I started watching David Letterman in high school, staying up much too late to see the first 20 or 30 minutes of Late Night, seeing what crazy stuff he would pull before bringing out a guest I probably didn’t know.
Over the years, I’ve continued watching/recording, usually flying through the show in 15 minutes the next morning. I’ll admit, the show is not nearly as inventive as it once was, but I still love those 5 minutes he spends at the desk, after the first commercial break, riffing about anything and everything.
Although his interviews too often fall back on stories about celebrities’ kids, he’s still willing and able to zing a guest, something he did regularly in the early days.
Two weeks ago, for no apparent reason, Late Show announcer Alan Kalter did the entire intro in a muffled voice, as though someone had duct-taped his mouth. On other shows – certainly on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show – the camera would have cut to the announcer at some point, and the host would have made some mention of the muffled announcing.
Not on Letterman. The show has always taken the long way to a laugh and chosen the subtle way over the Leno-esque obvious way. Kalter continued with the muffled voice for the entire show, never indicating why it was happening.
Fallon is immensely talented, but he is continuing Leno’s broad brush comedy, appealing to the masses, crushing nuance and subtlety at every opportunity. It’s just not possible that every story a guest tells is funny enough to cause the host to double over in laughter and pound his desk. We’re a month into Fallon and that move is already tired. He did it for five years from the Late Night desk, so it’s not surprising, but it does draw a distinction between himself and Letterman.
Jimmy Kimmel seems to be the heir apparent to Letterman, not just because he grew up idolizing him, but because his show and sense of humour is similar to Letterman’s.
One day soon, Letterman will decline the latest contract extension from CBS, and the countdown to his final show will begin. Then perhaps Jon Stewart will slide over from the Daily Show to take his place.
I’m hoping that day is still a long time off.