I’m lying in my bed at the Ace Hotel in Portland, watching the last episode of the Late Night With David Letterman.
And my life is flashing before my eyes.
He began his late-night career in 1982. That same year, I began my sophomore college career, commuting on even days in my ’72 VW bug from my childhood home in Fremont to San Jose State, working every odd day as a waitress at Minerva’s and as a shop-girl at The Limited. I would often watch Dave with my mom, both of us so perplexed and amused by his self-deprecation, his interview style that was random and wry and smart and goofy, which gave birth to Larry Bud Melman, Stupid Pet Tricks, Stupid Human Tricks, “Is This Anything”, “Will it Float” and many others. He didn’t fawn over celebrities. He didn’t kiss his network boss’s ass. He didn’t go for the obvious, easy laugh. He was a punk rock comedian.
The New York Time’s T Magazine compiled a great list their favorite on-air moments here, while Vulture posts their favorite Letterman “DIY moments” here - his many segments where he mined the everyday for comedy gold, hijacking real life with low-key stunts like wiring Rupert from the Hello Deli and sending him off to a nearby restaurant to wait on horrified patrons, who received their water glasses with a side of Rupert’s thumbs, or Dave’s fast-food jaunt with Zsa Zsa Gabor above. Many of his live stunts involved fast food; I particularly loved when he manned the drive-through at Taco Bell. He was creating viral videos when “viral” meant certain sickness and before most millennials were even born. He’s produced vaults of content more creative and flat-out funny than 99.9% of “digital content creators.”
He introduced the world to independent and interesting bands and performances, exposing many to their first-ever national TV audience, and exposing us to passionate, stirring sets like the Beastie Boys above circa 1992. I was lucky to see TV On The Radio live during my one and only taping in 2012; It was one of the best nights (well, afternoon since he tapes at 5) of my life. He was a true alternative, and his alternative approach to everything influenced his approach to booking alternative music.
And being obsessed with fashion, I’ve always loved to see what his female guests would wear. Some were nervous, some were scared, some were bored, but all wore their finest out of respect. In Style compiled a list of their favorite fashion moments here. My favorite might be one of the last, when fearless Tina Fey stripped down to her Spanx to let Dave and the rest of men in on what really goes on between those tight dresses and our loose and squishy bodies to keep it all in place.
Dave, I already miss you. And I wouldn’t dream of limited myself to the Top Ten Reasons why. There are thousands.