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Seven Random Things About Dave - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
Seven Random Things About Dave
Not even ten would really be enough, when you have 33 late night years split between two networks and studios.  Still, in fairness, I haven't been a regular for that many of them, so seven is probably about right- and I am not going to just ape a top ten list on the final night for doing so.

We first heard about this weird daytime show by this weird guy when I was in college. He wasn't a Hollywood star, nor did he have the Lampoon or SCTV pedigrees that were virtual tickets to getting past the cool-comedy gatekeepers of the era. He had done jokes for and/or with Mary Tyler Moore, and not even her beloved sitcom but her short-lived variety show, gonged after three episodes.  Here's a clip I doubt we'll see tonight- from 1978, of Mary singing with Dave and, um, Batman?!?

But this NBC thing wasn't just edgy, it was over the edge. It also went completely over the heads of the hausfraus that were home on weekdays waiting for their "stories" to come on. So NBC had to do SOMETHING with this talent, and fortunately, it found a place to put him just as his comedy was becoming better known: a post-Carson slot previously occupied by the fair-enough-I'll-buy-that-hahahahaHA drollness of longtime NBC News anchor Tom Snyder:

In 1981, Johnny Carson, after several years of acrimony, settled a contract dispute with NBC with an agreement that kept him with the network, and among the terms of the agreement was that Carson would gain control of the time slot following The Tonight Show. On November 9, 1981, NBC and Carson's production company Carson Productions announced the creation of Late Night with David Letterman, a program set to premiere in early 1982 in the 12:30 a.m. time slot Monday through Thursday.

Years later, Dave repaid Tom for the time slot by tapping him to host the new CBS 12:30 Late Late gig for its first incarnation.

The rest of the history is better known, and will be homaged ad infinitum tonight (I missed Dylan's performance last night because I didn't set the DVR to go long enough, and I've got four hours booked on tonight's disk).  So, from Not the Home Office in East Otto, New York, those Seven Random Things:

I might miss this most of all. It's one thing that hasn't changed At All in the quarter century we've owned a recording device and thus could watch, whether nightly or occasionally. Dave enjoys what he creates, and especially what his guests create for him. Hearing him laugh his fool head off through Monday night's Tom Hanks re-creation of Ron Howard on the set of Inferno was enough to make me want to see this latest Dan Brown film- and that's saying something. I laugh that distinct he-he-HEEEE! almost weekly and always smile on realizing the meta in that.

Letterman has always been good to those who were good to him, and pays it forward, sideways, up and to the left with those friends of his and the show. Bill Murray was his first guest on the morning show, on Late Night, after his move to CBS, and he effectively closed the place last night. The only other guest at the desk was not an A-list celebrity (who've been tripping over themselves to get the final-week-episodes' glows on their resumes) but Rupert Jee, proprietor of the Hello Deli adjacent to the studio and butt of/ participant in hundreds of Dave bits in his decades in the neighborhood. Likewise, so many of his crew go back to the Late Night beginnings, from Paul to producers to Biff- there've been two announcers in 33 years.

(I said these would be random, didn't I?)

Letterman has always pitched like a major leaguer from his desk. Curveballs rather than softballs are the order of the night. Even the Mighty Carson got a little starstruck around the talent that topped his, but Dave, from beginning to end, exuded "I don't give a shit" about their public relations agendas. That's probably why his one and only Oscar hosting gig was considered such a dud- he treated it like just an earlier evening Late Show on the only network he hadn't conquered, and Hollywood was not amused.

Despite his perfectionist streak being legendary, he has always embraced his own fuck-ups. His one post-host movie gig, the forgettable "Cabin Boy," became memorable through his own self deprecation about it. Likewise, the tag line for that one unfunny Oscar telecast BECAME funny through him making fun of himself about it for years. So much so that last week, when scientists discovered a freakish warm-blooded fish and dubbed it an "opah," my immediate thought (and not only mine- Eleanor heard others saying it too) was

(I meant to have that outside the cut.)

Dave likes what he likes, and brings the qualities of loyalty to those he does, and of not-giving-a-shit about how many records they sell. His annual Christmas gig with Darlene Love is Exhibit A of that; for Exhibit Z, there was Warren Zevon, who was as regular and unrestrained a guest as anyone on any channel. Dave's living eulogy to the man shortly before his passing was one of the finest moments of television I ever saw, even though I didn't see it until long after he passed. His long partnership with Paul Shaffer and the band-then-orchestra that they built and nurtured is a further tribute to that.

You know how your best of friends from far away pick right up with you even after long times apart? Maintaining bits like the Top Ten List make Dave that sort of (sort of) friend. He's older, the quick wit is down a notch or ten, but when he gets into the comfort zone of things that he's done (and you've loved, since before your moves and your marriage and the entire life of your child), you pick right up with him that way, too. Or at least you did until this week.

When Late Night began in 1982, New York was still an afterthought. Carson had moved talk to Hollywood (or Burbank, depending on his mood), and SNL was an outlier of some success but somewhat on the ropes at that time as the original cast had all moved on. When The Hoosier and The Chin fought out the rights of succession a decade later, the one good to come of the NBC choice- the safe choice, the ratings choice- was that Dave didn't have to move to California. Thirty years later, Leno's second successor moved the Tonight Show back- to a city, and format, which had been forever changed by a gap-toothed guy in a suit and white socks. Much of the format now lives on cable- and much as Dave was Carson's true successor, the true spirit of Late Night has lived on in the fake-newsish clothing of Maher, Stewart and, appropriately enough, Colbert.

We had long and eventful days today, which I'll recount in time (it's mostly good, at least at the moment), and I may be out of town the next two, so I won't be spoiling tonight's final show until I've seen it, which might not be until the weekend. Yet if I'm up in the middle of the night, I'll have no choice but to check in on the proceedings, to see if there's a Stupid Pet other than ours, or a watermelon being hurled to the pavement below, or a final gift basket being delivered to Comcast headquarters to apologize for the time Dave almost got arrested sending one to GE.

Say farewell to our good friend Dave Letterman, he's right over there- one night only:(
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