by Julian Spivey
Now what am I supposed to do every weeknight at 10:35?
For years that’s been my appointment viewing for the “Late Show with David Letterman” a man who’s had a bigger impact on my life than anybody inside my television honestly ever should have. But, Dave was a comedic hero of mine. He was somebody who taught me that you could laugh out loud at stupid, absurdist stuff and be serious all at the same time. Nobody has ever bridged the line of comedy and seriousness as well as David Letterman. He’s going to be missed that’s for sure.
But, his finale on Wednesday night (May 20) was absolutely beautiful and fascinating to watch from start to finish, beginning with announcer Alan Kalter’s perfect opening statement of “From a Magical Place Not Found on Any Map ... It's the Late Show with David Letterman" and introducing Letterman as he ran out for the final time as “a boy from a small town in Indiana.”
Letterman’s final monologue included the brilliant joke: “I've got to be honest with you it's beginning to look like I'm not going to get ‘The Tonight Show’" and other self-deprecating jokes that perfectly encapsulated his humor over these last 33 years on both ‘Late Night’ over on NBC and the ‘Late Show’ on CBS.
The entire finale for Letterman was one great, big highlight, but one of the biggest of those was his final Top 10 list where 10 of his most famous recurring guests came out onto the stage at the Ed Sullivan Theater and announced the “Top 10 Things I’ve Always Wanted to Say to Dave.” The A-listers participating in this absolutely terrific Top 10 were Alec Baldwin, Barbara Walters, Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Carrey, Chris Rock, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Peyton Manning, Tina Fey and Bill Murray (who had been Letterman’s final guest ever on the show the night before). All in all, the final Top 10 will likely go down in history as one of the long-running segment’s very best.
Another great highlight from Letterman’s finale was the behind the scenes look at what happens at the ‘Late Show’ before they tape each episode. It was really nice to see Letterman interacting with his crew behind the scenes, as he’s always made a joke out of the fact that he doesn’t really have anything to do with them (but you always knew this wasn’t true because he knows all of them by name).
The best comedy bit of the Letterman finale came via a classic 1996 segment of Letterman as a drive-thru order taker at Taco Bell, which is maybe the funniest comedy segment the show has ever produced and likely one of the 10 funniest moments in television history – certainly in late night television history.
The hardest part of the show to watch without getting all emotional (and I admittedly failed) was, of course, at the very end when Letterman said his final farewell to America by thanking his staff including Kalter, stage hand Biff Henderson (who’s been with him for 35 years dating back to his first show “The David Letterman Show” in the morning) and Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra. Letterman then thanked his loyal viewers for tuning in every night and most importantly his wife Regina and son Harry who were both in the audience. He then signed off by saying: “The only thing I have left to do, for the last time on a television program, thank you and goodnight” before his very favorite band the Foo Fighters performed his very favorite song “Everlong” to close out the show over a truly fascinating montage of his 33 years on late night television. This montage with “Everlong” rocking in the background is truly the part of the show that finally got me teary-eyed (as I’m sure it did much of America) as it brought back to mind all of the absolutely beloved memories from the past.
There’s never going to be another David Letterman on late night television again, although every single one of today’s late night hosts from Conan O’Brien to Jimmy Kimmel to Jimmy Fallon have jobs today because of the groundwork Letterman paved before them. It’s truly saddening to me that Letterman has called it a career, but he reminded us for the very last time on Wednesday night why he will always be the true king of late night TV.