As I said on Twitter on the day of his last show, every joke I’ve told since I was nine-years-old has been influenced by David Letterman. Just ask my wife Kate, parents or every teacher or boss I ever had, they can all say that for better-or-worse that’s all too true.
In the summer of 1993, I was just shy of turning 10-years-old, when David Letterman jumped ship from NBC to CBS to host the Late Show, and it was a revelation right from the start. No one will ever do more for sarcastic humour, and as someone just finding his own voice for telling jokes, the timing was almost perfect.
The previous Christmas, my brother Matthew and I received a VCR of our very own, and it quickly was pressed into duty recording the Late Show throughout the week. On SLP of course, so that I could fit the entire week onto one tape.
Over the years I would come to know my cuts of meat as well as I did my current events. I felt like I knew Biff Henderson, Ruper Jee and Paul Shaffer personally. Even today, anytime I answer a letter from a reader, a small part of me can’t help but to think of the CBS mailbag. As of yet, my dogs - Beadie and Bodie - can’t do any Stupid Pet Tricks, but we keep trying.
It wasn’t just me, it seemed like for a time in the mid-1990s, David Letterman was everywhere, and most of us at Prince Albert Public School knew all of the words to all of the routines. Some of this was probably due to the fact that most still had antenna TV, and cable at the time wasn’t bloated with hundreds of channels, so it was easier to have these sort of shared viewing experiences.
When I got to high school, the humour came with me, and throughout Grade 9, Mike Wiseman, Mike LeFort and myself developed a sort of Letterman Appreciation Society, with his unique brand of dry humour permeating every interaction we had with our fellow students. To the surprise of absolutely no one, there were no girlfriends present in the Society,
What made the show matter to us then, and continued right up to the very end was that it wasn’t for everyone. It felt like if you were a fan, you were almost like a member of some secret club that was more in on the joke than others. Throughout his career, he circumvented the typical late-night TV formula. Instead of gushing over every guest that stopped by, he would belittle those that seemed deserving of the scorn, from Paris Hilton and Spencer Pratt to Bill O’Reilly and John McCain.
It wasn’t all funny however, and Dave always seemed to have a knack for knowing what to say when the situation called for it. From his eloquent thoughts post-9/11 or when he returned from heart surgery and opened up about the fear he felt going through that ordeal. The moments didn’t happen often, which only made them that much more special.
My VHS tapes are long gone now, but the jokes are never too far away from my mind, they’ve become too ingrained on who I am. And I’m looking forward to a day when I can play ‘will it float’ with my daughter Abbileen, and explain just what a VCR was.