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Good Night, and Good Luck


"Nobody knows what the future holds
And it's bad enough just getting old
Live my life in self-defense
You know I love the past cuz I hate suspense"
                                                      Diane Young by Vampire Weekend


Much has been written about the retirement of David Letterman from late-night television. I paused before adding to the pile of tributes/good riddance write-ups cluttering the Internet of late. In the end, this is more of a personal moment for me than initially anticipated, with a reach far beyond the talk show host, himself.

In 1992, Johnny Carson ended his 30-year-run as the king of late-night, departing The Tonight Show for the greener pastures of retirement. Jay Leno took over, and things were never the same. I enjoyed Johnny. He came across as warm, amiable, like a nice grandfather. Someone a couple of generations removed, yet still fun to watch.

I never warmed to Leno and his brand of humor. Letterman was always my cup of preferred tea. When he didn't get The Tonight Show gig in '92, and started his Late Show on CBS in 1993, I gladly watched him instead of Jay. The dovetailing of the CBS show airing earlier, plus Dave getting older, meant that it was a more subdued affair than his NBC Late Night show, but that was alright.

On May 21st, 1992, Johnny's penultimate show, Bette Midler sang to him, and I remember sitting in sophomore English class the next day as my peers discussed what a big deal it was that he was leaving, how it was the end of an era. Television viewership was different then. Do high school students still watch late-night talk shows? Do they care about David Letterman retiring?

This is what I was getting at earlier in reference to Dave's exit from television reaching far beyond just the man. Our lives tend to coincide with those of others. Sometimes we refer to this as an 'era,' while other times it's simply familiarity or the lack of change. And then, well, things do change.

I took note when Johnny Carson retired because it was known to be a big deal. I'm taking note of David Letterman retiring because, for one, I've always enjoyed him humor, but mainly because he's been a prominent late-night host for 33 of my 39 years. The older we get, the less we seem to like for things to change. We don't deal with it as well.

David Letterman is retired now. That's a change. It's a long-time familiarity that has ended. In the grand scheme of things, it's small potatoes. Overall, it's another sign I'm getting old. Perhaps that's the real issue?


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