It just so happened that instead of going to college after I graduated from high school, I found myself with a year off. As discussed here, at length, I stayed busy with the important work of serving America Roast Beef, Yes Sir! Man cannot live on potato cakes alone, and so I needed to fill my hours with more than eight hour shifts of slinging fast food while wearing some of the most ridiculous brown polyester uniforms imaginable. What does one do, for example, if they aren't in school and their shift starts at eleven o'clock?
That year, the answer was simple: Watch The David Letterman Show. Before he became a late night sensation, Dave was flaunting conventions of the morning show and making a mess of things on the National Broadcasting Company's usual slate of game shows and soap operas. It's where Stupid Pet Tricks was born. It's where that guy who had been on Mork and Mindy and the even shorter-lived variety show hosted by Mary Tyler Moore landed when nobody on TV seemed to notice.
What went on there, of course, became the stuff of legend, and was eventually moved to late-night, where I was able to catch it a couple years later once I had returned to school where such viewing seemed a necessity. For a while, I even harbored a secret wish to become a writer for his program, coming up with just a couple of the Top Ten list, maybe numbers six and three. It seemed like such an attainable goal, way back then.
Then came a time when staying up late to watch talk shows seemed less than hip. Once Johnny Carson retired, I lost my thread to Late Night, and because NBC never seemed to get that whole thing right, they hired Jay Leno, ensuring that I wouldn't be watching them after ten o'clock. When Dave landed opposite Jay and his chin, it was a relief of sorts, since I could finally find a way to reconcile my fondness for Dave and his sense of humor without staying up past midnight. I was growing a family of my own by then, without so much roast beef.
Somewhere in there, it stopped mattering to me who was on, or what the event might be. I was going to bed by the time the news came on, and the idea of staying up past the news seemed like something that young kids did.
Dave's not young anymore. Neither one of us. And now he's decided to retire, having held down his slot just a little longer than the guy who swooped in and took his job in the first place. That's got to be just a little satisfying. In his place, we're going to get "the real" Stephen Colbert. I'll probably put an episode or two on the DVR, just to get a taste of what I'm missing, but if Mister Colbert really wanted to impress me, he'd be entertaining housewives and Arby's employees at ten in the morning.