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May 1994


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Chris White <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 18 May 1994 11:09:35 PST
Research Information Systems
text/plain (45 lines)
In response to my friend Gloria Monti's posting regarding
The Late Show Starring David Letterman , and the humor (or
lack thereof) contained within, I'd like to make a few points
in defense of Mr. Letterman.
Letterman's humor is predominantly based on sarcasm, and is
often self-deprecating as well.  He loves knocking big stars
down to the size of the "common" person.  Witness his recent
comment to Jeff Goldblum, "You know, Jeff, we're just a couple
of stooges up here."  Or his joking about how badly his recent
interviews with Madonna and James Caan went.
He skewers just about every cultural icon imaginable, with a
distinct emphasis on pop culture icons.  The obvious extrapolation
here is that those with a strong background in pop culture would
have an advantage in "getting" the humor.  On the other hand, those
whose pop culture knowledge is, shall we say, limited, could very
well end up staring at the television screen with blank expressions
on their faces, thinking, "This is stupid".
Additionally, Letterman has consistantly altered the boundaries of
the talk show format, much as Steve Allen did during his term as
host of "The Tonight Show" years ago.  Whether through taking his
camera unannounced into retail businesses, maintaining ongoing
on-camera relationships with workers in nearby businesses,
addressing sidewalk crowds with a public address system, or
bringing passersby onto the stage from the street, Letterman
involves the public in a manner never before seen in talk shows.
His "Stupid Pet Tricks" and "Stupid Human Tricks" bits show us that
Warhol was indeed correct with his well-known observation
regarding fame.
Who else would brazenly interrupt the taping of a segment for "The
Today Show" by leaning out of a window and shouting through a bullhorn
to the crew and crowd below, "I'm not wearing any pants!", thereby
incurring the wrath of the obnoxiously egotistical Bryant Gumbel?
This alone qualifies Dave as a hero in my eyes.  Not to mention a
ground-breaking force in television humor.
Is Letterman's humor occasionally stupid?  Of course.  That's part of
his charm.  Is it always stupid?  Only if you don't "get" it, or don't
want to.  But then, that's what the channel changer is for, isn't it?
- Chris White