Tonight I said goodbye to my all-time favorite late night talk show host, David Letterman. The web and TV have been full of much-deserved tributes to Letterman in the lead-up to his final Late Show broadcast. Even though he wasn’t always the most watched or even most liked host, it’s nice to see all the appreciation for his absurdist humor and deliberately prickly demeanor.
Letterman leaves behind an incredible legacy, but his greatest contribution to late-night comedy is unfortunately the least emulated. Letterman’s show was smart. Not just because he was smart, but because he assumed his audience was too.
A perfect example of what set Dave apart from his competition can be seen in every opening monologue. Content-wise, there was little difference between Letterman’s openings and anyone else’s–same format, same cheesy and predictable punchlines, same shallow mockery of celebrities and politicians. The difference was that Dave knew these jokes were dumb, and he knew his audience knew it. Leno, Fallon, even Conan all tried to play these awful bits for big laughs. Dave knew better. He knew they were lame. He knew that making fun of Bill Clinton or Kim Kardashian was low-hanging fruit. If a joke didn’t hit, he’d just give a wry smirk and move on. In fact, he sometimes seemed to deliberately parody the format and style that he helped institutionalize.
Additionally, Letterman brought on smart guests and had smart interviews. Short of Sterwart and Colbert (who will be a more-than-worthy successor), no other host brought on more artists, political leaders, or writers. And even if it was just some Hollywood actor, Dave never let an interviewee get away with simply plugging their project.
My absolute favorite interview Dave ever did was with then-Presidential candidate George W. Bush. Letterman had been trying to get a Bush/Gore debate on his show for months. Supposedly Gore agreed to it immediately, but wound up appearing on the show alone. Eventually, a terribly unprepared Bush came on just a few weeks before the election.
I was 14 when I saw this broadcast, and it’s the exact moment when my political consciousness was born.
I could go on and talk about how much my sense of humor or taste in music was shaped by Dave. But I can’t imagine recreating ‘Will it Float?’ in the school cafeteria or being introduced to Warren Zevon because of Late Show are unique to me. Instead, I’d rather give credit to Dave for teaching me that there’s no need to dumb yourself down for anyone else’s sake; people are generally smart enough to figure things out. And if someone isn’t, the people who are probably think it’s hilarious.
As sad as I am to hear that Jon Stewart will be leaving The Daily Show, I have to admit it will be for the best. A long and successful career in satire is tricky, if not impossible. At best, you’re held in such high esteem that you become as institutionalized as the things you mock. At worst, you wind up Dennis Miller.
While I have no doubt that Stewart would have remained sharp, relevant, and truly funny on the show forever, I can’t fault him for wanting to depart while he’s on the top. Stewart leaves behind a phenomenal television legacy which has already been carried on by Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, and Larry Wilmore.
From his statement on the show tonight, it’s clear that Stewart has some ideas for what’s next. I’m excited to see where his post-Daily Show career will go. As for ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,’ thanks for teaching America to take on politics and the news media with a critical eye. But more importantly, thanks for the laughs.
Here are a couple of my favorite tweets about Jon Stewart’s departure:
Washington is rigged for the big guys – and no person has more consistently called them out for it than Jon Stewart. Good luck, Jon!
I don’t really pay much attention to the Globes, but they’re a good predictor of Oscar winners, and you can’t go wrong with Tina and Amy. Might as well watch and take a stab at guessing the winners. I’ll update with actual winners and my overall accuracy as the night goes on…
Best Motion Picture, Drama
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama
Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
Reese Witherspoon (Wild)
Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)
Jennifer Aniston (Cake)
Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama
Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)
Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)
David Oyelowo (Selma)
Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler)
Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Into the Woods
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
So I’m watching a re-run of Family Guy on Adult Swim, and a bit they did seemed eerily familiar. The clip is set up with something like, ‘it’s worse than that time Darth Vader was a meter maid.” Then we see this:
Sorry for the poor quality; couldn’t find a legit version on-line.
The clip is from the episode ‘Mother Tucker,’ first aired on September 17th, 2006. The video below was made by me and my buddy Jeff in the summer of 2005 (granted it wasn’t posted until August 7th, 2006).
Did Seth MacFarlane rip us off? The similarities are striking. But you be the judge.
Okay, honestly, I have absolutely zero reason to believe that anyone working for Family Guy ever saw this video. And to be even more honest, their clip is far more funny than ours. I just wanted an excuse to post this video again. Good times.