Man, Letterman Blows Now

I used to be a huge David Letterman fan back in the 80s. I had the blue and yellow logo t-shirt, and I still have my copy of “Late Night With David Letterman: The Book”. I’d tape the shows every night (Mon-Thurs) and watch them after I got home from school. Even the most obscure and unpopular characters (Kenny the Gardener, anyone?) were like trusted friends to me.

Adulthood ensued, and I’ve rarely watched it in the past few years. I thought he was going to quit around the time he moved to CBS, because he really seemed to be phoning it in, but he’s still at it. Last week, I was on vacation and stayed up unusually late, so I flipped over to his show. I watched his monologue, a Top Ten List, and “Stump the Band”. I didn’t even come close to laughing.

I noticed that Letterman is still his own audience. He does his trademark mugging after each bit and punchline, as if to say, “I can’t believe they pay us to do this.” But now, his stuff is really not funny, and I can’t believe they pay him to do it. What did it to him? Parenthood? Heart surgery?

Do you get Trio Network? They show old, classic Letterman shows from the NBC era, every night at 7 & 10pm. (CYLL) I’d forgotten how funny Dave used to be, even in the shows where all the jokes bombed.

Wait… Dave Letterman was funny?


A little of each.

He’s not nearly as viscious to useless celebs (Cruise, Holmes, Madonna, etc) as he used to be.

He’s still better than Leno.

I agree, he’s lost his edge.
He is still funnier than Leno.
I just watch the Daily show for my late night political humor now.
John Stewart is excellent.

Letterman used to be great and as he came on at 1am, I think everything was more comical. I can watch movies at 1am I would leave in 5 minutes at 1pm.

My response to Letterman has faded over the past months to the point that I rarely stay tuned for a second guest (when there is one) and that I will jettison the show if it’s just somebody plugging something (which is like 80% of the time).

Some of the gags still work on me. I do enjoy the “Will It Float?” segments most of the time, the Rupert Gee bits some of the time, maybe half of the Top 10 List efforts. But unless he’s really on that night, the shows only perk me up maybe twice a week if I watch that many of them.

Even with that level of disinterest, though, I would rather watch Dave than Jay. Jay is not for me.

I do miss the “good old days” of Carson, but even he was losing it by the time he chose to quit.

It’s probably more to do with my age than anything else. Less and less strikes me funny these days,

That along with age, the (I believe unfair) critical drubbing he took when he hosted the Oscars ten years ago, and the normal wear-and-tear of doing a talk show for 23 straight years.

I don’t think the situation is as dire as you present it, though. Although I don’t think he’s as funny as he was in the 80’s and he’s no longer a “can’t miss” program, occasionally Letterman will still do something inspired. For example, I liked it when he put Paul Newman in a chair and, using dozens of small helium balloons, floated him above the street outside the theater. That was exactly like something the old Letterman would’ve done in the 80’s (e.g., the suit of Alka-Seltzer, having Teri Garr take a shower on air, etc.).

Also, even at his most boring, Letterman is still ten times better than Leno.

Leno sucks, Letterman is long past his prime – it’s all about the Cone-Zone, my babies!

I prefer Jay. He seems to be a nicer person than Letterman. Letterman seems like he is never going to get over being passed over for Johnny’s chair. Hey Dave, there’s enough money for both of you! To me, although never a fan, he jumped the shark on “Oprah Uma Oprah Uma” night.

Will it Float? has finally sunk.

I like Jay because, even though he’s a raging sycophant, he understands that the emphasis of the interview is the guest, not himself. Dave manages to be smug and faux-fawning, he interrupts the guests more (very rarely for genuine comic effect), and seems to be going through the motions. Jay at least looks like he’s trying–I’ve never seen Jay phoning it in. Dave acts like he’s doing us a favor if he chooses to invest a little more than minimum any given night. Plus Dave manages to shoehorn in half-a-dozen bits, almost none of which are funny; if Jay has a bit, it may be funny, it may not, but he keeps it simple instead of beating multiple dead horses. And I think Jay’s chemistry with Kevin feels genuine; I still can’t tell exactly how much Dave holds Paul in contempt.

But yes, neither can touch Conan, even on an off-day.

Well, yeah, but when the guests are all random goobers with a movie/album/book to promote, I’d rather have the (funnier) host use them as a platform for jokes.

Except Dave doesn’t. Not anymore. I’ll admit he used to (and it was fun seeing him deflate some of the egos in the golden years). But now, he just comes across as an indifferent jerk who’s going through the motions in caring about what these guys have to say. He could learn a few things from Jon Stewart on how to effectively interrupt humorously and not self-aggrandizingly.

And he wouldn’t have a show if it wasn’t for those random goobers. Jay seems aware of this, Dave just seems to take it (and them) for granted.

We must be watching different Jays. He always strikes me as barely being aware that he’s there. You’d think he was reading a cue carded question, then going to sleep until his assistant prods him when it’s time to read his next one. Well, maybe not sleep, but a sleep-like state in which he emits random giggles.

To summaraize,

Everyone else < Jay Leno < David Letterman <<< Conan

Wasn’t it “Keanu Uma Keanu Uma”?

If the episode you saw included “Stump the Band,” it was probably Thursday or Friday. Those episodes are recorded on the same night, thus the minimal new material. Avoid those nights.

Compare Letterman to Carson at the same point in their careers–he’s still working pretty damn hard. By now, Carson was working three days a week, taking insane amounts of vacation and practically sleeping through his monologue.

Monday-Wednesday, Letterman does about 10-15 minutes of great TV each night. Skip the monologue, which has always been junk, and start watching right after he sits down. Turn it off right after or before the Top Ten List. Skip the guests, unless you’re a fan or they’re a Letterman fave. TiVo is your friend.

I can’t believe I still remember this but…

It was “Oprah, Uma. Uma, Oprah. Have you ladies met Keanu?”

I couldn’t agree more.

Back in the mid-1980s, when I was working second shift, I’d come home after midnight and unwind with Letterman. Then I didn’t see him for quite a few years, and when I watched again, found the show not as funny. Did the show change, or did I? Maybe if you keep doing the same kind of comedy, it just wears thin eventually. Am I missing the old Letterman, or just missing being in my twenties?

The Jay I see frequently can’t wait to inject some sophomoric joke, make light of something in a really lame way, or generally derail what otherwise might be an interesting interview. When I watch Jay, it seems he’s listening to his guest only to line up his next wisecrack. And again, his humor verges on the scatological at times.

Dave long ago became this era’s Ed Sullivan. He’s gotten really nostalgic, borderline cheesy, but there’s also something reassuring in that.

Even Conan gets old, but then, who wouldn’t after years or decades of doing the same show, night after night. We all know the guy who runs the same 10 jokes/stories by you, over and over. Ultimately, i think Jay and Dave are impressive marathoners who’ve gone the distance when no one else came close.