Like so many things that I do, I write this for my own needs to express; and despite all of the much more important things happening in this complex world of ours, I still haven’t properly processed the fact that after tonight, I don’t get to watch David Letterman.
I was five years old when I decided that this guy was my hero. And, think that I am just starting to understand why.
Thanks to social media, I know that I am not the only adult man of my age who has been uncontrollably reduced to tears these last few weeks over another man, whom we have never met, retiring. Still, Dave isn’t a stranger to us. He’s been our TV pal for 33 to 35 years, depending on when you started watching him.
The thing that Dave gave us, besides a great comedy and variety show, was the approval that you could like TV and movies, but you didn’t have to pretend that everything was awesome. It’s not. No matter what the new kids in these time slots tell you. A lot of show business sucks. Sometimes you having to point that out. Sometimes you get angry about it. Sometimes you have to laugh about the idiot next to you. Sometimes you enjoy it.
Dave, who was obviously his own biggest critic, respected his audience more than any other host before or after him. He never sugar coated. He never pretended. And when he genuinely showed interest in something, we knew we could believe him. If its was crap he would have given us a signal somehow. He would always clue us with a joke or an eye roll. That’s why we trusted him.
Some have said that he was mean or cruel because of this. I believe he was not. He was honest. Sure, he was sarcastic, sardonic and satirical, sometimes all in the same bit, but he always let us in on it, even if the person in the chair couldn’t catch on. Just because you’re in show biz, didn’t make you awesome. If you were awesome, and real, Dave was awesome and real with you. It was simple, and honest, and we loved him for it. Dave wasn’t there to stroke some guest’s ego. He was there to broadcast for his audience.
He was always honest with us. He spoke to us as people, not just invisible viewers. When he had scandals, problems or joys, he looked into the camera and told us about them. When he or a celebrity were caught bemoaning their lot in life, Dave piped in with, “there’s no complaining on the yacht.” He was charitable, and patriotic, and not afraid to make fun of anything be it goofy, political or just a good zinger.
He has been our TV pal. And it’s emotional for a lot of us to come to terms with the fact we won’t have that televised relationship anymore. We will likely never see Biff Henderson, Pat Farmer, Sue Hum or any of the other folks from behind the scenes again, and because they were peers of Dave, we loved them too. We loved how they might be in a skit where they told Dave off, but we could see in their eyes and grins that they loved him. We loved them because they gave us the show each night. We loved them because they helped make us, the audience, part of the show. From inside jokes with the studio audience to bizarre call-backs, Dave always let the audience in on the fun. And his staff and crew did too, because just like David Letterman, it has always been obvious that the staff and crew behind him loved and respected their audience.
I didn’t realize all of this when I started watching Dave’s daytime show during the summer that I was five years old. Then, I liked that a goofy dude with the same haircut as me was apparently friends with Andy Kaufman, and was even funnier than Andy Kaufman. I taped every episode of Late Night because I loved that goofiness. I fell in love with the Ed Sullivan theater when they moved there, and in recent years, streamed episodes the next day as part of my daily routine. It was like as if your buddy had a show. You wanted to see what he was up to. But lately, I’ve realized that it’s because of all of this that I love David Letterman: Honesty, goofiness, and a class act.
You could always tell that Dave wanted to do better at his show, and as a human. And not just trying to be a better broadcaster. Be it dealing with his anxiety and depression, quitting drinking and later cigars, or being a better family man, Dave talked candidly about this stuff, and because of it was a great role model. We’ve all got stuff to work on. Being honest about it with others and yourself is where it all begins. That’s what you would do with your friends, and that’s what our TV pal did with us. That’s why we rooted for him and his team.
Dave, Paul, Biff, Jude, Pat, Kenny, Todd, Sue, Barbara, Bill, Will, Felicia, Anton, Sid, and everyone’s whose names I can’t quite recall as I type this: thank you for all of your years giving to your audience. You’ve been amazing TV pals. And you’re going to be missed like no other team before you. #ThanksDave
[button link="https://michaelsalamone.com/may-18-2015-salamone-podcast-thanksdave/" size="medium" target="_self" background="#000000"]Salamone Podcast Letterman Tribute[/button] [button link="https://michaelsalamone.com/after-the-late-show/" size="medium" target="_self" background="#000000"]Michael Salamone's song "After the Late Show"[/button]