I first watched David Letterman in the early eighties at a sleepover at my friend Lisa’s house. Must have been seventh or eighth grade. We were up too late. That experience proved to be a game changer for me, a paradigm shifter. He did silly stuff, I mean really silly stuff. Anyone remember the velcro suit? How about the alka seltzer suit? The magnet suit? Then in college… I started listening to the words. A perfect evening was getting nachos at the dorm’s restaurant, The Junction, and then watching Letterman. It made the first class hell the next day, but it was worth it. Everyone else (that mattered) talked about the same show. We all had opinions. We drank another coca-cola and powered through the day, only to do the same thing the next night. Ah, youth.
I continued with Letterman over the years- when he switched networks and came on an hour earlier- wow, life saver! Way to completely screw it up, NBC. When Carson tells you who he wants as a successor, you go with Carson’s pick, no matter how nice Leno is. Amateurs.
Scroll forward to 1999. Late nights I nursed my infant son, then a daughter came along, and another daughter. During those bleary-eyed times I would watch Letterman and occasionally catch a show on Comedy Central, The Daily Show With John Stewart. I had no idea who this mouthy little man was, but I liked him. He talked me off the ledge after 2000 when Gore won the popular vote and ultimately, it turned out, the electoral college but still lost the election because of the two candidates he worried about what a protracted squabble could do to the country. George W. just cared about George W. That was a case of laugh or cry. Dave and John helped us laugh.
They kept us laughing over the eight years of George W. Thank heaven or I would have been on prescription meds and drinking a lot more. Between Dave’s nuanced commentary and John’s outright indignation and hilarious fact checking- I’m still sane.
The thing about both of these men is that they managed to simultaneously look at the problems before us while not causing us to gauge our collective eyes out in reaction. Somehow Dave and John managed to keep me thinking, to engage my sense of outrage & civic responsible. They issued a call to action without making me give way to despair at the unconscionable, just arrogant, pratness of our leaders. By the way, as an aside, prat is defined as a person’s buttocks, and it is British slang for an incompetent, stupid, foolish person, as in idiot. Yeah, I know, I learned something, too. God, I love words.
So, if I call you a prat, now you know what you are getting.
Dave did it subtly, through satire. John did a better job explaining the news for a comedy show than most news anchors did on their nightly beat.
Now, they’re both off the air. First Dave, now John. Off to better things, but I am sad. Yet, they have permanently changed my mind-set. Begin everything with doubt. Don’t cry, laugh, then take action. Investigate, laugh some more. Be educated. Educate those around you. Read. Be the informed voter. Hear that Fox News?
The two have a long history. Both appeared on one another’s shows. When MTV canceled the John Stewart Show, Letterman turned up as his final guest. Letterman coached the depressed host, “Never confuse cancellation with failure.”
In honor of a New Jersey boy (Stewart) and an All-Amercian from Indiana (Letterman) I have chosen, who else? Springsteen. I chose Bruce’s classic The River. The Boss is retelling real lives, real struggles, and in the midst of life’s lovely chaos we still need to be vigilant and to fact check our media, our politicians, and, most importantly, the guys paying for it all.
And boys, gosh, I will miss you- every day. Thank you. And, good night.
This post was written by Erika Gardner. If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog. Or you can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller. Check out her contributions to the BBB Blog.