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You know by now that David Letterman announced his retirement. And while he won’t be leaving the air for at least another year, I might as well post this now.

For obvious reasons (location) I haven’t watched Letterman for a long time, apart from a short period where one local station struck a deal to run The Late Show for about a year.

But I was a regular viewer of Late Night since it started on NBC. I already knew Letterman from his stand-up act and his guest host slots on The Tonight Show. But Late Night brought something new to the table. I liked the offbeat “we’ll try anything” humor, the World’s Most Dangerous Band (as they were known before they became the CBS Orchestra), and the now-famous rapport between Dave and Paul Shaffer.

Lots has already been written on his career and his legacy. I’d recommend this Rolling Stone piece from a few years ago, which sums it up nicely.

For myself, I’d highlight the following:

1. Despite the fact that he desperately wanted the Tonight Show gig, I’m glad he didn’t get it. I doubt he would have been able to take the chances he did, and it's always possible he wouldn’t have bothered. He might have succeeded Johnny Carson, but he would have always been known as Carson’s replacement, rather than his equal.

2. He championed Warren Zevon. Points for that.

3. He championed lots of cool music, actually – Late Night and then The Late Show tended to showcase new and upcoming bands, as well as obscure veteran bands, that The Tonight Show wouldn’t touch until The Late Show made it cool.

4. He handled scandal better than just about anyone else – what little there was that he had. When he was blackmailed for cheating on his fiancé and sleeping with some staffers, he went proactive with it and handled it with as much class as anyone could in that situation. Anyone else would have tried to cover it up, blame the women or milk the sympathy/victim card. Letterman went straight to the police, then confessed and apologized to everyone. And the blackmailer went to jail. It doesn’t excuse Dave’s actions, but you have to admire the way he handled it.

The same goes for his retirement announcement, as NPR has pointed out. No press conference, no drama, no tabloid gossip – he just said it while they were taping. It was a typical Letterman move.

5. There was also the Bill Hicks episode, where he not only restored a deleted routine, but also brought on Hicks’ mother to personally apologize to her. Who else would do that?

6. Bob Rooney Day (who knows why I remember this – but I do).

Well, this list could go on, so I’ll stop here. (I know I should do ten, but the secret is knowing when to stop.)

As for Stephen Colbert being named as his replacement … I confess I’m surprised, if only because Colbert has proven his hosting chops by playing a fake character. That said, it’s not like I have any better suggestions. (Though I would have suggested Team Coco, personally – or maybe Craig Ferguson, though the ultra-late slot seems to fit him better.)

It will be interesting to see how Colbert does by being himself. But I expect some people will be disappointed. His fans may expect him to continue with the overt Republican-bashing – I doubt Colbert is going to make that a centerpiece of The Late Show (and I doubt Les Moonves would let him).

Real conservatives are of course very sad about Colbert getting the job (and by “sad” I mean “outraged at liberal CBS for endorsing Colbert’s ultra-liberal agenda gawdammit”). But these are the same people who never forgave Letterman for that Willow Palin joke.

As you might expect, I find it odd that some people think a late-night talk show has to pass some kind of political objectivity litmus test. And even if we accept the premise that Dave and The Late Show were liberally biased (with the caveat conservative pundits tend to assume everyone on TV who isn't on Fox News is a flaming liberal Communist), I’m not sure who they’d accept as a reasonable, fair replacement anyway. Papa Bear? Rush Limbaugh? Victoria Jackson?

Well, why not? While we’re at it, Paul Shaffer’s replacement could be Ted Nugent.

Admit it. You’d watch that, if only for the train-wreck value.

Meanwhile, there’s the much more pressing and important issue: who will replace Colbert on The Colbert Report?

There’s a long list of candidates. I’d like to see Samantha Bee take a shot, personally. But as it’s meant to be a parody of conservative talk shows, she should dye her hair blonde. For verisimilitude. 

Dave has left the building,

This is dF


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