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I guess I just like liking things

lettermanLast week David Letterman announced his eventual retirement, some time in 2015. It was bound to happen, and given his heart troubles it’s actually a bit surprising it didn’t happen sooner. Though I haven’t watched The Late Show (or any other late night talk show) for a long time, back when I was watching, I was always watching Letterman. He used to be the goofy one, the against-type one, and I was always on board for a good game of “What About That Guy?” or “Will It Float?” These days, I figure if there’s an extra good clip it’ll show up on YouTube and I’ll hear a lot about it, so it doesn’t make sense to watch every night. Moving to Indiana 14 years ago played a hand in this, too, as Letterman doesn’t come on until 11:35 here. Back in Wisconsin it was the much more manageable 10:35.

These are some of my favorite memories from watching Dave over the years. They’re numbered but aren’t in any particular order, and you might as well add “I don’t remember what year this happened” to all of them, because I don’t:

10. Album Warning Labels – I still remember two warning labels from it: “Proceeds from the sale of this album go towards the ongoing fight against foo” on a Foo Fighters album and “Actually, just about as good as Ezra” on a Better Than Ezra album. It’s probably been 20 or more years since that skit aired and I still remember those two jokes.

9. Meatball atop the Christmas tree – I always wondered if the same meatball stayed up there the whole time, even though there’s no way, right? Meat would spoil pretty quickly under those hot lights.

8. Stupid pet tricks – So many great ones over the years. The animal videos were always my favorites on America’s Funniest Home Videos, too.

7. Paul Shaffer – It’s hard to imagine Paul not smiling, and it’s even harder to imagine Dave without Paul. They’re an unlikely pair, for sure, but Paul’s sense of whimsy and his unabashed love of music offset Dave’s general crankiness.

6. Late Night ’87! – The first time I ever saw Dave’s show they were using that phrase as a fancy graphic onscreen, as a joke about how everything was going to be awesome in the new year, with the joke being that the only thing different was going to be the year.

5. Bill Cosby on a ladder shaking hands with the people on the balcony – I don’t even know why. I think Bill just wanted to interact with the group who were most likely to be neglected. Somebody dug up a ladder and he climbed up it and shook hands with a bunch of people in the balcony.

4. Larry “Bud” Melman, Rupert Jee, Mujibur & Sirajul – And a whole bunch of other regulars.

3. Dave’s mom – She just seemed so nice!  She even released a cook book, and I remember her saying that “fried bologna” was one of Dave’s favorites as a kid. I’ve never had it, but it sounds weird.

2. Border collies herding sheep down the aisle and out into a taxi – What a strange little TV moment, but so cool at the same time. I’d never seen how border collies did their work, much less down an aisle in a TV studio.

1. “Oprah, Uma. Uma, Oprah.” – I remember after Dave hosted the Oscars in 1995 that people were all bent out of shape and I couldn’t understand it.  They were one of my favorite Oscars ever, and the two bits I remember the most are him introducing Oprah and Uma to each other and the video of a bunch of stars (Tom Hanks! Madonna! Michael Keaton! Alec Baldwin! Steve Martin!) auditioning for Cabin Boy using Dave’s “Hey, you wanna buy a monkey?” line from it.


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