I will not be shedding tears or watching while biting my lower lip as David Letterman, Late Night Fick and ethics corrupter, finally leaves the pop culture scene, one hopes forever. The testimonials and accolades in Letterman’s case are nauseating; CNN spent almost 20 minutes singing his praises this morning. Every other late night talk show icon—Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno—managed to finish their tenures without making American society meaner, more divided, and less ethical in the process. Not Dave. He rode his stardom and the initially refreshing irreverent comic instincts that created it to test the limits of the King’s Pass, doing and saying things that would have gotten less lucrative performers fired or suspended. In the process he corrupted his network, his audience and his nation’s culture.
The fact that Letterman is a misanthropic, bitter, angry man should not be a surprise, for almost all the great comics are, and it has ever been thus. “Milton was a miserable bastard. We all are,” Sid Caesar once said to a shocked Larry King as he was trying to coax out some kind words about Milton Berle, who had just died. Sid was undeniably right, but most comic manage to keep their vile behavior out of the spotlight until someone in his inner circle cashes in with a tell-all book. Not Letterman. He cheated on his live-in girlfriend with his current wife, then had a son with his mistress six years before he deigned to marry her. Once whimsical, he became a broadcast bully, neatly choosing victims whom he knew he could abuse without his liberal audience—a bit older and less vulgar than Bill Maher’s—holding him to standards of decency.
In 2009, Letterman noted that Sarah Palin attended a Yankees game during a recent trip to New York City. First Letterman referred to Palin, then Alaska’s governor, as having the style of a “slutty flight attendant,” then said, “One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game…during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.” The daughter accompanying Palin was Willow Palin, then 14-years-old. Sarah Palin, among others, sharply criticized the late night host’s choice of targets. The next night, Letterman unconvincingly claimed that he was really attacking Bristol, Palin’s older daughter.
Oh, well that’s OK, then. If he had made a similar joke about Chelsea Clinton, CBS would have suspended Letterman so fast he wouldn’t have had time to say bye-bye to Paul Shaffer. It wasn’t until later, after NOW weighed in on the inappropriateness of Letterman’s joke, that he finally apologized to all involved. See, the National Organization for Women matter–they’re not conservatives. Or Republicans.
NOW was strangely quiet, however, when it was revealed later that year that the recently-married Dave was a serial sexual harasser and running his show and production company like his own personal harem. Among his conquests was Holly Hester, who announced that she and Letterman had engaged in a year-long “secret” affair in the early 1990s while she was his intern and a student at New York University. The official explanation for why no discipline of Letterman was forthcoming was, believe it or not, that Worldwide Pants, Dave’s appropriately-named production company, had no policies forbidding superiors from boinking their staff members, who depended on them for their career advancement and livelihood. Gee, I wonder why?
The CBS 2008 Business Conduct Statement, however, stated that “If a consenting romantic or sexual relationship between a supervisor and a direct or indirect subordinate should develop, CBS requires the supervisor to disclose this information to his or her Company’s Human Resources Department.” Never mind, that wasn’t intended to apply to stars, or at least David Letterman.
His audience didn’t care, and that’s the new standard for what celebrities, elected officials and journalists can get away with—not whether their conduct is wrong, corrupt or even illegal. That’s how these people corrupt our values. They make us choose between their talents and their rotten values Next thing you know, those values don’t seem so rotten any more.
Dave sucked up to his knee-jerk Democratic audience by spewing uninformed, Angry Left talking points. They weren’t funny, they weren’t fair, they weren’t based on facts, and they were inevitably delivered in the snotty “Everyone who doesn’t agree is the scum of the earth” tone of a college sophomore. He championed the “moral authority” of Cindy Sheehan. He said,
- “My feeling about Cheney—and also Bush, but especially Cheney—is that he just couldn’t care less about Americans. And the same is true of George Bush. And all they really want to do is somehow kiss up to the oil people so they can get some great annuity when they’re out of office.”
- That the Iraq War was “all about oil.”
- “Osama bin Laden finally is gunned down by Barack Obama, displaying great courage and great intelligence. What more do you want to lead your country than that kind of courage and that kind of intelligence?” (Let me introduce you to Sy Hersh, Dave…)
- “What would be so wrong with…leaving the public sector alone, and reducing tax benefits for the wealthy and large corporations? Why couldn’t you make up your money that way?…You look at these people in Wisconsin…Why don’t we just raise the taxes and let these folks have their collective bargaining, have their union representation and go back to their jobs?”
To say that these comments (and the others he spat out almost nightly in recent years) show a lack of sophistication and a simple-minded grasp of the issues, not to mention a toxic bias, isn’t doing Dave’s lack of taste and professionalism justice. He’s not qualified to use his time on TV to spread civic ignorance like that, and it wasn’t what he was being paid for. His job was to be funny. How is that funny? It’s isn’t funny, and it isn’t responsible. It just added to the demonizing of conservatives positions, partyism and hateful discourse that has poisoned the culture.
David Letterman is leaving the scene having made society worse than it would have been without him. That’s too high a price to pay for a monkey cam, some funny lists and stupid pet tricks.
28 thoughts on “This Is David Letterman’s Final Week On CBS. Good.”
Letterman always struck me as a bizarre, angry Orville Redenbacher, the worst the mid-west has to offer. John Wooden’s evil twin, a walking talking American Gothic. Very strange. Bitter that everyone else isn’t as smart as he is, I guess? And, as you point out, unwatchable for years now. And adios Paul, Mr. Obsequious.
Bwahahahaha! Angry Orville Redenbacher! And his lists were hit or miss. Some were VERY funny, others were just like, “Huh?” There’s a reason my evening ends with Chicago Fire or Chicago PD.
There’s one great thing about Letterman, though. He is not Jimmy Kimmel.
Agreed. I will give him that.
Agreed on all points, Jack. My chief concern is that his successor will be worse, although that is hard to imagine.
They mentioned Jack Paar who I really enjoyed. Paar had a talent for being inquisitive during interviews and presented himself as, at times, a learner – he was simply part of the audience and a conduit.
As a youngster we would often go to NYC and a favorite stop was The Little Theater and “Who Do You Trust” with Carson. Carson would do the audience warmup and would put on quite a show. A gifted quick wit and talented magician.
Letterman can be entertaining, but the politics seep in – and they seem quite slanted. Carson was an equal opportunity basher and Letterman simply is not. Long ago I left Letterman and the rest of the nighttime crowd.
Dave was like a ripe apple, delicious at first, but he was exposed to the limelight too long.- and he became rotten to the core. Full of himself, full of arrogance, self-righteousness and dumb wit. At times you could still see the old Dave but then Dave actually did get old, predictable and boring.
Fair assessment, I think.
Letterman is, I think, a symptom, rather than the disease. Late night TV has, for a long time been a bastion of liberal, not to say socialist dufi (?) (plural of ‘dufus’).
Isn’t the plural of “dufus” “dufii?”
Hahahahahaha. Could’n’t resist.
Bad boy. Bad, bad boy!!!
Thank you! Wasn’t sure how to spell it.
I have not watched late night tv since Jack Parr left. It seems I have not missed much. Now if we can get rid of “reality”, “housewives” and above all any programming that allows “Kardashians” on the airwaves
we could move toward a more human sense of entertainment,
My wife informs me there is an app that is a Kardashian blocker, blocks anything about the Kardashians from appearing on your computer. Evidently a real thing, not an ad on The Onion.
And that poor sucker Bob Kardashian didn’t seem like that bad a guy. Awful clients and annoying co-counsel, but he seemed fairly decent. Must be spinning in his grave.
I thought he was mean and sophomoric back when I was a sophomore many years ago. When the sexcapades came to light, I wasn’t surprised. I’m glad it’s the end of that era.
I admit I like the Tonight Show when they don’t get too juvenile and fawning, the duet with Billy Joel was great. But most nights I watch Perry Mason or something educational. (never reality)
Jack is right on the money with this post. I don’t understand the accolades, though. Why would CNN run a 20 minute piece on a retiring talk show host? That makes no sense to me at all. In the grand scheme of things, Letterman is just not that important. Did they (CNN) do a send-off for B.B. King? I don’t recall seeing one but I may have missed it.
I haven’t watched Letterman for a long time, for the same reasons I haven’t watched Saturday Night Live – they haven’t been funny for a very, very long time.
I remember wondering why my parents were horrified when Letterman allowed Andy Kaufman and some wrestler fight it out (stageD or faked, who cares?) on his show. Here is a link: https://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play;_ylt=A0LEVr9pT1pV1XEAaAInnIlQ;_ylu=X3oDMTByMjB0aG5zBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw–?p=letterman+kaufman+fight&back=https%3A%2F%2Fsearch.yahoo.com%2Fyhs%2Fsearch%3Fp%3Dletterman%2Bkaufman%2Bfight%26ei%3DUTF-8%26hsimp%3Dyhs-001%26hspart%3Dmozilla&fr=%26fr%3Dyhs-mozilla-001&turl=http%3A%2F%2Fts2.mm.bing.net%2Fth%3Fid%3DWN.DlrJ5zt10fr2aMM6AXMhxg%26pid%3D15.1&rurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Dkv73yzYuE_M&tit=Jerry+Lawler+slaps+Andy+Kaufman+on+David+Letterman+Show&l=1%3A15&vid=eb11003ac47101bd09670d860686b7f9&sigr=11bmo0utr&sigb=133kdr8tc&sigt=11na4o64e&sigi=11vqh225u&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-001
Now, I get it. I am not sad to see him go.
The Times says that he molded the soul of Gen X. That’s one way of putting it.
… and they doubtless considered that a great thing for all involved. Ugh.
I have a younger friend whose every public mannerism is modeled on Letterman’s demeanor. He even admits it. I keep my distance, he’s very jabby until he puts down the Letterman guise in private.
But again, Letterman is a very distinct form of typical mid-westerner.
Insecure but superior.
Well, that’s depressing.
I never liked Letterman. It wasn’t just his obvious political bent, either. He had this air of superiority about him that just frosted you after a while. He was cold and humorless by nature; his on-screen “humor” being so apparently forced. Even so, it was a little shocking to see all his personal shortcomings listed. You tend to get the impression that he and Bill Clinton were cousins with the same genetic defect.
Except Clinton is really smart, and not just a smart-ass. The piece I read yesterday was praising DL for his sarcastic, dismissive, “everything is bull” sensibility. That’s just arrogance and condescension as comedy, and is essentially hypocritical: if a late night talkshow is so stupid, why are we supposed to respect you for running one? Letterman pretended to be superior without a single marker to indicate superiority….just contempt. This article even excused Letterman’s Academy Award fiasco, which just exposed him for the true jerk he is. Sure, Hollywood is silly, but it was Hollywood’s event, and if Letterman was going to agree to host it, he was obligated not to go there and piss on everything, ruining the evening. “He showed them!” is not the proper response. “He showed them that he’s a small, petty, mean-spirited creep” is.
I can’t add much to that, Jack. Fortunately, I didn’t have to endure his Academy Awards appearance. I haven’t watched that offense on human nature since the Snow White singalong!
Hmmm…who was it that, back in October 2011, declared David Letterman an Ethics Hero?
Back then, you said, “David Letterman has provided a high-profile model of courage and integrity for all the other supposed champions of free speech and American freedoms who collapse into quivering obedience when terrorists demand their respect and silence….He is an Ethics Hero, and an important one.”
And this was after, and with full knowledge of, his sex scandal. Comments?
Explained this many times, but reiteration can be useful, as Eugene O’Neill proved: The Ethics Dunce and Ethics Hero designations are almost always based on one incident, except for the Emeritus category.
Letterman was honored here for refusing to apologize or retract a joke about the death of an Islamic terrorist after Muslim thugs called for Letterman’s death. In this narrow area, he showed more courage and integrity than the New York Tines, Washington Post, Comedy Central, Sony and all the others in the news media and show business who have cringed in fear when doing their jobs and engaging in the exercise of human rights prompted threats by foreign thugs.
Blind squirrel, blind pig, stopped clock, pick your cliche. One right choice, made more impressive because of the relative failure of others, does not a decent human being make. It is important for me to highlight exemplary conduct in such cases, however. Bill Clinton has been an Ethics Hero; so has Newt Gingrich, Barack Obama, Rand Paul and many others whose collective ethical failings and breaches would pollute Lake Meade. Now, if Dave had real integrity, rather than exclusively slander Republican figures in his unfunny commentary he would have chided President Obama for insisting that Islamic terrorists weren’t Islamic.
Rare is the unethical creep who is in the public eye for decades whose every move is revolting. I’ve said nice things about Bill Cosby, too, and he’s done a lot of good in a specific realm. I think a general, media-wide tribute to Cos, however, rapist that he is, would be irresponsible. That’s also what I said about Dave. There’s no inconsistency here.
Agree completely; reiteration is indeed useful.
I might add that few human beings are purely one-dimensional. This strikes me as a particularly useful distinction in the realm of ethics.
I’d go further and say that NO human being is one dimensional, and all of us have the capability to surprise ourselves and others.