I was in high school when “Late Night” first came on the air, and for man of us then, Letterman was our show. the show that mocked the formality and pomposity of all carefully managed and tended to entertainment tropes. Every night, the show felt berserk, irreverent, loopy, proudly low tech, often biting, weird and always like something authentic and unpredictable.
Going to a hippie college in the mid 80″s, Letterman was literally the only TV I watched, gathering in a friend”s room and ordering a pizza to watch on his rabbit ears antenna, the fuzzy in and out picture, every darn night. It”s impossible to imagine that watching a night time talk show felt subversive and exciting to a malcontent teen, but it did.
Decades later, in the age of meme and GIF”able comedy, a new creepy sort of inauthenticity has inhabited entertainment, as shows search to create viral moments. Dave”s last night was the perfect display of all those disparate, seemingly random elements that came together to create something built to stand across generations.
But most of all, it reminded us that Letterman, through it all, remained this lone voice of hard-won authenticity on the air. Throughout his perfect final show, the singularity of that voice shined through. And that will not be easily replaced in our culture.
Here were the 10 Moments I thought I was most likely to lose it on Dave”s final show:
1. Dave”s surprised reaction to President Obama”s shrug.
The Letterman comic timing never left him and remains the perfect instrument.
2. The crazy insane standing ovation at the opening
Wonderful for how awkward it made Dave feel; after 6000 shows still ambivalent about being the man in the spotlight.
3. The fake goodbye to the staff
Even in the midst of this great momentous turning point, he could mock the pomposity of it.
4. Letterman with Kids
What an amazing natural touch he had talking to children; talking to them as real people, and appreciating their own wit in a way that was never condescending.
5. The Top 10 List Players
All those stars whose careers have lasted for decades and have done so much incredible work in so many ways. It is hard to imagine 1000 years from now when the Jimmy”s retire that there will exist 10 people with that amount of road between them.
6. Working the drive-thru
My God, he could be funny just interacting with people.
7. The Day in the Life Montage
Almost joke-free; just an appreciation of the unglamorous work that makes a TV show happen.
8. Calling Paul his best friend
I mean…Is there another relationship on TV that comes close to this sort of history. Even if they never spoke to each other once off-camera, just all the time and memories they shared on that stage. The affection so total..
9. His wife and son receiving their round of applause.
And his son”s totally sheepish response. Can't be easy having dad do a talk show every single night. Was beautiful to see the very private man's family celebrated.
– Foo Fighters (@foofighters) May 20, 2015
10.The final song and montage.
The story about the Foo Fighters, the perfect song for the moment; that montage of so many incredible moments. The giants parading through, and Stupid Pet Tricks. Entertainment legends and driving a cupcake car around the stage. Not a meme or a GIF or an easter egg among them to beat the comedy into our brains like a Pepsi commercial.
There”ll never be another show like this.