Staying up Late with David Letterman

Staying up Late with David Letterman

This is me at seventeen in the summer of 1986. If the photo extended as far as my feet you'd see that not only am I in a Late Night with David Letterman sweatshirt, I'm also wearing the same brand of blue-striped white Adidas running shoes that Dave regularly sported on the show back then. Yeah, that's how much I admired David Letterman, I even had the same pair of running shoes.

I first saw Late Night while sleeping over at a friend's house during ninth grade in '83; her older sister was a fan and that night the three of us tuned in to the 12:30 show. But it wasn't until the following year, when I was fifteen, that a laxer bedtime allowed me to become a more regular viewer. At the time the cultural landscape was markedly different than today and for me—a suburban Canadian teenager—watching Late Night felt like discovering a cool underground club dedicated to pointing out the hilarious meeting point of the mundane and the absurd (Dave’s disdain for NBC owners General Electric, Chris Elliott as the Guy Under the Seats, Larry Bud Melman wandering around in a bear suit trying to get change for a ten, Dave dropping stuff from a 5 story building). In short, Late Night with David Letterman developed my love for comedy.

If I’d had a craptastic day Dave’s 12.30 show was a sensational place to hang out (when there weren't many cool, funny places for someone my age to be) for an hour. And If I’d had a good day, Late Night was the icing on the cake. No matter what was going on in the outside world or my daily life I would always, always feel immeasurably better after watching the show. Elated even. Discovering Late Night felt like finding another member(s) of my tribe, even if Dave and his team of writers were all the way down in New York and I didn't know them personally. The following day my best friend and I often discussed show highlights. Along with fantastic 80s music like Talk Talk, The Thompson Twins and The Smiths, David Letterman and Late Night was our awesome alternate universe. I didn’t care about reading Shakespeare, my upcoming math or science quiz, or clothes shopping at the local mall. I cared about getting good tickets for the upcoming Tears for Fears concert or watching David Letterman flirt with Teri Garr.

Then and now, I am a huge David Letterman fan. I will always be an enormous David Letterman fan and I really don’t want to think about how in five weeks' time Dave won’t be a presence on the late night airwaves anymore, how from May 20th onward there will always be something missing.

When my brother, a fellow diehard Letterman fan of thirty-plus years, sent me a link to a clip of Elvis Costello on the show several months ago and noted how at the very end Elvis says, "it's the last year of our youth, Dave," whoah boy, I felt that something fierce. This is the last year of my youth too. The end of an era.

Some months after my brother forwarded the clip he called and asked whether I wanted to go see The Late Show with him if he could get tickets. He wasn't positive it could happen but he had a contact that greatly improved the odds.

As it turned out the odds were excellent. His request for Late Show tickets was granted about ten days ago. My brother arranged the entire trip to New York City and made a lifelong dream of mine (and his!) come true. On March 31st we were members of the Late Show studio audience, a wonderfully giddy, surreal experience.

As a writer I have many alternate universes but I can't think of one that means more to me than the one David Letterman introduced me to over thirty years ago, the one he created and cultivated for millions of viewers in stolen hours of the night.

David Letterman, The Late ShowWhatever large or small things happen in the news after May 20th, from the political to the inane to human rights issues, I know I'll find myself wondering what Dave would've had to say about them. I hate the thought of saying goodbye, but I can't allow these final weeks of The Late Show to go by without saying thanks. Thank you, Dave, for the role you played in my life, and endless thanks to my brother for making our Late Show experience happen and for always knowing, just as well as I did, that Late Night and the Late Show were never just TV shows.

Al Franken very eloquently sums up what David Letterman accomplished
in his years as the host of Late Night and The Late Show beginning at the 7:15 mark

A Josh Gad clip from the Late Show recording we were at

New York morning, March 31st

Outside the Ed Sullivan theatre with my brother, March 31st

The prized Late Show tickets, March 31st

You are here! March 31st

Times Square, April 1st

Last view of New York off to the left, April 1st

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