#ThanksDave! A 35-Year-Old Non-Comedian's Tribute to Letterman - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

#ThanksDave! A 35-Year-Old Non-Comedian’s Tribute to Letterman

May 21, 2015 by  



Last November, Marisa, Kelly, and I took to the blog to talk about what TV items we were thankful for in 2014. One of mine was David Letterman, and the way his retirement had brought about a renaissance of his whole Dave-ness. Since he announced his retirement a year ago, I’ve DVRd (and not missed) an episode, and it has been wonderful. There have been so many posts on the interwebs by seriously famous and funny people, and underlying most, if not all, of them is recognition that it’s just not going to be the same without Dave.

So many people have shared about watching Dave for the first time, and how it changed their lives. I was born May 1st, 1980, and Dave started his morning show 50+ days later on June 23rd, 1980. So I didn’t see that; that didn’t change my life. My prime David Letterman years were when I was in high school and college, so mid-late 90s and early 00s.

My parents have opinions, but they don’t always share them (“You can win arguments, or you can win relationships!”). In fact, they’ve never told any of us kids (or anyone that I know of) who they’ve voted for—they are all about the right to a secret ballot! They don’t use bumper stickers or put political signs in the yard. They are not quiet or shy, they are strong in their convictions… but they are just very low-key about it. Every once in a while though my dad (who once told me that one of the wonderful things in his childhood was Johnny Carson) will make definitive statements that make it clear how he feels. The two I remember most from my childhood are:

  1.  It was crazy that Julie Andrews was replaced by Audrey Hepburn in the My Fair Lady movie because of the idea that Julie Andrews wasn’t pretty enough (“That’s ridiculous.”)
  2. THE TONIGHT SHOW should have gone to Dave. (“That was just wrong.”)

So we were a Letterman household! It’s not that Leno was evil or anything—but we watched Dave. I remember seeing Carson a few times, but don’t really have memories of that. We may have had a VCR (but didn’t always have TVs that worked–at one point we had a large furniture set with another TV on top of it. One produced sound, and the other one produced pictures), but if someone was up late enough to watch, it would be Dave. Again, this was the mid-late 90s. My strongest memories include:

  • Dave’s Mom (especially at the Olympics).
  • Any time Jack Hanna was on. (He’s from the Columbus Zoo, and we were from the Columbus area, so this was A BIG DEAL.)
  • “Know Your Cuts of Meat.”
  • “(Please) Stop calling me Chief.”
  • The Taco Bell sketch they aired on his final show.
  • How cool it seemed that Paul Shaffer was in Disney’s Hercules as Hermes. (Sidenote: I will miss Paul as much as Dave!)
  • When he talked to kids.
  • Pat and Kenny read Oprah transcripts.
  • Producer Maria Pope.
  • The Y2K show, when James Earl Jones read the Top Ten List. “Stuffs Gonna Splode” is an all time classic in my family.

I’ll never forget the crazy things he would make Rupert Jee do—all time favorite was when he sent him to serve at an outdoor restaurant and told Rupert to deliver a glass of water with his thumb in it. The patron was so furious, and of course, fury and outrage were like catnip to Dave, who gleefully laughed from his desk as Rupert (and so many others) had to keep going. Rupert later came back to the patron’s table, carrying the glass of water the exact same way (thumb in the water) while wearing a huge garden glove. LOL, the best.

I’ve loved reading every article and interview in the past several weeks and months—and like many, have also simultaneously felt like weeping. WHY IS DAVE JUST NOW OPENING UP TO US!? Or when see see him genuinely laugh at something, it feels like being handed gold. It’s bittersweet for sure. I’m sure one day Time Life will put out a collection of his best stuff with a mint commemorative coin of Dave’s face or something like that, haha. And some kids will flip through the channel/infomercial or laugh at it and wonder why anyone would have thought it was funny. And some kids will laugh WITH it and be retro to their friends, cool hipsters (or whatever future too cool for school kids are called) who will ONLY watch Dave, and he’ll be back to being fringe again, somehow. And we’ll say “Dave was cool when I was a kid,” and they’ll roll their eyes at us, and we’ll do the same at them, and somewhere Dave will be rolling his eyes at all of us.

So many of the pleas from other late nighters (like Conan or Jimmy Kimmel) were to young people—if you’ve never seen Dave, watch the finale! Recognize that we’re here because of him!  But we know how quickly everything moves, how fleeting celebrity is. And for someone like Dave, who seemed to hate the trappings of celebrity or going viral, or whatever, it seems likely he’ll just gladly ride off into the sunset, and we’ll be left trying to keep his legacy alive. I hold on to hope that, as Billy Eichner alluded to in a tweet, Dave seemed possibly (oh please!) interested in podcasting. But I feel like I’m leaning more toward Howard Stern’s statement on his last segment on THE LATE SHOW, which is that Dave will move to Montana and many of us will never see Dave’s face again. It doesn’t seem like he’ll be the Johnny Carson to Colbert or “one of the Jimmys” as he refers to Kimmel, Fallon, and (now) Corden. Of course it’s possible he’ll come back and visit them…who knows!

When we have something in our life that has been an institution, it’s hard to see it gone. Like I said, there were basically 50 days of my life where Dave hasn’t been on TV. I wasn’t always aware of him, but his influence shaped the world I was in. It’s so hard to see it gone, but in these instances, I don’t think it’s because we need to have David Letterman around—we certainly welcome it! But more than losing Dave on our TVs literally, it’s the loss of that ability to connect, for shared experiences, that we fear. Babies are being born now who won’t know who Dave is. Just like how, for some of us in our 20s or 30s, Johnny Carson was a funny guy our parents loved and cried over but who we didn’t know that well, Dave will be someone about whom we’ll constantly have to say “No, trust me—he was freaking hilarious–you don’t even know!” What we’re really saying is “I had and have good taste! I know what funny is! Here’s proof! AND OTHER PEOPLE AGREE WITH ME.”

And losing that is hard, because sometimes it makes us (or me at least) feel like I’m getting old, it means feeling like we’re already behind the mark of the cutting edge, and on a deeper level, we wonder who will remember us. Those connections and shared experiences start to dwindle, and that is sad. But ironically, it’s also Dave (and many others) who have reiterated what’s true—all of us get where we are by being lifted up onto the shoulders of those who have gone before us, and our job is to pay it forward as much as we can. It’s been great to see Dave support so many people and comics over the past few months and years…and decades, just as was done for him! Likewise, it was so great to see the parade of people paying homage to their (and our) beloved friend David Letterman. As the hashtag said, #ThanksDave !

Your fan, Sarah

PS… In hindsight, I only wish I’d published my list of guesses of guests for the past few days. I had Bill Murray, Regis, Oprah, Foo Fighters, but I didn’t have Steve Martin, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, George Clooney, Tom Hanks, etc. Not bad.

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