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In a version of being undressed for success, comedienne Tina Fey, stripped down to her spanx for David Letterman Thursday evening, for her own quirky goodbye. Citing the moment as her last appearance on a talk show in a fancy dress, the hilarious Fey handed Letterman her dress and displayed the front of her spanx that read “Bye Dave.” When she spun around, her back-end said, “#Lastdressever.”
Tribute To the Soon-To-Retire Letterman
It was a great tribute to the soon-to-retire Letterman who is set to do his last show, May 20. Fey commented to Letterman,
“I dress up out of respect for you. What, am I going to put on a dress for Jimmy [Fallon]? That’s creepy – he’s like my brother.”
Fey continued that she was officially giving the host her dress as a parting gift and exclaimed it would be her last time conforming to gender norms. The 44-year-old comic looked fabulous in the skin-tight blue ensemble, and Letterman showed his appreciation by comparing Fey to Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge.
The Legend Rides Off Into Late Night Sunset
May will mark a month-long collection of similar tributes, as Letterman retires from a career spanning 33 years and an astounding 6000 shows. The comic began his late-night talk-show hosting at NBC, where he helmed Late Night With David Letterman. His show followed the Tonight Show, with Johnny Carson. When NBC snubbed him after Carson retired, by replacing the comic host with Jay Leno, the comic would make a storied switch to CBS. He would helm a late show that would compete with Leno’s version of the Tonight Show. It was a rivalry for the ages that saw the top ratings exchange between the shows several times, but ultimately land with Leno’s show. Letterman admits that once he accepted the fact that Leno’s show was inevitably more popular, he settled down and focused on innovative programming that often pushed norms, not unlike Tina Fey and her spanx surprise.
This hungry compulsion for creativity provided late night television with bits like the “Top Ten List”, “Stupid Human Tricks”, and even interviews with his Indiana mother as an alternative to the stock celebrity sit-downs (although, he certainly had a quirky knack for that, as well). The creative host could be unpredictable with his pieces, sometimes donning a velcro suit and leaping to stick himself to a wall or the ever-memorable episodes of dropping things off of the roof of his 5-story office building.
Late Night Musical Innovation
Letterman did not just innovate in comedy. Every Late Night episode featured a musical guest and Letterman provided his audience with band debuts as well as memorable moments. R.E.M. was basically an unknown college rock band from Georgia when they made their first network appearance in 1983. Weezer and Future Islands are also bands that made their first television appearances on the fabled show. No one can forget the reunion of Sonny and Cher in 1987. Sonny was running for mayor, Cher was promoting Moonstruck and neither was particular friendly with the other, but they came together for Letterman. Their impromptu version of “I Got You Babe” with Paul Shaffer and band would be the last time they ever sang together. It made incredibly memorable television.
Personal and Public Struggles
Letterman has had his share of very public struggles, both medically and behaviorally. In 2000, he underwent a quintuple bypass and was off the air for weeks. When he returned, he dedicated several shows to awareness and heart health. With his ever-present self-deprecation, he laughed off the indignity of undergoing invasive, but life-saving surgery. In 2009, as a result of an attempted extortion plot against him by a network producer, allegations surfaced of sordid affairs with staffers and employees of the show. The host opened the show on October 5, 2009 with a mea culpa and heartfelt apology to his family, friends and fans. Reportedly very private and close to the vest, suddenly his private life was thrust into a very public consideration. Always the introspective, Letterman admits that CBS could have and perhaps should have fired him, but is grateful that the network and fans gave him an opportunity to redeem himself for the indiscretion.
Late Night Landscape Changing
With Jimmy Fallon’s replacement of Leno, Stephen Colbert’s replacement of Letterman and the departure of Jon Stewart from his Daily Show, the late night landscape is changing. Insiders say that the demographic is shifting toward a younger audience, with different tastes and interests. Letterman recognizes this shift and does not lament the timing of his departure. He has accumulated a respectable body of work and a legacy of comedic brilliance. He proclaims that he is looking forward to spending time with his son, Harry, over a summer that for the first time in a very long time, will not be dictated by his schedule. The month of May will feature many memorable moments, like Tina Fey and her spanx exposition, as celebrities line up to pay tribute to the indomitable, David Letterman.
By Chris Marion
Headline image by Rob Young – Creativecommons Flickr License
Inline image (1) by Gage Skidmore – Flickr License
Inline image (2) by dailymatador – Creativecommons Flickr License