Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I Think David Letterman Is My Big Brother

During the life of this blog, I've written much about David Letterman. Feel free to search.

As his retirement from the show has drawn ever closer I've thought about what I might say.  Now that the day of his signing off is on us, it feels a bit like now or never.

I've tried to figure out from where my affinity for this quirky, Midwestern born, system cynical, often self tortured guy comes.  It's finally hit me.  I think he serves the role of my big brother.  Some of those traits live in me.

I loved watching Johnny Carson.  His own talent aside, I think what I loved about him was that during my childhood days, on the occasions I was able to sit up late and watch at least the monologue, it was what he said that made my parents and grandparents laugh.  This guy in the TV could make the grown ups in my life any guy who could do that was a friend of mine.  Full on laughter was not a hallmark in the normalcy of my life.  It's not that my childhood was sad, hardly. Far too much of our living, then and now, is so much about just getting through the day, rarely is there time for laughter. Life is neither happy nor sad, it just is.  The truth of that may be sad in retrospect, but it's not anything you'd recognize in the moment.  

So, when the "eh" of daily existence is broken by the sound of laughter, you take notice.  I did.

If Johnny Carson belonged to my parents and grandparents, Dave belonged to me and my generation. I remember him on The Tonight Show.  I remember him guest hosting.  I remember the Morning Show, although I only saw it once when I was sick.  But most of all, I remember Late Night.  It debuted in February of 1982, in the final months of my senior year in high school.  

This guy didn't so much make my parents laugh, in part because they were long gone to bed by the time he came on, but he made me howl.  I could not believe the irreverence for the very medium through which he was broadcasting.  Loved it.  

To this day, my mother could tell you of the times they were awoken between 11:30-12:30 by my laughter during my college days. 

This was my "big brother" telling jokes, pulling pranks on the network big shots, with a glint in his eye that said, "do something about it, I dare ya."

Like him, across the years, some of the acerbic has given way to humility.  Lessons learned, failures of varying kinds, the new thing in life you never thought you'd know or see, it changes a person.

As he signs off tonight, I'm thankful that I was able to see the show in person, twice.  Once was as a regular audience member.  The other was seated at the top of the balcony with a member of the crew who gave Kristy and me all access to everything before and especially after the taping, including standing on the stage where music icons performed for Ed Sullivan, and where Dave held court every night.  I also sat at his desk.  We absconded with a few Late Show pencils that Dave would either throw though the window or make notes.

I have some Late Show swag...tshirts, sweatshirts and hat.  What I most covet is what isn't for sale, one of the crew's Worldwide Pants jackets.

I'm thankful that even though his leaving will be a huge transition for him, he does so a man happier than ever.  I get that.  I want my big brother to be happy.

And I want to see him again.  Truth is, he's a helluva broadcaster.

So I'll be watching tonight.  Watching a 33+ year figure in my life move on as all of us who have appreciated his work do the same.

Good night, Dave.  Drive safely.

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