‘Thank You and Good Night’ — David Letterman Signs Off After 33 Years
Last night was the final episode of The Late Show With David Letterman. Unlike many televised goodbyes, it was not overly-sentimental, nor was it overly-congratulatory. Yet, watching it from home, it was hard not to feel both emotional as Letterman said goodbye and thankful for everything he has brought us over the years.
The final Late Show went long, by about 15 minutes. The majority of the show was filled mostly by Dave, doing what he does best: talking and making us laugh. There was a celebrity-filled Top Ten list that featured old friends like Bill Murray (making one last appearance) and Steve Martin. There was a new introduction with Dave and Barack Obama. But, mostly this was a quiet affair; one fitting the private and self-deprecating host. There was no sobbing, tearful goodbye, just one final “Thank you and good night” as The Foo Fighters, Letterman’s favorite band, played his favorite song over a montage of some of the show’s best moments.
Letterman received an extended standing ovation during his entrance and it seemed to almost take even Letterman by surprise. During a slightly extended monologue he made some old school Letterman cracks (“It’s beginning to look like I’m not going to get the Tonight Show.”) before segueing to a show that was mostly made up of some classic bits from years past. One of the best, was Dave working the drive-thru at a Taco Bell. In another montage, he was talking to a bunch of young kids. Letterman famously didn’t have much interest in remote segments in his later years, but this is a reminder that when in his prime, he was at his best when interacting with regular people.
The past year or so since Letterman announced his departure was the best he’s been as a host in years. He was looser, funnier and quicker. Ironic that as soon as he came to peace with his job, it was time to walk away.
At the end of the show, he revealed that his wife Regina, was in that audience with their son, Harry. (Hilariously, Letterman had to say hello to Harry’s friend that he brought along, “Tommy Ribato”, who maybe got the biggest applause of the night.) In all the years of watching Letterman, it was the happiest he ever looked. So much of that show is pretending to be interested in the conversations of actors selling their movies and TV shows, but at that moment, looking out at his wife and son, you caught a glimpse of the real guy.
It wasn’t a particularly heartfelt episode, at least for the host. He continued his self-deprecating demeanor and even, at the end, when he mentions that fans will say to him that they’ve been watching him since he hosted NBC’s morning show, he says, “Have you thought about a complete psychological workup?” No one expected Letterman to suddenly lapse into sentimentality, though as we watched the episode play out, there was more than enough emotion. Letterman may have been the only one with dry eyes. Through good and bad, Letterman has been there, almost every night, to make us laugh and now, with one final goodbye, he’s gone.
Letterman joked throughout the episode that people keep asking him, “Well, what are you going to do now?” As he said to his family during his closing, “I Love you both and really nothing else matters, does it?”, the answer is pretty obvious. Maybe the better question is what are we going to do now.