Goodnight Folks: David Letterman signs off after 33 years

by BROCK KOLLER

CBS

CBS

33 years is a long time to be on television. But between two networks, two shows, and two time slots, David Letterman has made 33 years fly by.

After Wednesday's Late Show, Letterman will leave the airwaves for good, taking with him his brand of sarcastic wit, self-deprecation, and observational humor.

For me, I was too young to truly enjoy his Late Night show on NBC. From what I read and watch on YouTube, while Johnny Carson was cementing the foundation of late night, Letterman was revolutionizing it. Take for instance his 360 degree episode when the camera underwent a complete revolution during the course of the broadcast.


I was unfortunately also too young to witness Carson's era. While I have watched countless documentaries and specials on Carson, I just wasn't - what's the word- alive...to truly appreciate him.

But after the reportedly controversial changing of the guard when Jay Leno was announced as Carson's replacement, a now Late Night Letterman took his talents to the Tiffany Network, resulting in a choice for late night viewers.

While most of America chose Leno throughout their 20 plus year ratings war, I was always more of a Letterman fan. I personally felt where Leno was cookie cutter, Letterman was edgier. If only I knew what Letterman was doing back in his NBC days, I would have realized just how edgy Dave could get.

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Letterman was appointment viewing for me - yes, I would switch to Leno for Headlines, but who didn't.

I was an admirer of his interview skills - I always hear Letterman saying 'now, wait a minute' in my mind when I picture his interviews. And whenever he had poor Regis Philbin on, you knew Letterman wouldn't let ol' Reege get away without a few zingers thrown his way.

I loved the random, silly, absurd sketches that have always been a part of Letterman's repertoire.

The 'Will It Float' gag was a constant laugh inducer especially when Letterman kept adding unrelated human attractions around the tank of water. The metal chainsaw spark girl, for instance.

His annual Halloween costume segment was always a treat. Seeing kids dressed in preposterous outfits such as a men's shoe bufferer or a recalculating GPS was something you could only get from Letterman's personality.

Then there were his small business owner neighbors. The deadpan responses of Rupert from Hello Deli not only made Letterman chuckle but the audience too.

My favorite all-time Letterman segment showed exactly how wacky and poignant Letterman could be.

The premise was simple - see how many Spider-Men could fit into a Jamba Juice.

Letterman's quickness was on full display when nobody reacted as the first Spider-Man walked in and stood by the window.

"So far nothing. Nobody cares."

After a bunch of guys dressed like Spidey filed in one by one (all different sizes, mind you), Letterman realized they ran out of Spider-Man costumes. So he then sent in a slew of other costumed characters including Superman, a princess, and Moses.

"Oh man this is stupid," Letterman quipped.

Yes, it was. But that's what made it so enjoyable. That's what made Letterman so endearing.

He wasn't afraid to be stupid, to make fun of himself, and to not take the show too seriously unless a serious tone was warranted.

As for that Spider-Man sketch, Letterman has done a variation of that gag for years. In 1997, he tried to find out how many guys in bunny suits could fit into an H&R Block.  

He would go on to repeat the Jamba Juice setting again with guys dressed as aliens, as I just found on YouTube. Finding these videos is a good sign that even though Letterman is retiring, his legacy will live on and there are tons of sketches and interviews out there to be seen for the first (or 50th) time.

David Letterman is the last vessel of a bygone late night talk show broadcast dynasty.

There's a new age now with Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon and all the late night cable shows.

Letterman was that last connection to Johnny Carson and the era when you had to watch TV at 11:30pm or else you'd feel left out. There was no social media to see the most viral moments the next morning. You had to watch it all and you wanted to. 

So thank you Dave for 33 years of your sense of timing, sense of humor and overall nonsense.  You will forever be in the Top 10 of many lists concerning television's history and influence.

And in that favorite Letterman moment of mine, that Spider-Man sketch, as the superheroes stand by the window going unnoticed Letterman chimes in with "Nobody seems to care."

That is the complete opposite sentiment when it comes to David Letterman's retirement.

It would be a rare sight to see a television watcher who doesn't care that David Letterman is leaving. Almost as rare a sight as seeing Moses in your New York City juice bar.