David Letterman's final episode of The Late Show aired last night. It was a good mix of on-stage bits (the Top Ten list), clips, music and Dave speaking directly to the audience as he usually does. It was also in many ways the end of an era.
It's not an exaggeration to say that I grew up with Dave. From the beginning I was one of those kids that stayed up way too late on school nights to watch his show and talked about it in the halls at school the next day. In that era before on-demand video clips, you couldn't be sure you would ever see those bits again.
I think Dave's shows struck a chord with me because he was one of us. He had the same Midwestern sense of humor that mocked and joked, but was never mean. He found the funny side of every-day occurrences. He had respect for the common person and never forgot where he came from. Who else would have made national celebrities of shopkeepers working in the theater's neighborhood?
Over time the show may have become repetitive, but the early years were great for being creative, chaotic, and willing to try anything. Dave and the show had much of the same vibe as early Saturday Night Live, as if they were left on their own in this late time slot with no one from the network overseeing the program (untrue, of course). What other shows would have characters like Larry "Bud" Melman and The Guy Under the Seats, or guests like Brother Theodore? What studio exec would have thought throwing things off a five-story tower would be funny and popular? He took concepts first started by Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show and refined them under the constraints of the network (and Carson Productions) into a format that all the late night talk shows still use today.
I could say that I miss him already, but really, I've been missing those early shows for a while now.
"She's gone already, Chief."