Saying Goodbye to David Letterman: A Look Back at His 33-Year Legacy

21 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

David Letterman fans line up outside Ed Sullivan Theater for his final ‘Late Show’.

Dozens of David Letterman fans began lining up outside the Ed Sullivan Theater for a chance to be part of TV history Wednesday — hours before the beloved funnyman was set to take the stage for the last time. “We signed up for tickets maybe two months ago,” said Bernadette, 65. “And three days ago we found out we were coming to the last show.

Thirty-three years later, he’s stepping down from a late-night landscape that changed around him, having stayed true to himself as the medium changed from appointment viewing to something to be easily digested the next morning in three- to four-minute clips. “I recognized the value of it,” Letterman told The New York Times back in April of his competitors’ tendency to gear their shows toward digital audiences. “It’s just, I didn’t know what to say.David Letterman will bid farewell to his Late Show tonight with a surprise-filled (and Foo Fighters-featuring) finale, but before the late-night legend says goodbye to airwaves, take 45 minutes to remember Letterman at the onset of his 33-year career.

Decider unearthed Letterman’s incredible debut episode of his Late Night NBC program from February 1, 1982, which featured guests Bill Murray and Donald “Mr. We changed our flight just so we could make it.” Angela and Glen Stanton flew in on a 5:45 a.m. flight from Atlanta sporting T-shirts that read “Thanks Dave” in the signature “Late Night” block lettering. “We don’t let just anyone share our bedroom,” Glen, 60, joked. “He’s got a very quirky sense of humor, very Midwestern sense of humor. It’s a little like that.” Nevertheless, Letterman, 68, is set to air his last Late Show on Wednesday, leaving behind a legacy as one of the most iconic figures in American media.

In celebration of Letterman’s final curtain call, here are five times it was pretty clear he could barely tolerate the person sitting in the chair next to him. We’re originally from Illinois and Ohio, so we appreciate that.” “It’s special because there will never be another one,” said Bill, who had seen the show live three times before. “A son of the Midwest becomes a comedy legend.

The episode opened up with actor Calvert DeForest, or Larry “Bud” Melman as he was known on the show, delivering a spooky prologue inspired by actor Edward Van Sloan’s introduction for the 1931 film Frankenstein. Letterman was a breakout comic from Indianapolis with only an appearance on Mork & Mindy and the good word of Robin Williams to his name when NBC gave him his own morning show, The David Letterman Show, in 1980. Then when the interview finally gets going, he questions Hilton about her recent stint in prison for driving with an expired license — much to Hilton’s obvious embarrassment.

After a humorous tour through the NBC Studios, Letterman then welcomed his first-ever guest, Bill Murray; remarkably, Letterman spoke the same exact introduction word-for-word when bringing out Murray on Late Show’s penultimate episode, right down to the Where the Buffalo Roam mention. When Hilton finally breaks and angrily tells him she’s not going to talk about her prison stint anymore, the host replies, “This is where you and I are different.

However, NBC had faith in Letterman’s talent and signed him to a contract that would keep him tied to the network, guest-hosting now and then on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The chemistry between the late-night host and the actor is instantaneous and hints at a friendship that would make for can’t-miss television in the decades that follow. (Murray’s rendition of Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” is also amazing to behold.) In addition to the Murray interview, we’re also treated to many of those odd moments that separated Letterman from his peers and made him such a favorite among the next generation of late-night hosts: An ongoing gag after each commercial break broke down the many ways to weld metal; later, Letterman takes a stroll around New York to criticize misspelled signs.

After Carson was granted the rights to the time slot immediately following his own show, he reached an agreement with Letterman and NBC to launch Late Night with David Letterman in 1982, the first iteration of the franchise. The legend might be leaving late night, but at least his legacy lives online. 2015 may not bring everything that Back to the Future II promised it would: flying cars, self-lacing shoes, we don’t see ’em happening over the next 12 months. (Then again, don’t bet against Nike.) But this year will definitely pack plenty of punch when it comes to cultural happenings. Mad Max will roar back out of the apocalypse while Mad Men rides off into the sunset, rock’s Antichrist Superstar and hip-hop’s Yeezus will rise again. Finally, Letterman introduces Streisand, but instead, Larry “Bud” Melman walks out and sings “Memories.” In 2012, Simmons told US Weekly of Letterman, “You know, I’ve never actually met him? Furthermore, as Peter Lassally, an executive producer on Carson who followed Letterman to CBS revealed following Carson’s death, the late Tonight Show host would feed his protégé punch lines for his monologue.

Letterman bested Leno in the ratings for a couple of years, but Leno pulled ahead in 1995 when Hugh Grant made his first public appearance after being arrested by the LAPD for soliciting a prostitute. After months of escalating protests and grassroots organizing in response to the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, police reformers have issued many demands. The moderates in this debate typically qualify their rhetoric with “We all know we need police, but…” It’s a familiar refrain to those of us who’ve spent years in the streets and the barrios organizing around police violence, only to be confronted by officers who snarl, “But who’ll help you if you get robbed?” We can put a man on the moon, but we’re still lacking creativity down here on Earth.

The host later explained to guest James Franco that it was a result of Korine’s last appearance. “I went upstairs to greet Meryl Streep and welcome her to the show, and I knock on the door … and she was not in there,” Letterman said. “And I looked around, and she was not in there, and I found Harmony going through her purse. While law enforcers have existed in one form or another for centuries, the modern police have their roots in the relatively recent rise of modern property relations 200 years ago, and the “disorderly conduct” of the urban poor. O’Brien was granted Leno’s Tonight Show spot by the network before Leno was ready to retire from late night – and before NBC was truly ready to let him go. Like every structure we’ve known all our lives, it seems that the policing paradigm is inescapable and everlasting, and the only thing keeping us from the precipice of a dystopic Wild West scenario.

Rather than be scared of our impending Road Warrior future, check out just a few of the practicable, real-world alternatives to the modern system known as policing: Unarmed but trained people, often formerly violent offenders themselves, patrolling their neighborhoods to curb violence right where it starts. The mantra was improvised by Murray on the set of “Meatballs,” a movie that was showing on HBO around the time Letterman’s morning show was dying: “It just doesn’t matter.” Whatever happened, you’d never lose your cool.

In October 2009, the talk-show host copped to having an affair with one of his female staffers after her boyfriend at the time – a former 48 Hours producer – tried to extort Letterman for $2 million in exchange for his silence. Stop believing that police are heroes because they are the only ones willing to get in the way of knives or guns – so are the members of groups like Cure Violence, who were the subject of the 2012 documentary The Interrupters. Toss that up here!” And if the ball came back at you twice as fast and crashed right through another window, you’d just go, “Thank you!” On the morning show and “Late Night,” Letterman pioneered something completely new and intoxicating: Anti-comedy that was funnier than the real thing. There are also feminist models that specifically organize patrols of local women, who reduce everything from cat-calling and partner violence to gang murders in places like Brooklyn. When The Jay Leno Show also missed the mark with audiences, NBC became too anxious too quickly and reverted to the status quo in order to quell the rapid dwindling of their late-night audience.

There’s something wrong with us, something very, very wrong with us.” Letterman was the antidote to the lame, showbizzy, let-me-entertain-you style of comedy I associated with Las Vegas, tuxedos and “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson.” I couldn’t believe it when I heard Letterman worshipped Johnny. Violent offenses count for a fraction of the 11 to 14 million arrests every year, and yet there is no real conversation about what constitutes a crime and what permits society to put a person in chains and a cage. Johnny was this smug, self-adoring relic who’d have on Don Rickles or Phyllis Diller or Jerry Lewis to mug desperately, pull faces, shout — anything but be funny.

Decriminalization doesn’t work on its own: The cannabis trade that used to employ poor Blacks, Latinos, indigenous and poor whites in its distribution is now starting to be monopolized by already-rich landowners. To quote investigative journalist Christian Parenti’s remarks on criminal justice reform in his book Lockdown America, what we really need most of all is “less.” Also known as reparative or transformative justice, these models represent an alternative to courts and jails. Fallon only compounded a situation that began to gain speed one year prior, in January 2013, when ABC pushed Jimmy Kimmel Live! 25 minutes earlier to the 11:35 p.m. time slot. From hippie communes to the IRA and anti-Apartheid South African guerrillas to even some U.S. cities like Philadelphia’s experiment with community courts, spaces are created where accountability is understood as a community issue and the entire community, along with the so-called perpetrator and the victim of a given offense, try to restore and even transform everyone in the process. Both Kimmel and Fallon’s comedic sensibilities, which skewed far younger and which tended to create segments tailor-made for digital audiences, were the final death knell for Late Show.

Given that Letterman had already experienced such a lengthy career, the move was not necessarily influenced by Fallon and Kimmel’s dominance over the late-night ratings. Communities that have tools to engage with each other about problems and disputes don’t have to consider what to do after anti-social behaviors are exhibited in the first place. Do you have any thoughts here?’ ” – he’s the one who “had made the decision [to leave]. … This is what comes when you make this decision,” he added. As for Letterman’s plans for the future, it seems they will follow much the same path as his mentor, Carson, who essentially disappeared from the public eye following his retirement.

On Thursday, when Letterman awakes to an empty calendar, he intends to spend time with his family and especially with his 11-year-old son, Harry, he told the Times. “For the first time since Harry’s been alive, our summer schedule will not be dictated by me. Obviously these could become police themselves and then be subject to the same abuses, but as a temporary solution they have been making a real impact. In New York, Rikers Island jails as many people with mental illnesses “as all 24 psychiatric hospitals in New York State combined,” which is reportedly 40% of the people jailed at Rikers.

The winner was, “They pelted us with rocks and garbage.” Instead of sucking up to celebrities, Letterman did things like dropping stuff off buildings. We have created a tremendous amount of mental illness, and in the real debt and austerity dystopia we’re living in, we have refused to treat each other for our physical and mental wounds. Mental health has often been a trapdoor for other forms of institutionalized social control as bad as any prison, but shifting toward preventative, supportive and independent living care can help keep those most impacted from ending up in handcuffs or dead on the street. Once, in 1991, when an interviewee was being amazingly boring, Letterman said something like, “This is one of those nights when I just pray for a slow gas leak.” When Letterman got a new job at CBS in 1993, it was even better. Suddenly, everyone had a perfectly polished, self-deprecating anecdote — invariably meant to prove the utter fiction that Celebrities Are Just Like Us — that sounded suspiciously crafted by a team of writers.

Suddenly, each episode had as many as three celebrities, with Letterman being unctuous and insufferable and fake-laughing his way through every minute.

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