]

  and now here it is [TS]

  we knew it all along yes when David [TS]

  Letterman took over at CBS it really did [TS]

  feel like that David Letterman got the [TS]

  1130 timeslot you got to keep doing his [TS]

  show instead of moving to California to [TS]

  stand in for Johnny Carson and the [TS]

  initial ratings were huge [TS]

  it felt like validation after all those [TS]

  years of cult status but the late show [TS]

  with david letterman wasn't late night [TS]

  it was something different something on [TS]

  a bigger stage literally and [TS]

  figuratively more about that after our [TS]

  word from our next sponsor [TS]

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  give it a try pretty pretty cool i got [TS]

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  around the castro mattress it's [TS]

  completely you know changed the design [TS]

  of our bedroom having this really nice [TS]

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  longer flies off the the mattress when I [TS]

  said on one side it's not a trampoline [TS]

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  finally thank you Casper $500 for twin [TS]

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  thank you to Casper for sponsoring the [TS]

  incompetent [TS]

  as some of you may know for the last [TS]

  year and a half I've kind of been [TS]

  interested in doing a show little [TS]

  earlier than the one I'm doing now and [TS]

  that reality has come to pass for today [TS]

  settlement dinner in New York City [TS]

  so we win David Letterman is the new [TS]

  king of late night jay leno is [TS]

  vanquished all those people who love the [TS]

  guy under the seats in the suit of [TS]

  alka-seltzer in the GE handshake and [TS]

  declare victory graduate from college [TS]

  and get a real job [TS]

  the end [TS]

  I'll but life goes on there's no such [TS]

  thing as the end of history Letterman's [TS]

  victory was just the start of two [TS]

  decades at CBS and the show was not the [TS]

  same similar but not the sentient being [TS]

  a big Broadway theater made Dave play [TS]

  big to play to the audience and in a way [TS]

  that the tiny little studio that late [TS]

  night was in in Rockefeller Center when [TS]

  he was on NBC let him play small and [TS]

  there is there's a definite difference [TS]

  in Dave's on-air persona both shows I [TS]

  mean he talks about it as being one show [TS]

  like and then when it and and in a sense [TS]

  it is it's like two halves to the show [TS]

  there's the half that was when it was a [TS]

  1230 at NBC in a tiny little studio and [TS]

  then there's the modern half starting in [TS]

  93 where it's the flagship 1130 CBS show [TS]

  in a big theater and he definitely has [TS]

  his personality is the same but his [TS]

  persona is different because he has to [TS]

  have to play to the room I tend to think [TS]

  of a letterman show a bit like John does [TS]

  two halves of a career late night on one [TS]

  side the late show on the other but [TS]

  David Letterman's actually been doing [TS]

  the late show on CBS for 22 years late [TS]

  night with david levin was only on the [TS]

  air for 11 [TS]

  that's a third of the total the CBS [TS]

  years account for two-thirds of the [TS]

  output which is why sometimes i think [TS]

  it's more accurate to think of [TS]

  Letterman's career in thirds the first [TS]

  third with the crazy innovative years at [TS]

  NBC then the first decade or so at CBS [TS]

  and finally the long slow fade now let's [TS]

  take that middle section [TS]

  it started with David number one in the [TS]

  ratings but a few years in the lady fell [TS]

  behind Jay Leno and really never caught [TS]

  back up i have a talk with Donald Meyer [TS]

  the NBC executive probably best known to [TS]

  people of this podcast is the guy who [TS]

  Yanks normal Donald off Weekend Update I [TS]

  asked him I said this was after Leno had [TS]

  taken back the lead in late night [TS]

  ratings from Letterman and I said how [TS]

  did you know it was Jay I mean how dave [TS]

  was dominating time period and here's [TS]

  what Meyer said we had done some polling [TS]

  and we found that the type of person who [TS]

  watches Johnny Carson typically watch [TS]

  four nights a week which means you know [TS]

  at that point [TS]

  they were watching Johnny and at least [TS]

  one guest host Jon never did more than [TS]

  three nights in a week [TS]

  the typical late-night viewer watch two [TS]

  nights a week and what all my er [TS]

  inferred from this was that Dave's [TS]

  personality was not sufficiently warm [TS]

  and relatable enough to engender nightly [TS]

  viewing that that his viewers other than [TS]

  superfans most viewers a little [TS]

  Letterman went a long way that was one [TS]

  of the data points he used in deciding [TS]

  that jay leno who by that point had [TS]

  really gotten himself back in the good [TS]

  graces of tonight show and had learned [TS]

  the routine would be the better host for [TS]

  the long haul because people would tune [TS]

  into a night after night after night and [TS]

  in fact what happened to daves ratings [TS]

  in the 24 months after he signed on to [TS]

  CBS kinda bored that out he rocketed to [TS]

  number one that first sweeps he did in [TS]

  November it was just off the charts and [TS]

  then he went to LA and Johnny Carson I [TS]

  think the news had already broken the [TS]

  Johnny Carson was going to make an [TS]

  appearance on that night show and he had [TS]

  10 million people watching 10 million [TS]

  people take you can't get 10 million [TS]

  people to watch a prime-time show these [TS]

  days it was off the charts and then it [TS]

  started to turn and there's still no one [TS]

  thing I can point to until about the [TS]

  spring of nineteen ninety-six he's [TS]

  already lost the lead in the ratings 22 [TS]

  Leno and there's there's some comments [TS]

  about who's to blame for this [TS]

  this is a part of the lettermen story [TS]

  that we don't talk about much he lost [TS]

  the ratings lead the show lost something [TS]

  creatively Letterman himself talked [TS]

  about this in a recent interview with [TS]

  the new york times when he said and I'll [TS]

  quote before I felt pretty confident in [TS]

  what we were up to because there was no [TS]

  competition to speak up whatsoever in [TS]

  the beginning at CBS we came out of the [TS]

  shoot going a million miles an hour and [TS]

  then when that was all done we just sort [TS]

  of said really can we go a million miles [TS]

  an hour again and we tried and we [TS]

  couldn't I think we've gone way down the [TS]

  road [TS]

  maybe way down the wrong road I don't [TS]

  know that we ever did get back the right [TS]

  way [TS]

  it didn't start to settle down until it [TS]

  couldn't be more clear that Jay was the [TS]

  more popular show and when we all [TS]

  realize that there's not much we can do [TS]

  here you can't put toothpaste back in [TS]

  the tube then we started going our own [TS]

  way again I think it was just an [TS]

  inevitability the guy in the race who [TS]

  spends more time looking over his [TS]

  shoulder [TS]

  well that's the mistake for two years I [TS]

  made that mistake we ran out of steam [TS]

  day that they had a plan and they said [TS]

  in effect and and it didn't work [TS]

  one of their own Bernhardt's first major [TS]

  pieces was for the New York Observer [TS]

  about the Letterman Show and what was [TS]

  going wrong and what i did was i [TS]

  dissected an episode and you may recall [TS]

  I actually sat down and watched an [TS]

  episode with Rob Burnett in their studio [TS]

  the only time I've ever met Letterman he [TS]

  came in and shook my hand and we stared [TS]

  awkwardly to each other in any money [TS]

  left huh [TS]

  I had dreams like that it might [TS]

  literally literally I've had that dream [TS]

  it's literally go David Letterman well [TS]

  it all right it is it's it's not easy [TS]

  being David it's not easy being a fan of [TS]

  date but damn i sat down watched an [TS]

  episode and even there there are moments [TS]

  that you like David and new director of [TS]

  his longtime director hell gurney who [TS]

  would produce Jack Paar and finally [TS]

  retired and and so this guy Jerry fully [TS]

  had taken over Jerry had never really [TS]

  done a talk show and they were there are [TS]

  these epic tapings that audience members [TS]

  would talk about where David barkat [TS]

  Jerry and segments would be taped over [TS]

  and over and and even on the episode [TS]

  that i had asked Rob Burnett the hand [TS]

  pick that we sat down watched together [TS]

  there was evidence of tension between [TS]

  David the boot so anyway there was as it [TS]

  all came to a head this episode where [TS]

  it's some sketch involved a david [TS]

  letterman dummy to be made a life-size [TS]

  dummy and i forget what the sketch was [TS]

  but after the joke was over and he was [TS]

  supposed to move on to other jokes he [TS]

  turned around for no reason it took a [TS]

  baseball bat and hit the David Letterman [TS]

  dummy in the head and he kinda liked it [TS]

  so he kept hitting at first the audience [TS]

  laughs and then not so funny [TS]

  and this goes on for like half a minute [TS]

  and it's very awkward television but [TS]

  Dave clearly that self-loathing side [TS]

  could not be contained it came out it is [TS]

  never really gone back in that David [TS]

  Letterman that made a name for himself [TS]

  in the nineteen eighties turned out did [TS]

  not wear so well in the nineteen [TS]

  nineties and even though i think a lot [TS]

  of people came back to him and view them [TS]

  in a different way after his his heart [TS]

  surgery after some of the heartfelt [TS]

  monologues he made including this post [TS]

  9-11 you know we all age so Dave's [TS]

  audience aged with him [TS]

  there's two moments from 9-11 that i [TS]

  remember vividly on TV I remember the [TS]

  morning of when it was happening live [TS]

  I've just remembered the telecast [TS]

  vividly it was just astounding and then [TS]

  the other thing i remember very [TS]

  specifically was the first Letterman [TS]

  episode afterwards I don't know if it [TS]

  was a week I don't know if it was two [TS]

  weeks I forget exactly when but within a [TS]

  week or two it came back on that you [TS]

  remember this remember how dope yeah oh [TS]

  yeah no music it was just silence and [TS]

  then Dave at his desk and any it he [TS]

  killed it right it was just amazing and [TS]

  it really it just gave me the sense like [TS]

  you know what we're gonna be alright [TS]

  which brings us to the last third of the [TS]

  story Letterman's not making headlines [TS]

  every day now he's not leading leno in [TS]

  the ratings NBC tries not to repeat its [TS]

  disastrous handling of the Letterman [TS]

  Leno thing and promises The Tonight Show [TS]

  did Conan O'Brien in the end this [TS]

  decision creates an even worse disaster [TS]

  as Conan replaces Leno and fairly soon [TS]

  thereafter leno replaces Conan all the [TS]

  while Letterman just keeps on cranking [TS]

  out shows the show's format this points [TS]

  locked in [TS]

  dave has open heart surgery but comes [TS]

  back someone plot to kidnap his young [TS]

  son it's revealed that over the decades [TS]

  has been having sex with young women on [TS]

  his staff the show just keep plowing on [TS]

  new starlets new politicians new rock [TS]

  bands just keep rolling on time flows on [TS]

  and on and we watch it all or at least [TS]

  some of us do not me as a die-hard fan [TS]

  during the first third of david [TS]

  letterman's career and a frequent viewer [TS]

  during the sec [TS]

  in a final act of Letterman's career has [TS]

  passed almost like background noise for [TS]

  me I might watch a few times a year [TS]

  that's all [TS]

  every night I have for as long as i can [TS]

  remember taped late show with david [TS]

  letterman and this morning was the first [TS]

  time in probably a year that I've [TS]

  actually sat down and watched an episode [TS]

  of late show with david letterman and [TS]

  the case of Carson as is the case with [TS]

  Letterman right now it would be silly if [TS]

  this person in late Middle it in middle [TS]

  age or late middle age where to try to [TS]

  reinvent himself when he that they've [TS]

  got a machine that works perfectly at [TS]

  this point had to bolt the rear spoiler [TS]

  and an afterburner onto it like and turn [TS]

  into something that looks like the [TS]

  Batmobile but doesn't run like the [TS]

  Batmobile that would be very very [TS]

  embarrassing occasionally all be up at [TS]

  that hour not watching sports if i'm up [TS]

  at that hour it's generally because i'm [TS]

  watching an old movie or i'm watching [TS]

  sports but i'll flip by CBS and CNN that [TS]

  it's dave letterman and you know it's [TS]

  it's I think were you and I are also not [TS]

  to be cranky old men but it's not what [TS]

  it was in the old days it's not it's not [TS]

  young risk-taking david letterman [TS]

  instead it's it's david letterman taking [TS]

  his victory lap so you cannot pretend [TS]

  that he's a forty-year-old or 35 year [TS]

  old guy know who is up-and-coming and [TS]

  wants to stick it to the man he is a [TS]

  multi multi-millionaire he is the man he [TS]

  is the man to end Johnny Carson was the [TS]

  man and Johnny Carson could get away [TS]

  with it a little bit more because he [TS]

  would do jokes about out his wife took [TS]

  them to the cleaners the divorce hearing [TS]

  or how he's playing tennis ER for all [TS]

  that and that was never really part of [TS]

  Letterman check i like the fact that [TS]

  they have just he and his staff have [TS]

  gently sort of shifted his role when he [TS]

  started off in that chair he was the [TS]

  person who i'm going to have the remote [TS]

  microphone i'm gonna try to deliver a [TS]

  basket of fruit to NBC executives and [TS]

  I'm gonna batter to the batter case i [TS]

  know they're gonna throw me a plan to [TS]

  get great shots of them being jerks and [TS]

  me being calm and me trying to just do [TS]

  something nice like deliver this basket [TS]

  of fruit now he's in exactly the [TS]

  opposite roll a lot of the humans they [TS]

  do is he's he's uncle grandpa [TS]

  in the middle of the stage and younger [TS]

  staffers come up and he has no clue [TS]

  what's going on you know and they can [TS]

  actually even like the parading him [TS]

  because he is the establishment figure [TS]

  and that's absolutely appropriate for [TS]

  him to be doing this kind of comedy at [TS]

  this at this stage in his life [TS]

  it's absolutely ridiculous for him to [TS]

  try to be hip because he is the [TS]

  establishment at this point you can [TS]

  pretend that he doesn't have tens of [TS]

  millions of dollars you can pretend that [TS]

  he is not both culturally and [TS]

  economically one of the most successful [TS]

  people who has ever done that job [TS]

  it's kind of ridiculous to want to have [TS]

  the exact same role in popular culture [TS]

  in your sixties that you had when you're [TS]

  in your thirties it is so much more [TS]

  satisfying to realize that I am I'm [TS]

  delivering something that people count [TS]

  on every single day [TS]

  it's not that I'm bring something fresh [TS]

  and new every single night it's that I'm [TS]

  delivering something that's absolutely [TS]

  reliable and that is the bedrock of [TS]

  simple craftsmanship and reliability [TS]

  Letterman is that level of refinement he [TS]

  can do more by simply stepping out and [TS]

  saying forwards then a lot of other [TS]

  late-night comedians can do with [TS]

  material they spent an entire week [TS]

  developing and rehearsing i will give [TS]

  him this Johnny Carson was square even [TS]

  when big portions of America thought he [TS]

  was hip or he was square America's idea [TS]

  of hip and david letterman his flavor [TS]

  lasted I think a lot longer than anyone [TS]

  including himself expected it to [TS]

  and then when he finally became [TS]

  hopelessly identified with dad [TS]

  by that time he felt like well he was [TS]

  just a good friend and and there were [TS]

  all these other choices that I could [TS]

  turn to and and so he just stuck around [TS]

  and it worked out okay for everybody not [TS]

  least of all david letterman so here's a [TS]

  true story from my life bear with me a [TS]

  few weeks ago my childhood home burned [TS]

  down nobody was hurt thank goodness but [TS]

  when people ask me how I felt about the [TS]

  loss i realized that i had more net [TS]

  place long before nearly 18 years ago my [TS]

  parents sold the place I grew up in this [TS]

  eighteen sixties era farmhouse and sort [TS]

  of barnes on 45 acres in the Northern [TS]

  California foothills they use the money [TS]

  to retire the people who bought it [TS]

  transformed it into one of the [TS]

  top wedding destinations in the region [TS]

  if not the country back to the old place [TS]

  twice maybe 10 years ago and again a [TS]

  couple years back had been completely [TS]

  transformed part of the outer portion of [TS]

  the house was unchanged the entire [TS]

  inside had been ripped out and replaced [TS]

  with guest rooms a new building had been [TS]

  grafted onto the side of the old one [TS]

  trees and shrubs over grew this lawn [TS]

  that I used to know every week [TS]

  my point is when place burned down no I [TS]

  felt sad for the people who owned the [TS]

  place and that the structure itself is [TS]

  now gone already mourned the house I [TS]

  grew up in it was gone the minute they [TS]

  ripped out the bedroom walls tore up the [TS]

  ugly linoleum in the kitchen stuck a [TS]

  pond in the backyard [TS]

  you can't go home again but you can get [TS]

  married there [TS]

  this is how i feel about this last week [TS]

  with david letterman he is meaningful to [TS]

  me his comedy and tone and sense of [TS]

  irony were immensely influential in my [TS]

  development as a writer and viewer and [TS]

  amateur joke teller and it's sad to [TS]

  think that he will be on the air anymore [TS]

  though he certainly has served his time [TS]

  and deserves a happy retirement but i [TS]

  don't watch the show anymore [TS]

  I've been watching the past few weeks [TS]

  for old times sake it's been a lot of [TS]

  fun but it's just a legend now a [TS]

  sentimental visit to a place that was [TS]

  once my home but is already gone [TS]

  I never stopped stopped watching [TS]

  watching Letterman and I'm actually [TS]

  starting not worried about what happens [TS]

  when he goes away but realizing that [TS]

  this has been a kid he's his show has [TS]

  been a constant in my entire life and [TS]

  it's always a little bit sad when a [TS]

  constant goes away even if it's you know [TS]

  that day that you know you sell your mom [TS]

  and dad's house because they're both [TS]

  gone and now you can you can no longer [TS]

  be going back to this address that has [TS]

  been a big part of your life all of your [TS]

  life or even if it's just that they [TS]

  stopped making a Brandis owed that you [TS]

  really like it's that you attach so much [TS]

  to these touchstones of your life that [TS]

  when something goes away you don't feel [TS]

  like you're lost but you realize it on [TS]

  me that's gonna be I'm gonna miss that i [TS]

  really miss that a lot [TS]

  he's always he's my guy so it's great to [TS]

  hear like Kimmel who I love come out [TS]

  flat out say look I'm in this business [TS]

  because of Letterman and Letterman was [TS]

  the best and the correct of course [TS]

  Kimmel famous for not letting leno have [TS]

  like do any of his hair just be friends [TS]

  thing let [TS]

  giggles have none of that in and in some [TS]

  ways he was more mad Atlanta than [TS]

  Letterman was was kind of funny [TS]

  Letterman grew up with three TV channels [TS]

  or five TV channels Johnny Carson grew [TS]

  up with just a couple TV channels he [TS]

  grew up mostly with radio and this [TS]

  generation of performers all grew up [TS]

  with television and they grew up with [TS]

  lots of television choices the closest [TS]

  analogue would probably be Jimmy Kimmel [TS]

  who did morning radio before he made his [TS]

  way over to television just as as David [TS]

  Letterman was a weatherman Indianapolis [TS]

  but i think david letterman will not [TS]

  happen again in the sense that his [TS]

  sensibilities are really formed around [TS]

  post-war America and the idea that [TS]

  television was this giant glowing [TS]

  presence in the center of the house that [TS]

  everybody gravitated to and what he did [TS]

  in the night [TS]

  in the night [TS]

  teen eighties was positively daring he [TS]

  split that Adam he said well actually [TS]

  there's going to be a late night talk [TS]

  show for mom and dad and then there's [TS]

  going to be one for the kids kids don't [TS]

  have to watch Johnny's monologue anymore [TS]

  i used to tape Johnny Carson's monologue [TS]

  on a cassette tape recorder and play it [TS]

  back later because that was considered [TS]

  the kind of hip asst funniest most [TS]

  topical comedy anywhere and now really [TS]

  going back to the dawn of the Internet [TS]

  era which was a time of great expansion [TS]

  and cable TV offerings this whole [TS]

  generation is just accustomed to you [TS]

  know laughs on demand and and so it Dave [TS]

  really is is like Johnny Carson in that [TS]

  he goes back to a time when all this [TS]

  entertainment was good was considered [TS]

  very very rare and and special and so it [TS]

  it commanded top dollar and the entire [TS]

  nation sometimes seem to be paying [TS]

  attention to what you said and nowadays [TS]

  people sit around and pray that their [TS]

  you know a joke that they tell goes [TS]

  viral or a bit on their show gets gets [TS]

  posted on social media so I i think with [TS]

  Dave going away [TS]

  you know it really is kind of the end of [TS]

  an era that started with steve allen and [TS]

  went through Jack Paar Johnny Carson and [TS]

  and david letterman say what you want [TS]

  about Carson and and like the rules you [TS]

  put Letterman under he wanted to always [TS]

  be the top he did he needed was you know [TS]

  its defensive enough and insecure enough [TS]

  that he would do little things to make [TS]

  sure nobody supplanted him but he let [TS]

  Gary Shandling and jay leno and joan [TS]

  rivers and david letterman host his show [TS]

  but he gave them this platform you know [TS]

  he gave this younger generation of [TS]

  would-be successors this platform and [TS]

  Letterman never did that for anybody [TS]

  like he never picked a 1230 post who was [TS]

  in any way a plausible replacement from [TS]

  self and he never did guest host and I [TS]

  always wondered that Letterman works too [TS]

  hard that five shows a week is too many [TS]

  and part of what made Carson seem fresh [TS]

  for so long as the only did three shows [TS]

  a week for 40 weeks here if there's [TS]

  anything i wish that i could have seen [TS]

  maybe them tried differently would maybe [TS]

  maybe starting like 10 years ago let [TS]

  somebody guest host every monday right [TS]

  there from the you know the ad sullivan [TS]

  theater and then have Letterman only do [TS]

  four shows a week in my career as a [TS]

  critic two of the best things I ever got [TS]

  well i got letters from david letterman [TS]

  and that that was amazing because the [TS]

  he's just he's just somebody who doesn't [TS]

  really do that often and it you know [TS]

  they came years apart and but they were [TS]

  both in response to something that i [TS]

  wrote about him one was really just an [TS]

  appreciation uh uh how talented he was [TS]

  and how great the show was and then that [TS]

  was early on and then the other one was [TS]

  a you know when people have certain [TS]

  forgot about him for a long time and and [TS]

  he still had many many years left and i [TS]

  did a thing like 8i I don't know why I [TS]

  like it [TS]

  everybody's talking about the new flavor [TS]

  whether it's Lana or whoever but here's [TS]

  here's the master and and I do this [TS]

  whole thing he really really appreciate [TS]

  it and sent me letters are both those [TS]

  actually Framed one of them from the [TS]

  first one because i was like what [TS]

  David's career is almost like a [TS]

  self-fulfilling prophecy he never [TS]

  thought that he was the equal of Johnny [TS]

  Carson he always thought that Johnny was [TS]

  always funnier better interviewer more [TS]

  urbane quicker minded smoother more [TS]

  gracious a talk show host than he could [TS]

  ever be and yet at the same time he [TS]

  wanted his job and so he has done [TS]

  everything where if it's possible for [TS]

  him to emulate Johnny he has done that [TS]

  and everything else he has done his own [TS]

  way and so now he's going to go out in [TS]

  his own way I can't remember you know [TS]

  like again I was I don't know 10 or 11 [TS]

  when Letterman got on here so I mean [TS]

  anything anywhere even vaguely close to [TS]

  having a adult mind [TS]

  and awareness of American culture [TS]

  Letterman's been on it doesn't feel like [TS]

  America without him [TS]

  so what happens to David Letterman now [TS]

  like I said he's earned his retirement [TS]

  when Carson signed off in 92 one of the [TS]

  last things he said was he hoped the [TS]

  audience would welcome him back if you [TS]

  ever came back with a project that he [TS]

  thought they'd like he never came back [TS]

  cameos on the Letterman Show where the [TS]

  most that we ever got so is Dave going [TS]

  to emulate his idol one more time maybe [TS]

  but today is a very different media [TS]

  landscape then 1992 Jerry Seinfeld [TS]

  doesn't need to work but he was able to [TS]

  create his web series comedians in cars [TS]

  getting coffee and do it at his own pace [TS]

  so it wouldn't surprise me at all if we [TS]

  see Dave on the web somewhere doing [TS]

  stuff for the sheer fun of it with the [TS]

  burdens of 1130 and johnny carson and [TS]

  The Tonight Show and The Ed Sullivan [TS]

  Theater removed forever [TS]

  I'd love to see that but if all we get [TS]

  is the more than 6,000 episodes he's [TS]

  produced over 33 years i'll call it even [TS]

  thanks Dave from your pals [TS]

  for the complete interviews with indian [TS]

  taco Erin Barnhart John Gruber Philip [TS]

  Michaels and Tim Goodman go to the [TS]

  incomparable but calm / bonus track / 24 [TS]

  7 B we'll see you next week [TS]