– POST BY MIKE MATEI –
I’ve always been a huge fan of David Letterman. He’s retiring shortly, so I thought this would be appropriate.
In the late 80’s & early 90’s I’d sometimes be allowed to stay up late enough to watch his predecessor Johnny Carson.
Johnny was a legend without a doubt and perhaps my favorite late-night host of all time. But in my teen years, it was David Letterman who REALLY captured my interest, with his sarcastic wise-ass attitude.
Though he mellowed in his later years (after a heart attack) in his heyday, he was the badass of late night. And his NBC program “Late Night with David Letterman” paved the way for people like Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel and Jon Stewart. Dave’s skits (at the time) were revolutionary..
He wasn’t afraid to say anything to anyone, which was often off-putting to many. (Mostly, the play it safe Leno crowd)
Letterman was a true innovator of the late night scene. He took what Johnny already established, and made it darker, crazier and on occasion a hell of a lot more funny.
He popularized the idea of the Top Ten list, which is a comedy concept taken for granted these days. The world owes that to Dave. Whenever you see a Top 10, Top 5, Top 20.. or even a Top 40… credit goes to David Letterman.
Back in the 90’s, Dave did a segment called the CBS mailbag, where he read viewer mail. At that age, seeing my name read on national television was a huge deal to me. Even though he mispronounced my name. (For the record it’s Muy-Tay). Anyway, I hope you can appreciate this special moment from my teenage years.
I also want to say, I’m really sad Dave is retiring. For a kid who grew up through the 80s/90s like me, he was always there every night. And now, to suddenly not have him every night feels like losing a friend.
When Dave was young, Johnny made him laugh. And when I was young, Dave made me laugh. My favorite Letterman skit was something really obscure. There was one night when he randomly left the desk and went outsides into the streets on Manhattan. (Which was clearly filmed in the dead of night when nobody was on the streets) He finds a shopping cart on the sidewalk and starts running with it at top speed, huffing and puffing. That’s all there is to it really. Except his performance. The way in which he did it, was absolutely hilarious. And could ONLY be done by Dave. There is absolutely no way to explain why it was funny. It was one of those things you just had to see. I really wish I could see that again. (that was probably around the 93-96 era when I watched every single night, by setting my VCR on a timer and watching when I got home from school the next day!)
Lastly, I do have to say, if I had to pick a favorite Letterman interview moment, it would have to be from his infamous Paris Hilton interview. She had been sent to jail for a short time, and Dave kept brining up the subject even though she clearly didn’t want to talk about it. He asked her what the food was like in jail and what she ate. She reluctantly answered “an orange”. To which Dave replied “Oh that’s good, you don’t want to get Scurvy”.
Also, I am also fortunate enough to say, my short segment with Dave actually featured the classic Late Show character Larry “Bud” Melman who also appeared on another one of my favorite shows Pee Wee’s Playhouse. Anyway, enjoy the clip!