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May 20, 2015

Liberals: We Just Can't Tell If David Letterman is Liberal Or Not

No? Really?

You could compare his extremely hostile interviews with Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh -- in one he snapped, without smiling, that what O'Reilly was saying sounded like pure "bullshit" -- with his fawning, Tell Me More interviews with Rachel Maddow and undisclosed (but obvious) liberals like Brian "Chopper Warrior" Williams and Tom Brokaw.



Tonight is Letterman's last show. And thank God. I'm sicking of reading media types churn out obligatory stories about how great Letterman was, without understanding why he was great.

Or... when he was great, which was approximately from 1982 to 1986 and barely ever since then.

Rush Limbaugh predicted that Letterman would fail at 11:30. He made this prediction even when Letterman was, get this, Number One at 11:30.

He said the people currently watching Letterman were not comedy fans, and did not get or like Letterman's (stale by then) transgressive, undermining comedy. He said they were watching just because the Media Elites had made such a big deal about Letterman being the Hip and Cool talk show host, and wanted to be Hip and Cool themselves.

He said Letterman would lose this audience and start losing to Leno. Again, he said this during the first few months of Letterman's show, when he was not only beating Leno, but beating him handily.

I didn't agree with Limbaugh then because I was a fan of Letterman's and wanted him to succeed.

I mean, I read The Late Shift like five times, and watched the movie ten times, and every time I watched it hoped it would have a different ending, where Dave gets the Tonight Show after all.

I thought Limbaugh was being churlish, perhaps jealous.

But you know what happened, right? Within a few months, Leno went ahead of Letterman and Letterman's ratings dropped to be well behind Leno's, and they would remain there, practically forever. (Very rarely, Letterman would win a week when he had on a big guest and Leno had on repeats.)

It was incredible, how Limbaugh had absolutely nailed that. I was really shocked, and I've always remembered Limbaugh's cynical prescience on that point.

One thing that helped the Limbaugh Prediction come to be: Letterman's disastrous Oscar hosting gig. That's when Letterman had the biggest audience of his life... and cemented the idea that he was Comedy For Other People.

Once Letterman had been humbled by that -- and no longer appeared to be the Hot New Thing -- people started watching Leno.

And he was terrible on the Oscars, even for someone who was still then a fan.

One of the types of comedy Letterman has long been far too enamored with is Time-Wasting Anti-Comedy. In the early days of his show, Letterman got a lot of laughs by doing pointless, time-wasting (and sometimes budget-wasting) stunts.

The best of these were things like Throwing Objects Off a Fifth Floor Roof, or throwing himself, in a suit of Velcro, at a Velcro wall to see if he would stick. (He did, in fact. Science!)

The worst of these was Letterman just wasting time, having pointless chats with Schaeffer (Letterman would probably claim the pointlessness *was* the point, or some stupid meta-comedy conceit like that), or, as Norm MacDonald wickedly parodied him, just repeating the same word over and over, believing that if he said "Ehhhh.... Got some gum?" enough times, it would become funny.

Letterman got away with this in his early days because the show's conceit was that the whole thing was an elaborate prank on the network, that they had no business being on TV, and that they were wasting the network's time and money by staging this deliberately stupid, pointless show.

It made you think -- if you were young, and fan -- like you were in on the joke, and that you were right there alongside Dave wasting precious Network Minutes and Dollars for this lame thing.

Here's what the Oscars did, though, at least for me: Letterman's time-wasting nonsense -- his "Oprah... Uma" introductions (between Winfrey and Thurman) that went on for two minutes and then was repeated later in the show -- finally made me see the light:

Letterman wasn't just wasting The Network's time with this sort of so-unfunny-it's-funny (but actually not) non-material.

He was wasting my time, too.

All long I thought I'd been in on the joke.

Suddenly, I realized: No, I was not in on the joke. I was in on one joke, the superficial one about vengeance against the network, but definitely not in on the deeper joke, the real joke.

The real joke is that while Letterman's show was gleefully slapdash, I was still a prisoner of it five nights a week, and voluntarily so.

The real truth was -- and perhaps Letterman intended us to understand this; and perhaps he should be praised for trying to make us understand this -- was that if you were watching TV, you were wasting your time.

Now I don't want to say that Letterman was never funny. He was -- at least I thought so. He was hugely funny.

But the thing is, all this media praise being directed at Letterman...? All the bits people are talking about -- the Top Ten, Stupid Human Tricks, Throwing Objects Off a Five Story Building, the Velcro Suit, the monstrously funny bits with Chris Elliot --

All of these were from the show's first five or six years of existence.

He's been coasting on his past glories ever since. Shit, the Top Ten hasn't been funny in twenty years. I do not know why they bother doing it still, except that it's a habit and it wastes three minutes of network time.

I can think of one funny gag Letterman has done "lately," and by "lately," I mean like sixteen years ago. That's when he had some odd-looking guy go around saying rude things to people; Letterman would tell him the rude thing to say through his earpiece, and the guy would say the rude thing.

That bit was funny. It was also reminiscent of the Jerky Boys and the Man Show Boy.

And like I say, that was sixteen years ago.

So what has he done, really, for twenty four years?

I'm not just not a fan of Letterman anymore; I actively dislike him. He used to seem amusingly cranky, but over the years, I saw this more as being truly sour, bitter, self-pitying, smug, and contemptuous.

I can't tell you how much it put me off when he was still bitter about not getting the NBC gig, still doing not-funny "jokes" (which were not jokes, but real barbs) about it on his CBS show, two years after it all happened.

Dude, you're getting paid $15 million a year. Get over it, or at least do what the rest of us do with Our Shit, which is hide it so that people don't have to see us airing Our Shit all the time.

And then, of course, the cheating, the intern, the out of wedlock child, the weird marriage (which he all but openly confessed on camera he wasn't that into, as if I, or anyone else, needed to know that), and more and more overt (and contemptuous) expressions of his bitter-hearted leftism.

As Letterman grew older, he decided that there was more to him than just the wiseacre who could crack snide about Hormel hams.

There had to be, right?

And especially after the heart surgery, he felt both freed and yet obligated to share The Real Dave with the world.

Well, I never really wanted to know The Real Dave. Even back when I was a raving fanboy, I was savvy enough to guess that The Real Dave was as prickly a dick as he pretended to be on TV.

And he was. And now I got to hear about his politics, and his open contempt for anyone who thought like me, twice a month.

Although, increasingly, then entirely, I only heard about this contempt second-hand, from sources like Newsbusters, because I had stopped watching him.

Letterman was seriously funny for five or six years. No one who is funny can deny he was funny.

But after that initial burst of creativity -- a burst which owed a great deal to off-kilter comedic minds like that of his onetime girlfriend Merrill Markoe, or the gifted, bizarre homonculous Chris Elliott -- he stopped trying to be fresh and new and just started putting in the hours for a paycheck.

The man has been phoning it in for at least twenty years.

Yeah, he got off to a great start. But then he did nothing for twenty years.

Tonight, Dave Letterman retires.

But he quit a long time ago.



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posted by Ace at 07:57 PM

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