So Long, Dave
Posted on May 21, 2015
I was in college when David Letterman first got his late night show.
Back then, I routinely stayed up past my bedtime, drinking beer, shooting pool, playing cards, talking philosophy, maybe doing a little studying, and otherwise being a college student.
Johnny Carson was still the king of the world back then, and Letterman was so goofy, so fresh, so subversive, and so young, that for a college student, he immediately made the Tonight Show passé.
It’s weird to think of Carson now and how life was before Letterman.
Carson was my parent’s generation. He had Ed McMahon and Doc Severson, and he did his show from beautiful Burbank. And he was cool for an old guy.
Letterman was never cool in a Carson sense. He was goofy cool.
Some of my classmates loved Letterman. Revered him. It was a way to rebel against their parents.
Carson’s opening monologues were better than Letterman. Letterman was more innovative than Carson.
Carson was perfect for the 10:30 time slot (central time). Letterman was perfect for 11:30, mostly because he had a lot of things that were funnier when you were drunker.
Probably the best innovation that Letterman had was the Top Ten list.
It was sufficiently goofy that anybody could do it.
Letterman’s Top Ten List was built to be viral, before social media.
When I ran the Republican Theme Team for House Minority Leader Bob Michel, I would write some Top Ten Lists for guys like David Dreier and Martin Hoke.
I once wrote a Top Ten for John Boehner, well before he became Speaker. He completely screwed it up, making it completely obvious that he had never stayed up late enough to watch David Letterman and see how it was done.
After Letterman migrated to CBS and Jay Leno got the Carson slot, I became a channel surfer, trying to catch the Leno monologue and then the Letterman Top Ten list.
It was rumored that Leno had Republican leanings. It was obvious that Letterman didn’t.
And as things evolved, Republicans tended to watch the Leno Show more, while Democrats tended to stick with Dave.
They are both retired now, and the Late Night universe is now populated with all kinds of new characters.
That’s just as well. I am not in college anymore, and those shows are way past my bedtime.
If anything funny pops, I can always catch it on Facebook or Twitter.