My Old Friend Dave
At least in the summer and during holidays. Back when Dave’s show was Late Night on NBC, he didn’t come on until 11:30 p.m. And for a long time, his show aired only on Monday-Thursday. So I didn’t get to watch him on school nights. But when summer came, I tuned in almost every night.
Much of my time as an adolescent was not fun. Nothing spectacularly tragic happened; my parents didn’t get divorced, and I was never a child abuse victim. But there were some dark, dark days that never seemed to end. If I could get to a TV at 11:30, though, Dave always, always made me laugh. Many of those nights, Dave’s antics weren’t just entertainment for me. They were a means of survival.
Although I did get to go to New York City in 9th grade, I didn’t get to go to Dave’s show. Late Night tickets were very hard to come by during Dave’s heyday, so my friends and I settled for Phil Donahue instead. But Dave taped in the same building, and I did pick up a “Late Night with David Letterman” sweatshirt in the gift shop. I still have it.
I was in college when Dave moved to the Late Show on CBS (which moved him up an hour to 10:30 p.m.), and I kept watching as he sent 15 people dressed as Superman into a small, Manhattan Starbucks, and a guy in a bear suit into the Russian Tea Room. When I was turning 30 and Chad asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I asked for a TV for our bedroom “…so I could go to bed with David Letterman.” I got my TV, and Chad and I spent several more years ending many of our days laughing at Dave.
There’s always something disconcerting about the funny famous people we have grown up with leaving the public eye. We come to rely on these people to keep us grounded so we don’t get so lost and overwhelmed by everything that is not funny about this world.
In recent years, I have prioritized sleep over late-night laughs. If I watch Dave now, it’s usually the next day online while I get ready for work. But I’ll stay up and watch his last show tonight. I’ve been a David Letterman fan most of my life, and I’ve learned a lot from him. I’ve learned that it’s OK to be weird, and that it’s OK to find something hysterical that no one else gets. Most importantly, I’ve learned that sometimes the best—and most genuine—way to minister to someone is to crack a joke and make them smile. So I’ll stay up tonight and say goodbye. I at least owe him that.
Here's the hydraulic press clip. Also, enjoy John Mellencamp's performance after that.
And one last time, the Late Night Anthem.