The last episode of Late Night with David Letterman was an emotional night for any funny person above the age of 25. If you grew up with "Dave" you have at least one personal moment where he helped shape your sense of humor. I'll spare you mine until the end of this intro. More importantly, his famous fans, people such as Conan O'Brien, Jon Stewart, Jimmy Kimmel, Patton Oswalt, and even his contemporaries like Steve Martin all came out and shared their memories. Jimmy Kimmel's thank you decided to air a rerun so that everybody could watch Dave's last show. Conan O'Brien's tribute to David Letterman included him revealing the moment in his show when Dave's was going to start so they could switch over and watch Dave instead. Jimmy Fallon's goodbye to David Letterman featured him showing how even his teachers knew Dave was his hero.
So here's this barely significant story I told you about earlier:
Like any kid growing up before YouTube, I had a curfew. Before I became a fully conscious human being, and before I was developing actual memories that would follow me into adulthood that didn't involve crippling humiliation, disappointment or toys, I wasn't allowed to stay up passed a certain time. The first time I was ever allowed to do this was when Barbara Walters interviewed an in-costume Michaelangelo from the Ninja Turtles movies. The first time I was able to stay out passed my bed time on a regular basis was when my mom decided I was adult enough to watch Late Show with David Letterman with her. It wasn't only a bonding experience, but it was an entire new world. There was someone telling jokes that made me laugh, even if I didn't get the references (I didn't exactly read the newspaper or understand who Dan Quayle even was back when that was a large part of Dave's repetoire). There was a silly man with glasses that played music and led an entire band. And most importantly, I felt like I was getting away with something. And in basking in the social implications that me watching Late Show at all inspired, I discovered that the authentic, unforgiving and dissmisively-brilliant nature of David Letterman was all the show needed, and all my mom and I needed, to see this person, this character, but really this person play with wild animals brought in from across the world, or somehow non-condescendingly talk to a deli owner downstairs, or talk to celebrities that he clearly didn't care about, and ones with which he actually felt a connection.
One of the greatest gifts that David Letterman gave comedy was his honesty.
He didn't pull punches on interviews like the one where Farrah Fawcett was clearly on shrooms or the one where Paris Hilton came on after being arrested or when Justin Bieber came on after never having heard of the Sistine Chapel. He was the voice of reason on network television and the voice of some of the dumbest jokes, that when I was little my mom would say, in the thickest, most accusatory Guatemalan accent "well that was stupid" and I would often agree with her. Until those things started making me laugh. Because I got to "know" Dave. And because the humor grew on me. And because just "whatever's funny, even if it's the dumbest thing in the world" started being part of what I found hilarious.
And increasingly, at that point, whenever my mom would say "well that was stupid" I would stop and explain to her the absurdity of what he was doing and how that's what was funny about it.And to this day, no matter what I write, or what I do, or what I get paid to do, if it's funny, it works. And people can love it. And should. And that's what David Letterman taught me. Thank you for everything Dave. Happy retirement.