Late Night with David Letterman turns 40 on February 1st.
A look at some of the quirks of that show that made it great. The 5 Story Tower. The Hydraulic Press. Monkey-Cam. Messing with the reruns. The Top 10 Lists!
Uncorrected transcript below
From the basement where you’re in a groove recording David Letterman, episodes of your podcast. And then your wife comes home and starts doing laundry and throws off your flow. It’s daily comedy news. Hi, I’m Johnny Mac, and on Saturdays and January , I am talking about late night with David Letterman, not talking about that.
Imposter, CBS version, not talking about the Netflix thing late night with David Letterman turns 40 on February 1st.
Vulture rights from the very first seconds of that very first episode of late night with David Letterman, we are reminded just how different and daring late night was. The episode opens with Larry bud. Melman.
Doing sort of an Alfred Hitchcock impression saying we’re about to unfold a show featuring David Letterman. Science who sought to create a show after his own image without reckoning upon God. It’s one of the strangest tails ever told
the New York times wrote back then the programs overall mix often strains for the unpredic. The post Melman opening features a group of rainbow grill showgirl dancers in ridiculous peacock, feather, head dresses, Letterman emerges gap, tooth, and bemused.
Then miraculously, everything essential is already in evidence rights, vulture the DNA of the show, clearly discernible the mannerisms, the intonations, the gratuitous shots at his corporate overlords, the unmistakable undertone of cantankerous sadness that suggests he might give up the cue cards and stop off the stage at any time.
The first guest is bill Murray, but the second guest is Don Herbert, AKA Mr. Wizard in what would become a trademark Letterman bit, one that both valorizes and sanitizes, the troupes of classic broadcasting, some highfalutin language, their vulture Letterman is the man who brought pet tricks back to TV and explicitly labeled them a stupid pet tricks.
This is not just Letterman announcing to the world that has got a fresh take on TV. It’s Letterman announcing that his fresh take on TV will be informed above all by the fact that he simultaneously loves television and finds it. Ridiculous.
What’s surprising is how surprising the rest of the first show still feels. The Melvin opening is genuinely weird and startling the rec room. Can you believe they gave us a TV show to core hearkens to a time when actively undermining the artifice of TV still felt not just a reverent, but borderline seditious.
Letterman had the singular advantage of never having had to follow himself. Every TV comedian who’s come since has adds a follow on recommend with a Letterman who from his very first hour established himself even more than the sainted, Johnny Carson, as TV’s hardest ever act to follow
so that’s kind of a big comments Conan O’Brien I know Conan stumbled at first, but Conan definitely followed up Dave. Um,
how about the characters and sketches on late night with David Letterman, Chris Elliott in those early days, crushed it, that first character that broke out the guy who lived under the seats.
The character, like most of Elliot’s characters would do a simple bit and then it would fall apart. Something would go wrong. Letterman would deliver a real, a perceived slight. And then the guy under the seats would fly into a rage and he, or a dummy would invariably threaten to make Dave’s life a living hell, next Saturday, I’m going to do a deep dive on Chris Elliott. He was a vital piece of those early.
Small town news often presented on Mondays, let her in, would present a series of actual news items, advertisements and police blotter excerpts, which were shown to be unintentionally humorous
Letterman would proceed the segment by asking the audience to please wait for the humorous comment would consisted of him reciting a script followup to each. Um,
How about stupid pet tricks slash stupid human tricks? One of the few segments that crossed over from late nights, who the CBS imposter show
three pre selected participant. Each demonstrate an unusual town or stunt on the stage. A Letterman reminds us that this is not a competition. It is only an exhibition, please. No wagering
new topic because of the creativity of staff writers like Meryl, mark. Letterman’s NBC show in the first few years, especially had innovative segments and theme shows that were new and different from other talk shows. At the time some were visual gags on one early episode, everything was shown from Dave’s eye view with Marco and others coming at Dave to pitch ideas.
As he walked onto the stage, the audience was shown from Dave’s view during the monologue and the opening segments. I have posted that to the Facebook group page sometime in December. Scroll backwards.
And another show. The picture turned like a clock eventually being seen upside down halfway through.
There were segments where Letterman dressed in a suit of Velcro and stuck, thrown to a Velcro wall. How about a suit of chips dunked into a VAT of chip dip, a suit of rice Krispies doused with gallons of milk while he was lying in a huge bowl, a suit of Alka seltzer tablets got dunked in water.
I think I saw that. Steve Allen did, if not the same bit, a very similar bit. When I was watching CNN’s history of late night,
visual segments included things being crushed by a hydraulic press, which doesn’t sound funny. When I read it was like the funniest thing you’d ever seen. How about things dropped off a five story tower? That was actually my favorite segment of them all.
Things thrown off the five story tower, a bowling ball, a jello mold, a flaming bag of flour soaked in gasoline, a keg of nails, .
A frozen Turkey attached to a parachute and a roof clearing finale for the ages. The final dropping segment included a bag of peat Moss, a bowling ball on a trampoline and a lawn ornament finale. You won’t want to miss. Fun with the hydraulic press included Mr. Potato head and athletic supporter and a canned hand. how about squashing things with a steam roller, including bowling trophies, Paul Shaffer’s glasses, and that last bit of toothpaste out of a tube
or dropping a 3000 pound block from a crane onto various items, including a football helmet full of. Cases full of con caps or a lovely mannequin couple having dinner
Letterman’s desk featured a control panel where he could operate a bubble machine, radioactive steam or strange lighting. When he threw his pencils through the fake window scene behind him, a sound effect of breaking glass was always heard. Occasionally if sound effects, technician Howard Winnicki was slow and triggering the appropriate rate in glass sound effect.
Dave would mockingly chide him for the error, a robotic arm for a while deliver the top 10 list and for another week or so, a complicated series of tubes would produce a swirling coffee to eventually land in his cup at the desk. Late night monkey cam camera’s mounted on a chimpanzee’s back.
I was at a recording one time where that went sideways and the Chimp bit someone they did not air that. There was a quick edit on the Lou aired version, but I’m telling you I was there, it happened
roof cam, things like roof cam would show odd viewpoints on the set and its participants.
Custom made shows, allow the audience to vote on each part of the hour. What they wanted to see the resulting shows had guests talking in a high pitch voices. Like they had inhaled a helium.
Reruns we’re often scoffed at, by Letterman telling the audience not to waste their time, watching them sometimes the entire rerun would be dubbed into foreign language for rebroadcast. I remember I tuned in one night and Dave had been reversed by Merv Griffin. And I was like, I thought I was going crazy.
Like the rest of the episode was fine. And Merv Griffin is voicing Dave and I’m like, what is happening here?
Letterman once at a member of the audience house, the show and interview guests, while he left the studio, Letterman, hosted the show from his house while waiting for his cable TV to be installed.
Another episode was done from the production offices upstairs. As the cast claimed they were too tired to go downstairs to the studio.
And of course the top 10 lists. Here’s an example of a top 10 list. The top 10 excuses by the U S basketball team for their loss to Brazil at the pan American games. Number 10 had really heavy lunches. Number nine upset about Valerie Harper leaving Valerie show number eight
u S team often blade as many as two white guys at once. Number seven, overcome by mysterious sleepiness after barrage of blow darts from Brazilian bleachers. Number six, disturbed by pre-game discovery of Brent Musburger is shrinking hand in locker.
Number five, unnerved by hundreds of Hitler, clones doing waves in stands. Number four, constantly threw ball out of bounds. To stop shrinking of spider monkeys. Number three, that big liar, Fred MacMurray didn’t come through with the promise flavor.
That is so funny and number two, tired out from night before’s mixer with gymnastic sluts
and the number one, excuse for the U S basketball team for their loss to Brazil at the pan American games team motto, go for the silver. Not very inspiring.
The top 10 list. One of the few segments carried over from late night to the imposter CBS show. I don’t hate late show with Dave Letterman. It just wasn’t as cool. I always sum it up like this late night with David Letterman, he’s wearing sneakers, CBS Letterman. He’s wearing Armani suits and shoes. It’s that subtle difference?
Between 1230 and 1130. I like the 1235.
For a long time. The top 10 lists were said to have been written in a so-called home office. There were various home offices. Mine is the first. I always remember the home office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Some of the other home offices were in Sioux city, Iowa grand rapids, Michigan, and wahoo, Nebraska. That part was eventually dropped from the bit.
Late night with David Letterman. Turns 40 on February. First do another episode next Saturday about this. We’ll talk about Chris Elliott, normal episodes tomorrow. Follow this show on apple podcast, Google podcast, Spotify, wherever you get your shows a see you tomorrow.
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