Letter grade: Letterman and late night always will be synonymous

05/21/15 by Rennie Detore



Writing wonderful tidbits and memories about David Letterman, longtime late night host most notably on the aptly titled "Late Night with David Letterman," isn't difficult. Saying goodbye to the iconic, prominent entity that is David Letterman is going to be.
Letterman had his final show, and he's saying goodbye to the wee hours of the evening as one of the most revered and lauded late night personalities in the history of the genre. Letterman brought to late night plenty of uniqueness, and he often was touted as the barometer of greatness in his field, an accolade that sometimes didn't pan out in the ratings when he'd lose out to the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno," even though those in the know felt that Letterman consistently put out the better show and product and was light years ahead of Leno in terms of humor and presentation.
I never made it a point to watch late night talk shows and television. I've seen enough of Letterman and Leno, the two heavy hitters in the late night squared circle, to know that the former is far better than the latter. Leno isn't funny; he's corny, campy and his joke telling is terribly passe. Letterman didn't so much live on the edge as a counterpart to his chin and cheeky opponent as much as Letterman was smart, funny, classy and had just enough corn ball in his routine that it wasn't overkill.

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Naturally, for Dave's last show and subsequent lead up shows to his finale, the stars turned out in droves to salute his work and renowned talent as everything from interviewing to joke telling and anything else you'd associate with being a late night talk show host for the ages.
Even though I wasn't a regular Letterman watcher, I always appreciated his self deprecation, wit and charm as a host and ultimately in that role a mediator between guests. His skits and, of course, the "Top 10" list will forever be how future hosts will be judged, and his monologue always was a lights out endeavor.
As Letterman ends his run, the accolades, montages and adulation aren't going to stop soon. And with some celebrities, their name value will ween and memories fade, but Letterman wasn't just a part of his field as a late night, talk show host. He will forever be the one entity, in addition to Johnny Carson, who everyone else is compared to even as Letterman's tenure on "Late Night" will day by day, month by month, become more a part of history and nostalgia.
You can look at Letterman's run with optimism and pessimism in the same breath. No, he never had the opportunity to sit where he belonged, as host of "The Tonight Show," the program that supposedly decides who the real late night kingpin is. Letterman didn't achieve that goal but he did outgrow the legend of that program and cultivated his own legacy without that particular vehicle behind him. That says a lot about Letterman and how he pioneered in the face of disappointment related to "The Tonight Show" shortcoming.
Dave undoubtedly was bothered by it, but it didn't define his career. Laughter did, and that's what we'll all choose to remember most.

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