The End of an Era – David Letterman Signs Off Tonight
Tonight is the end of an era in multiple ways. Tonight, America says one final "good night" to David Letterman.
When I was growing up, Johnny Carson was the king of late night television. Every now and then, my parents would let me stay up and watch Johnny. Sure, most of the jokes in the monologue flew over my head. But I could tell that Johnny Carson was an entertainer. A showman. To this day, when people ask me who my comedy heroes are, I'll rattle off a few names, but Johnny Carson is always at the top of the list.
After Johnny's retirement, he rode off into the sunset, rarely seen in public again in a self-imposed hermitdom. It's a well-known fact that Johnny Carson, while a comedic genius, was a very quiet, shy, private man. It's said that he spent his post-retirement years traveling and sailing on his boat. He made one return to late night TV, and it was on David Letterman's show. It's no secret that Johnny wanted Dave to succeed him at "The Tonight Show," but corporate influence dictated that the spot belonged to Jay Leno. For years, Letterman lagged behind Leno in the ratings. But Letterman had an ace in the hole. After Johnny Carson's death, David Letterman revealed that over the years, Johnny had been sending him jokes to use in his opening monologues. David graciously used them, which reportedly made Johnny beam with pride. Johnny bet on Dave, and just as casino rules dictate, one your bet is placed, you don't change it.
Sure, Letterman leaving after tonight is the end of an era for "The Late Show." But it's also the end of an era for late night TV. David Letterman is the last vestige of the classic era. He didn't do bits with the intent of them going viral. He didn't bounce around the stage with a manic energy reminiscent of a sugar-fueled toddler. And most importantly, he didn't make himself the center of every popular bit. He simply walked onstage, told his jokes, and let his guests be the true stars of the show. He never treated his show like it was the one thing that you should be watching. Letterman prided himself on having a stupid show that was an alternative to Leno, Fallon, and Kimmel. That kind of humility is rare, refreshing, and necessary.
I don't know David Letterman. I probably never will. Maybe I'll meet him one day, but for now, he doesn't know who I am. The chances that he'll read this are worse than awful. But at 10:30 tonight, I'll be watching with laughter, possibly a few tears, and the hope that one day, I'll be half the entertainer that David Letterman is. *throws a pencil at the screen as we go to commercial*