We are just a week away now from David Letterman's final 'late show airing on CBS. The past two or more decades have seen some of the biggest icons in late night sign off. From Johnny Carson in 1992 to Jay Leno (twice) and now David Letterman is next to exit stage left.
David Letterman's 'Late Show had notable guests of Barack Obama, Will Ferrell, Howard Stern, Don Rickles, just to name a few. He stilll has Adam Sandler, Bill Clinton, Julia Roberts, and George Clooney with many many more as he wraps up his show at CBS.
Stephen Colbert has been named the replacement at CBS.
he 80's and 90's without a doubt had the best talent in comedy that will likely never be witnessed again. Johnny Carson is in my opinion the best to ever do late night. The connection he had with his audience was just remarkable, the way he made his audience feel brought so much joy to so many before they drifted off to sleep and he was all anybody could talk about the next day. His comedic genus to this day is often immitated, but never will be duplicated. He had a finger on every current topic that was occuring. From the time of his show until the near end to his passing his witt never slipped away from brilliance. Letterman recently revealed that close to the passing of Johnny Carson, Carson sent in some jokes to Letterman. Letterman would then se those jokes in a monologue which at the end of the monologue revealed that those jokes he had just told were sent in by Johnny Carson himself. Which proves that Letterman also had much class and Carson still had it well after his show went off the air. Johnny Carson's 'Tonight Show was a staple in comedy. If you wanted to make it in comedy you had to appear on Carson's 'Tonight Show and get the wave over from Johnny which meant he liked you. In the 80's and 90's these comics were the A list of lists, Jerry Seinfield, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Johnny Carson, Howard Stern, Richard Pryor... The list goes on and on and on.
Letterman believed he was next in line to succeed Carson as host of the 'Tonight Show. NBC instead went with Jay Leno. Furious Letterman bolted for CBS where he would go into direct competition with Leno and NBC for a 20 year battle for supremicay. Leno kept the tradition of the 'Tonight Show going and kept it number 1 in the ratings for roughly 18 years before NBC started the infamous 'late night wars. NBC moved Conan 'O Brien up to host the 'Tonight Show as Leno moved to an experiment in a prime time slot at 10E/9CT. The move proved to be a disaster. Conan let the 'Tonight Show fall out of first place for the fisrt time in as man decades. Letterman for the first time was top of the ratings, but that time was short lived. Ultimately NBC lost Conan who left very bitter as he wnt off to TBS. Leno was placed nack as host of the 'Tonight Show for the next four years where he once again placed NBC number 1 in the ratings and was stay number 1 until he was once again forced out, pushed to the curve by NBC this time for the younger appealing upcoming jewel Jimmy Fallon. In my opinion NBC should have done Leno like CBS is doing with Letterman which is treat him with respect, thanks, and let him go out on his own terms. Leno is a better man than me as I would have not gone away so quietly. I would have gone to another network and directly competed against Fallon, but he took the role of the bigger man and walked away. It helped that he was very gracious with the transition to Fallon. They are friends after all so that helped smooth things over for the most pasrt. NBC was concerned about not getting the younger audiences for advertisers and felt they had to make the move. To Fallon's credit he has kept the 'Tonight Show on top.
Leno and Letterman had a feud for many years but they appear to have let bygones be bygones. Letterman too has had some memorable moments as he appealed to an audience and was classy from the beginning to the end of the run on television. Those that hated Leno were Letterman fans becuase many thought Leno was sleezy and stole Letterman's chance to host the 'Tonight Show. Letterman poved to make his show a staple of his own. He succeeded in being in direct competition with NBC and Leno. He also is known for his classic skit known as 'the top ten list. Pop culture has taken variations of his top ten list in other platforms which shows a high since of appreciation and respect. Letterman had some hilarious outakes through the years. The same could be said for Leno. CBS honored Letterman with a 90 minute minute special which showd his lighter side and demonstrated just how good he really was when he was in his prime and at the top of his game.
One thing that all the icons of late night television had was that they were edgy, dynamic, and believed they were the best, they were going to be the best, and they were going to beat the other comic. Today's late night hosts have no since of competiition, no urgancy, and no edge. It is bro comedy where everyone is nice and they all get along. No feuds, and not as much authenticity. The chip on the shoulder hosts exits with Letterman's departure.
It is now a very bare late night scene from my perspective. The new guys just do not appeal to me. So long traditional late night shows.