There seems to be a lot of endings this year. Mad Men. The Colbert Report. Jon Stewart is leaving The Daily Show. Perhaps the saddest and most melancholy for me is the end of The Late Show with David Letterman.
Dave was on the air for 33 years. I heard about him first from my parents, but I only saw one of the “old” shows – Late Night with David Letterman – on NBC. It was when They Might Be Giants were on and I recorded the episode to see them. The show was bizarre. Dave made a phone call to a woman in an office building across from his and talked to her for a while. I loved it.
When Dave moved to the 11:30 slot on CBS on August 30th, 1993 – the eve of my 15th birthday – I watched the inaugural episode and was delighted by a reference in the opening monologue to Ringo Starr. I didn’t get to be a regular viewer of the show in high school though. I was quite the insomniac, but 11:30 was still pretty late when I had to be up at 6 in the morning.
By the time I got to college, I never missed the show. Never. I had a streak that lasted probably 7, maybe 10 years. I was really upset that when I went to study abroad in England that I would miss three months of shows. But he was on there too, just a day behind and an hour earlier (or maybe later). The night I arrived in town, Paul Simon was the guest.
Sarcasm has always been my kind of humor. I’d say I knew that by middle school, well before most of my peers had caught on. And some people never catch on to sarcasm, but for me, Dave was my guy. Self-deprecating, sharp, and assured. I saw Larry King interview Dave and he talked about not going to parties. Here’s the transcript:
KING: You don’t go to parties. You shy away from parties.
LETTERMAN: I never went to parties, even when I was in school.
KING: I know, but why?
LETTERMAN: I don’t know. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to go to parties. I’m my own party, Larry.
KING: Do you like aloneness?
LETTERMAN: No, not necessarily. I’m very happy with the way my life is. I’m just not driven, drawn, motivated to go to parties. I’m in show business, you’re in show business; let’s go out and buy socks.
As a college student who had no interest – and I mean zero – in going to parties, I loved that someone as famous and smart as Dave shared the same mindset. He didn’t just provide my kind of humor, he seemed like my kind of guy. I really was quite the insomniac for a very long time, and I used to joke that whether I saw the show or not, I couldn’t fall asleep until 12:35. It was one of those funny but true bits.
Over the past several years, the diligence of my watching went down. With a small child and sometimes work, it wasn’t something that fit my schedule. That pesky insomnia went away and if I did tune in, I was usually out before the monologue was finished. Perhaps most importantly, times changed, as they are wont to do, and broadcast television is something that I’ve almost completely eradicated from my life. Dave wasn’t easy to watch online. The Colbert Report, at a half an hour and offered up with a few hour delay on Hulu, was. (By the way, I am so excited that Colbert will be taking over this spot, and I think he’s the right man for the job, but it is sad that in so many ways the new show will be less accessible to me than the old one on cable.)
I fought back sleep to watch Dave’s final episode and lamented that my dream to see him in person vanished without my consent. Dave truly was an integral part of my life for a very long time, and I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through college or the early days of having an infant without him. Even though I was not watching him as much as I used to, I’m kinda mad and pretty sad he won’t be there anymore. It’s change. And Dave and I, we don’t like change.
“Any enormous, uprooting change in my life has petrified me. Really petrified me. But once I’ve come through the other side, the reward has been unimaginable.” – David Letterman