So the question arises- why did I decide to write about Jon and Stephen instead of Dave?
Many of the reasons are petty. Jon and Stephen had an existing community on Daily Kos where I could coin the mojo and rack up the comment count (which despite years of tinkering are still your surest defense against the O-bots, A–holes, and Trolls that populate the place. I never once ran out of mojo, all my bans were Administrative.) and, at least initially, I didn’t have the confidence as a writer to just up and invent my own franchises.
Another petty reason is laziness. Even today with a hat full of ideas and all the vanity in the world I find that there are just so many hours in a day, and a finite amount of energy to fill it. If you’re going to cover the Late Show how do you justify not including The Late, Late Show which is often funnier and even more inventive? Pretty soon it’s not dark anymore and the birdies are singing and I hate that, especially when I have a morning shift of things to write which even today happens more frequently than I might wish and at some points left me without sleep for days except for brief naps which are no substitute.
Also 5 days a week, not 4.
Additionally I’m just really not that interested in celebrity gossip and the constant whoring of their new projects. You may object and say Jon and Stephen do it too and you are quite correct. It’s my least favorite part of the program. With a network talk show it is the program and the monologues and bits are simply there to keep you awake long enough that you can drift off to dreamland with the constant murmuring of buy, buy, buy sleep conditioning you until your alarm goes off and your screen is filled with people who are waaay too perky talking to the same celebrities you saw the night before, only packaged as news with recipes, weather, and ‘human’ interest, along with the one or two tragedies that are deemed worthy by ‘suits’ with the attention span of a gnat, a corporatist agenda, a thin Rolodex of the sluttiest self promoting attention hounds in D.C., and a remote crew who ‘better get some god damn pictures on the air, these things cost a lot of money you know’.
The television business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.
Oh, how do they do it? Do they simply stay up partying? Well, some do, but mostly they pre-tape the late night stuff.
And now we come to my substantive criticism.
It’s been argued that Dave has a liberal bias and not only by Faux Noise types, many people who call themselves ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ think that too. Certainly, as I mentioned in Part One, Jay Leno’s style of humor appeals to the conservative type. It is safe and predictable and designed to make you feel superior because of it’s predictability. That which is not conservative is liberal Q.E.D..
But the thing is, late night talk is neither conservative nor liberal. I’m sure Jay would point to the many times he gave the Republicans a zinger, just as Dave would the Democrats. Here for instance is Politico’s list of Dave’s most memorable political guests.
The primary purpose of these shows isn’t even comedy, let alone political. It is to push product. They are hour long infomercials and you don’t put cash in the drawer by pissing off your audience.
So you get what Jon Stewart’s audience derisively calls being fair and balanced. You don’t push hard because your booker won’t let you. Do you really want to tear up Bill Cosby’s card by asking about the rapes? Do you want to get booted from the locker room by asking Brady about his balls (sorry, been saving that one)? The business that we call show says no. As funny and entertaining as David Letterman is, what he represents is the mainstream that has been so warped by 55 years of Military Industrial Imperialism and 40 years of Neo-Liberal Economics that they wouldn’t know a liberal idea if it bit them in the ass. This is why I call myself an Anarcho-Syndicalist and not a Liberal, even though my political thinking is thoroughly grounded by my primary education in American History and Civics. My character is static.
This is of course my greatest disappointment about Stephen Colbert’s coming tenure on Late Show. By inhabiting the character of a right wing pundit he was able to expose the hypocrisy, moral bankruptcy, and intellectual incoherence of their positions. With out his ironic protection any criticism will have to be expressed more directly, with more danger to his career. Will he be brave enough? Brave or not the format mitigates against it. Late Night is not an hour long Colbert Report, you get 10 to 15 minutes of standup, a bit, 2 or 3 guests, and a musical guest. Now hopefully Stephen will be able to bring on the kind of thought provoking and knowledgeable ones he had on The Report, at least for the 2nd one, there’s certain to be a lot of pressure from the Sea World class of advertisers to avoid controversy entirely.
Finally, will I miss Dave? Of course I will. I was a Letterman fan long before it was cool and while my viewing habits have been inconstant, ratings are not the reason he’s retiring.
It was comforting to know that in some little corner of TVLand Dave was out there, doing wacky things. That he was still able to pack a theater every night. That he would take it to the streets and didn’t exist in an air conditioned plastic bubble in the middle of the desert talking to air conditioned plastic bubble people about their air conditioned plastic bubble lives. I’ll miss Paul Schaeffer and Biff Henderson and Chris Elliott and Calvert DeForest.
Will I miss Dave? More than I hope you’ll ever know.
In attendence tonight-
- Wednesday, May 20th: Steve Martin, Payton Manning, Jim Carrey, Jerry Seinfeld, Tina Fey, Barbara Walters, Chris Rock, Alec Baldwin, Bill Murray, and Julia Louise Dreyfus
Some of whom will be involved in Dave’s last Top Ten List.
- Musical Guests- The Foo Fighters