The parenthetical years above are obviously not David Letterman's life span but rather the span of his extraordinary and legendary television career.
May 20, 2015, Letterman will sign off for the last time, concluding
35 years as a television host, 33 of those years in late night. I
have been an ardent fan for 24 years.
is truly the king of late night, having lasted longer than anyone
else in that position, even Johnny Carson. In fact, Letterman is
Carson's real successor. Sure, Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon took over as
successive hosts of The Tonight Show after Carson, but they
are not his successors. They are merely followers in his footsteps.
on the other hand, was personally groomed by Carson to be his
successor, and even though NBC pushed Carson out and stiffed
Letterman in favor of Leno, it was clear that Carson favored
Letterman, as evidenced by Carson's many appearances on Letterman's
show. Carson even sent many jokes to Letterman to use on TV.
of my favorite Letterman skits over the years was “Pat and Kenny
Read Oprah Transcripts,” after which viewers were given an address
where they could write to request “Transcripts of Pat and Kenny
Reading Oprah Transcripts.”
set Letterman apart from his competitors was that unlike them, he
wasn't about himself. He was about his guests, his cast of
“characters,” and, most importantly, the comedy. Whenever he
focused on himself, it was to poke fun at himself. Letterman was the
undisputed master of self-deprecating humor.
longevity will never be surpassed in our lifetime, especially in this
era of transitional media technology, restless network executives,
and fickle audiences. But, even if it were, perhaps sometime in the
distant future, Letterman's like will never be seen again.