Preface… David Letterman’s humorous, spontaneous talk show had brilliantly lit up America’s TV screens, spanning 2 networks and 1 score and 13 years. For the benefit of my international readers, followers and others who may be unfamiliar with his career… check out either the lengthy bio or brief synopsis below…
In the late 1970s, standup comedian Letterman got his big break by appearing on comic Johnny Carson’s, top rated Tonight Show. He would later become Carson’s guest host and on February 1, 1982, go on to debut his own talk show, Late Night. Following “King” Carson’s 1992 retirement, it only seemed natural that Dave would be heir apparent, but the NBC suits did not concur… instead, opting for host, Jay Leno. Consequently, on August 30, 1993, Letterman thumbed his nose at the NBC execs and launched his CBS program, Late Show, to compete, head to head, with Leno. Needless to say, Dave got the last laugh… indeed, generated millions of laughs all the way up to his final, farewell broadcast, which aired on May 20, 2015.
Unlike NBC, I had remained Letterman loyal, throughout, because I’ve always found his humor to be far funnier / less formulaic than Leno’s and I usually back folks who’ve been corporately shafted. Oh… there is one more reason, too…
There’s a remote chance that Letterman may’ve read some of my (hopefully) comedic writing, which I twice submitted to Late Show. With that in mind… I now submit…
My Letter To Letterman
Dear Mr. Letterman,
I’ve opted to go the social media / www route to let you know how you / your 6,028 broadcasts changed my life in a way, which far, Far, FAR exceeded your entertaining me and keeping me laughing.
More to the point, it had been your ‘90s era monologues (loaded with Bill Clinton sex scandal jokes), which had heightened my political awareness and, thus, had inspired me to write multiple hundreds of similarly themed limericks. Since the volume of my poetry had grown to epic proportions, I decided to submit my manuscript to prospective publishers.
At that point, I got this wild notion. Since I had greatly valued and respected your keen comedic instincts (and still do), I just had to find out if I could get you and/or your comedy writers laughing. To that end, I decided to “test the waters” by submitting my best limerick to Late Show.
I had fully expected my verse to languish in the “slush pile” of eternal damnation and/or that I’d wind up being the recipient of a rejection letter. Well… imagine my astonishment when neither of those outcomes occurred. Instead, your writing staff sent me a letter requesting that I compose and submit three “Top Ten Lists”.
Experiencing a level of elation and inspiration, unlike any I had ever felt, I gave this writing project my all… finding it tough not to laugh aloud while watching my creative process materialize on my PC screen. Naturally, I also “sales pitched” my idea for a new Late Show segment, “The Letterman Limerick”. Upon signing the accompanying release form, I shipped everything off to you.
Shortly thereafter, I sent a follow up inquiry letter. But, instead of your next response appearing in my mailbox… my phone rang. I found myself talking to Late Show staffer, Lee H. Ellenberg. He confirmed I had correctly completed everything required of me and that my submission was securely on file.
Our conversation hadn’t lasted more than three minutes… but… those were, indeed, life-changing minutes!
Only after hanging up the phone did everything start to fully sink in. My writing had actually caused someone… in the employ of a big time network TV talk show… a program HQ’d in a major metropolis of our world… to drop all he was doing… just to talk to a totally unknown, aspiring comedy writer residing in “Smalltown”, Michigan.
Had circumstances in my life not necessitated prioritizing my urgent family matters first, I’d have booked the next flight out to NYC. Of course, since I hadn’t had the freedom to do so, nothing ever progressed beyond that.
But that does not alter the fact that your show’s phone call had been a validation of my work… caused me to believe in my writing abilities.
For that… I thank you, Mr. Letterman.
I also thank Mr. Ellenberg.
I’ll cherish this incredibly special moment in my life… for the rest of my life. On my last day… if I exit the world’s stage with a smile on my face, its likely cause will be my recollection of how, for a fleeting moment, our two worlds had merged.
While I certainly do miss and shall always miss your presence on the Ed Sullivan Theater’s Late Show stage / seeing you seated behind your talk show desk… while I wish there could be more of your jokes, Top Ten Lists, Celebrity Top Ten Lists, sketches and interviews, I can also dig how and why, (just like your friend and mentor, Johnny Carson), you had so wisely decided not to stay too long at the fair.
Thanks for the mega-laughs. Thanks for those memorable, contemplative and heartfelt moments, too, such as your 1st post 9/11 broadcast and tribute to Johnny Carson.
I wish you all the best life has to offer you and your loved ones… in all the years ahead.
PS ~ Enjoy this blast from the past clip… one featuring a musical collaboration between Doc Severinsen’s “Tonight Show Band” and Paul Shaffer’s “World’s Most Dangerous Band”