When Letterman Lost Me

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Like alot of people, I used to revere Late Night with David Letterman. It was the most awesome, disruptive, funny, silly, authority-challenging and downright humble TV show we had ever seen.

There were literally no rules, and Letterman himself carried this air about him that said: “Can you BELIEVE they are letting me do a TV show!?”

So why did I stop watching altogether long ago?

Because Dave changed. He became nakedly partisan and increasingly bitter. This is not even an argument.

As a conservative, a media personality myself, and someone not afraid to share my views at times (including here, of course) I am keenly aware that probably half of my listeners and fans do not share my political views.

So I try to tread lightly when it comes to what is my primary entertainment product, my daily radio show(s). I won’t back down from what I think, but I will try to be at least detail-minded and focused when I decide to speak out about something.

Letterman did the opposite. He was, in short, a hack. His interviews of Democrat politicians were fawning to the point of embarrassment. Any similar interviews of Republicans (if they happened at all) were far more chilly and distant. The cheap-shottery in his monologue jokes were transparent.

Then there was the bitterness. I get it that he felt jilted by losing the Tonight Show to Jay Leno. But for GOD’S SAKE man, you broke the bank when CBS came calling! And they refurbished your dream venue in New York City, the legendary Ed Sullivan theater! And you were beating Leno head-to-head for the first two years, before CBS lost the rights to the NFL and their prime-time lineup went to rot.

What a life! Let it go, man!

Even hard core Letterman fans until last night’s end, admit that he’s been coasting for nearly a decade. The willingness to push boundaries, to mine humor from the hardest to reach places, all just sorta faded away.

It was a helluva run though, and his earliest stuff was well worth digging up on YouTube. It was compelling, game-changing stuff in the late-night TV game. It was not unlike footage of “Skinny Jordan” with hair lighting up the NBA in the mid-80’s.

So here’s a nod to Dave at his absolute best: when he would regularly call out his corporate bosses at GE as “pinheads” and they never failed to live down to that description.

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Steve Czaban is a 25 year sports radio veteran, who hosts an afternoon drive show in Washington D.C. "Czabe" also writes and edits his own commentaries for www.czabe.com and other on-line and print publications. He can be reached at czabe@yahoo.com.

13 COMMENTS

  1. I remember his mid-morning TV show, when neither he nor anyone else knew what would happen next. Some misses, some hits. But he seemed like a good natured midwestern hick delighted to be a wart on the smooth Burbank landscape, so I liked it.

    How he became so sour is hard to figure, unless he’s simply mad at himself for taking the money. That I could understand and even respect. He didn’t need the money. But he could have redeemed himself by bringing back PJ Rails and Mrs. Marv Mendenhall for the last show, instead of the usual victory-lap celebrity kiss-ups. He didn’t, so that tells you something about who he really is and who he always was.

  2. Thank God! I thought it was only me that couldn’t stand him the last 5 or more years.
    When he started, I wouldn’t miss a show.
    The last 3 years, I watched news or re-runs of the Twilight Zone, waiting for Jimmy Kimmel cam on.
    There’s no way I would watch that liberal Kiss-up Letter’old’man again.

  3. Heard the comments on the show this morning and just kept silently nodding in agreement. I am not sure if there was a real inflection point for me; it just seemed to be a combination of slowly getting less funny, more nasty and more left leaning that had me tuning in less and less. I went from watching occasionally to DVRing if there was a promo with someone like Selma Hayek in a leather dress to finally just refusing the chase that stick at all. Despite all the hype and promos surrounding what now seems like an interminable series of final shows the DVR just never seemed to get set for any of them. It is truly the end of an era, but in reality the era ended about ten years ago.

  4. Steve, I totally agree. I watched Letterman religiously in high school and into college but as I became more politically aware I started tuning him out. I have occasionally watched him since and did watch last night and he just seems to have lost his edge. Too bad, the other late night hosts now focus on comedy and skits (oddly that is what Carson did and Letterman was his protege) which are very funny. I can’t stand the overly liberal take the mainstream media has, but I can always switch channels and put on Fox News.

    Very Respectfully,
    John Hill

  5. Czabe – You are one of my fav sports personalities but when you start talking politics you frustrate me. I like Letterman, not because he was a lefty rather I enjoyed his style.

  6. I think he ran out of things to be mad at, when he had NBC and GE to rant on those were the glory days. I really wanted Chris Elliot to show up under the seats one last time.

  7. I don’t care about his political leanings, but I agree that Dave lost a few MPH off his fastball as the years progressed, which can only be expected. No matter what talent you have, you have a prime and age eventually diminishes that talent. Humor is no exception.

    That being said, Dave is a legend and like Carson before him, countless comedians grew up idolizing and wanting to be like him. I don’t think you can say the same about Leno. Leno won the ratings war, but Dave had a much bigger impact, IMO.

    Late Night with David Letterman on NBC was the best late night show of all time. Thanks for the laughs, Dave.

  8. Years ago, Dave would take part in the skits (velcro suit, rolaids suit). That led to him presenting the skits with the look and attitude of being involved in presenting the humor. The last 15 years, its like the producers forced the skits upon him and he was openly hostile and resentful to the comedy. I stopped watching him years ago and never felt like I missed something.

    His interviews were lackluster. The hostility to Conservatives drove many of us away. Then the intern issue hit, and it showed him to be a bitter man.

    Dave may have been edgier, but Jay was more respectful and appreciative to his audience. Carson never insulted his audience.

  9. I appreciate your comments, but the political leanings of people in certain industry is not interesting to me at all. But I think that these comments reflect a problem about the society. EVERYTHING has become politically weighted. If I am a conservative, I need to patron Chick-fil-A because of their “family values”. If I am a liberal, I need to get a Mac because of their stance on “inclusion”. It bothers me that the value of a comedian with a talk show is embedded within his/her political leanings. It is (supposed to be) comedy. Is it funny? Entertaining? To me, no. But his political leanings shouldn’t make me like this particular show more or less.

    I still love your work Czabe, even though I am out of the DC market where I first picked you up. And I still listen in when I can. And I know you are more conservative than I in some ways, at least. You say things that I disagree with. But you seem nice, thoughtful, and your show has entertainment value. Why would I leave just because you rag on Obama and Pelosi? So long as you fulfill your station product goals, I’m fine.

    Good luck, Redskins.

  10. Czabe’s comments are justified. But I will say this for Letterman: he was very supportive of comedians all the way to the end (just like his idol Johnny Carson). A look at that roster for the final Top Ten list underscores that fact.

  11. Czabe,

    Letterman was a comedic genius much better than Leno, Kimmel, Fallon, Daly, and the rest of the posers that infiltrate the landscape these days. Because he represented Team Left the last few years, only enhances his reputation. Team Red needs a leader, he’s not it, but we all enjoy his styling’s and what Dave brought to the humdrum landscape known as politics. Dave was awesome to the end, and the rest of us should realize how good he was. I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed him, until the Foo Fighters were playing….and it was too late.

    Go Dave, back off Steve!

  12. Hey clown car sports dude. The Bears just cut another gangsta 49er shitbag who received his “due process”. Uhhh, although he’s still yet to receive the all telling and precious “due process” on his latest charge that is.

    Thoughts?

    Maybe he can call your shitbag defenders. 🙂

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