The Purloined Letterman


I never really watched late-night comedy shows all that much, but my wife did so a lot back when she was younger, and David Letterman was her favorite. She told me about how her grandmother used to like Letterman because of the gap in his teeth, which was similar to the one her grandfather had. When I asked Beth about why he was her favorite, she wasn’t entirely sure, but she thought it might have something to do with his habit of repeating a weird joke or phrase over and over again. She picked up the expression “delightful beverage” from something he said a whole lot in one episode. I remember watching another one with Beth where Dave kept making a joke about the Chimpanzee Bridge, a play on the Tappan Zee Bridge on the Hudson River. It was a pretty dumb joke, but the fact that he just kept repeating it made it somehow more amusing. I think Letterman’s charming goofiness was a large part of his appeal. I’ve heard that he could be a jerk to his employees off camera, but then, who haven’t I heard that about? I’m not sure if that proves seemingly every affable celebrity has a dark side, or just that everybody resents their boss. Probably a combination of both. But anyway, even if I never watched him much, Dave was on the air for most of my lifetime, and his retirement is very much the end of an institution. Beth and I watched his last episode together last night, and it was quite bittersweet. Here’s one of Beth’s favorite Dave bits, where he worked at the McDonald’s drive-thru:

Letterman was also the first show on which my favorite band, They Might Be Giants, ever appeared, way back before I knew who they were. Check out John Linnell’s girly haircut:

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