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mr. furley

Better late night host?

Who was the king of last night television?  

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names in the poll presented in alphabetic order

if you want to write-in someone else.....  there are lots of sites out there for you to do so, but we're running a family site here so keep your responses limited to the poll options as these are the only two valid options anyways.

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Carson was a little before my time so I don't feel I can give him his adequate due.  Letterman was a genius and probably my favorite late night guy ever.

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Posted (edited)

 ... i hope that goofy, gap-toothed hick gets bisch slapped.  eff Dave.  

ETA: and eff Paul ... prolly the most punchable human to ever trouble a keyboard.  what a tedious lil' knob that chrome dome was 🤮

 

Carson rules. 

:bye:

Edited by otb_lifer
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Posted (edited)

I voted for Johnny Carson but, honestly, it's not that cut and dry.  Dave was way more fun when it was Late Night with David Letterman from 82-93 than damn near anything on TV at that time.  There was a whole "them (upper management/bigwigs) vs us (Dave's show and the audience)" mentality plus Dave would go right up to the edge and push things.  If you go back and watch the early shows, I don't know if it still translates or not but it's so much more relaxed and fun.  From the stupid human tricks, to the suits (alka seltzer, velcro, etc.), top 10 lists, throwing things off buildings, on and on.  It was so fresh and innovative, Dave and his team were busting their tale's to be original, funny, edgy and entertaining.  On the flip side, at some point, all that seemed to go away and Dave (to me) became grumpy, bitter, formulaic, boring and stale.  I think that happened sometime in the mid 90's, it felt like Dave just gave up and settled for 2nd best.

Carson was always classy, fun and entertaining in a consistent way.  The thing I loved about Carson, which I didn't notice until later, was that he gave up and coming comedians a TON of opportunities.  This is really, really missed these days.  Carson was a better interviewer, he got so much out of people, it didn't feel like an infomercial, it felt very professionally done but most of all it was "must see TV" back in those days. 

I was grade school / high school / college age when I used to never miss Carson and Letterman.  I used to watch Leno pretty regularly, I thought Leno was very good, maybe 60-70% Carson but Dave just got to be unbearable for a long stretch of time.  Towards the end of his run he seemed to come around and be more relaxed.

I would throw in Arsenio Hall, for a period of time, was very, very good as well until he got burned out or whatever.

Lastly, I always liked Conan back in the day, he was good but not great, highs and lows with him. 

Edited by Sullie
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1 minute ago, Sullie said:

I voted for Johnny Carson but, honestly, it's not that cut and dry.  Dave was way more fun when it was Late Night with David Letterman from 82-93 than damn near anything on TV at that time.  There was a whole "them (upper management/bigwigs) vs us (Dave's show and the audience)" mentality plus Dave would go right up to the edge and push things.  If you go back and watch the early shows, I don't know if it still translates or not but it's so much more relaxed and fun.  From the stupid human tricks, to the suits (alka seltzer, velcro, etc.), top 10 lists, throwing things off buildings, on and on.  It was so fresh and innovative, Dave and his team were busting their tale's to be original, funny, edgy and entertaining.  On the flip side, at some point, all that seemed to go away and Dave (to me) became grumpy, bitter, formulaic, boring and safe.  I think that happened sometime in the mid 90's, it felt like Dave just gave up and settled for 2nd best.

Carson was always classy, fun and entertaining in a consistent way.  The thing I loved about Carson, which I didn't notice until later, was that he gave up and coming comedians a TON of opportunities.  This is really, really missed these days.  Carson was a better interviewer, he got so much out of people, it didn't feel like an infomercial, it felt very professionally done but most of all it was "must see TV" back in those days. 

I was grade school / high school / college age when I used to never miss Carson and Letterman.  I used to watch Leno pretty regularly, I thought Leno was very good, maybe 60-70% Carson but Dave just got to be unbearable for a long stretch of time.  Towards the end of his run he seemed to come around and be more relaxed.

I would throw in Arsenio Hall, for a period of time, was very, very good as well until he got burned out or whatever.

Lastly, I always liked Conan back in the day, he was good but not great, highs and lows with him. 

I think Letterman had to do what he did because Carson was so good that Dave had to try and be different.  I'll give Letterman credit for pushing the envelope, but what Carson did best was get his guests to shine, and part of that came from his style, which again Letterman out of necessity had to avoid to survive.  Maybe Johnny did it as well, but it seemed like Dave got laughs at his guests' expense more than Johnny did, and it seemed at times like the guest wasn't in on it, which I didn't like, either.

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I think they both fit their generations the best.  I only have vague memories of Carson.  Loved Letterman.

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"WHO WAS THE KING OF LAST NIGHT TELEVISION?  ". I didn't watch last night (:P) and don't think either of these guys was on but I voted Carson.  I liked Letterman too but he was a bit off the wall at times. Johnny was consistently great and can't think of a better interviewer.

Personally I think Craig Ferguson was the best. GB Geoff!

 

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1 minute ago, WDIK2 said:

I think they both fit their generations the best. 

this is wise.

 

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Always felt Carson was the top of heap and he was but then..

Letterman started out filling a void that had been missing and was the aw-shucks wise guy but he developed.

His cutting wit dealing with taciturn or odd Hollywood types pushed him up but he got a bit manic and many felt 'mean-spirited' around the time Johnny called it quits and NBC stabbed him in the back.

He emerged like a Phoenix at the top of the ratings but slipped and it showed where his mania turned on him with his heart surgery, then had his kid, and finally got married and he settled into himself and he became the gold standard.

He didn't care or didn't show that he cared about being #1 and became the single greatest late night comedy talk show host of all time IMHO.  Mensa smarts with deft timing with a velvet hammer.

A name that is/was emerging to vie for the title before Covid19 was British comedy talk-show host Graham Norton.  

Another name that is before most of our time is Jack Paar who broke molds and transcended the traditional format.  Didn't last long but his interviews and how he ran things bumped heads with Networks on what could be done on TV.  Ground breaking. 

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NBC era Letterman was fantastic. It really didn’t translate to CBS unfortunately. I was able to see a taping of Letterman and it was like 55 degrees in the studio.  

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Important distinction regarding Letterman that younger folk dont appreciate - maybe 5% of Americans were comfortable using sarcasm before Dave started coming into our homes every night, and less than half of those could deadpan. Snark is about 95% of American humor now.

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Posted (edited)

Carson was the best hands down. Never brought politics into his show. If he did he was jovial and light hearted. 

Best ever.

Edited by Mr.Pack
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15 minutes ago, wikkidpissah said:

Important distinction regarding Letterman that younger folk dont appreciate - maybe 5% of Americans were comfortable using sarcasm before Dave started coming into our homes every night, and less than half of those could deadpan. Snark is about 95% of American humor now.

Thank you? 

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25 minutes ago, wikkidpissah said:

Important distinction regarding Letterman that younger folk dont appreciate - maybe 5% of Americans were comfortable using sarcasm before Dave started coming into our homes every night, and less than half of those could deadpan. Snark is about 95% of American humor now.

Absolutely true.  Dead-pan sarcasm was the void he filled.  The collective was screaming for someone to break that wall and take-down establishment types.

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25 minutes ago, wikkidpissah said:

Important distinction regarding Letterman that younger folk dont appreciate - maybe 5% of Americans were comfortable using sarcasm before Dave started coming into our homes every night, and less than half of those could deadpan. Snark is about 95% of American humor now.

Sullie captured it perfectly for me.  Same as him, I voted Carson, but Dave brought something very different - and human fizzies, velcro suits and Chris Elliot stuff ...in addition to snark.

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Seems like there should be an age component to this.  My gut tells me 50+ will lean Carson and 30-49 will lean Dave.

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Posted (edited)
53 minutes ago, wikkidpissah said:

Important distinction regarding Letterman that younger folk dont appreciate - maybe 5% of Americans were comfortable using sarcasm before Dave started coming into our homes every night, and less than half of those could deadpan. Snark is about 95% of American humor now.

I don't often disagree with wikkid but I have to disagree here.  Don Rickles did this decades before, Bill Murray and Chevy Chase were doing this on SNL before Letterman and there were times Carson used to get a bit sarcastic/deadpan, it wasn't often but you'd see it from time to time.   I always felt like my generation (gen x) grew up on this from the Bugs Bunny cartoons (loaded with a lot of sarcasm) to Spiderman of the late 60's, Mad Magazine had a huge influence on me (snappy comebacks, etc.), SNL, comedians of the day were just this way it seemed.  I've thought about this a lot, I grew up extremely sarcastic but it was just a way of sticking up for yourself, you'd mess up, guys would give you hell about it and you could either sit there and take it or bite back and the harder you bit, the less crap you were gonna get, so we arrived at this kind of smartalec level imho.

I'll say this too, in my observation, this younger generation is SO SO SO much nicer than my generation. Damn near every younger person I work with appreciate my sarcasm, they get it, but they aren't mean like we were.  Kids like my son just aren't as mean as I was. . . maybe I'm just a jerk, who knows? :)

Edited by Sullie
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5 minutes ago, Sullie said:

I don't often disagree with wikkid but I have to disagree here.  Don Rickles did this decades before, Bill Murray and Chevy Chase were doing this on SNL before Letterman and there were times Carson used to get a bit sarcastic/deadpan, it wasn't often but you'd see it from time to time.   I always felt like my generation (gen x) grew up on this from the Bugs Bunny cartoons (loaded with a lot of sarcasm) to Spiderman of the late 60's, Mad Magazine had a huge influence on me (snappy comebacks, etc.), SNL, comedians of the day were just this way it seemed.  I've thought about this a lot, I grew up extremely sarcastic but it was just a way of sticking up for yourself, you'd mess up, guys would give you hell about it and you could either sit there and take it or bite back and the harder you bit, the less crap we're gonna get, so we arrived at this kind of smartalec level imho.

i've written an awful lot around here about boomer deconstructions and gen x/y rebuilding culture with the constituent parts (often with mistaken conceptions of what they had in their hands), so i try to be brief in these kind of comments now. i didnt say Dave invented sarcasm but that he changed America by the way he brought it into their conversation.

the major function of the first 50 yrs of late night shows was the widening of America, making entertainment more than performance. Steve Allen made America comfortable with talk, Paar with important talk, Carson with casual/party talk, Letterman with comedic talk, mostly of his snarky brand. that is about as succinctly i can support my original point

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Posted (edited)

I used to like David Letterman until I saw what an ####### he was to Joaquin Phoenix.  Just seems like a major league #####(mark or shallow hole made by a pointed instrument) irl.  

Edited by ren hoek

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1 minute ago, ren hoek said:

I used to like David Letterman until I saw what an ####### he was to Joaquin Phoenix.  Just seems like a major league ##### irl.  

well established that this was shtick to promote some dumb movie Phoenix was doing

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1 hour ago, Sullie said:

I voted for Johnny Carson but, honestly, it's not that cut and dry.  Dave was way more fun when it was Late Night with David Letterman from 82-93 than damn near anything on TV at that time.  There was a whole "them (upper management/bigwigs) vs us (Dave's show and the audience)" mentality plus Dave would go right up to the edge and push things.  If you go back and watch the early shows, I don't know if it still translates or not but it's so much more relaxed and fun.  From the stupid human tricks, to the suits (alka seltzer, velcro, etc.), top 10 lists, throwing things off buildings, on and on.  It was so fresh and innovative, Dave and his team were busting their tale's to be original, funny, edgy and entertaining.  On the flip side, at some point, all that seemed to go away and Dave (to me) became grumpy, bitter, formulaic, boring and stale.  I think that happened sometime in the mid 90's, it felt like Dave just gave up and settled for 2nd best.

Carson was always classy, fun and entertaining in a consistent way.  The thing I loved about Carson, which I didn't notice until later, was that he gave up and coming comedians a TON of opportunities.  This is really, really missed these days.  Carson was a better interviewer, he got so much out of people, it didn't feel like an infomercial, it felt very professionally done but most of all it was "must see TV" back in those days. 

I was grade school / high school / college age when I used to never miss Carson and Letterman.  I used to watch Leno pretty regularly, I thought Leno was very good, maybe 60-70% Carson but Dave just got to be unbearable for a long stretch of time.  Towards the end of his run he seemed to come around and be more relaxed.

I would throw in Arsenio Hall, for a period of time, was very, very good as well until he got burned out or whatever.

Lastly, I always liked Conan back in the day, he was good but not great, highs and lows with him. 

This is really solid.

My brother was 3.5 years older than me. We shared a room.  When I was 9, my dad gave him a small B/W TV for our room.  We were told we could not watch it after 9pm.

We watched Johnny Carson almost every night.  And the roller derby (LOL) when it was on.

Carson was awesome on so many levels.  In HS, we moved from OC to Burbank for my last two years (1975).   My brother and I went to see the taping of Johnny about 25 times in those two years.  I was 16.   There was always an audience warm up before the tapings.   Best ever was the time Red Foxx came out and told the dirtiest jokes I've ever heard in my life and had pictures of some Morganna like hottie that he showed us all.  The jokes were so amazingly crude and Red just did not give a ####.

As mentioned, I loved all the comedians Johnny put on.   I was introduced to George Carlin at the age of 9.  Carlin appeared on the show 108 times.  Hosted about 25 times.  Many of the Dangerfield and Robin Williams clips from the show are :cry::lmao:

As for Dave, I appreciated him as time went on, and I know he's great, but's he wasn't Johnny.   Dave did not have the mass appeal Johnny did. More of an East coast guy.

I'm one of the few that liked Leno.  He was perfect fit to take over the show.  Didn't have Dave's sense of entitlement that he should be handed the show.  Did his own stuff. Fallon has done similarly great with the show also IMO.   But I no longer watch Fallon or Meyers. Way too much political BS on the shows (especially Meyers).  An occasional joke is fine, but don't need political commentary from either side on these shows every freaking night.

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Just now, ren hoek said:

I used to like David Letterman until I saw what an ####### he was to Joaquin Phoenix.  Just seems like a major league ##### irl.  

Phoenix was in-character doing Schtick pulling a stunt with a camera crew following him.

Letterman had on-going schtick with Charles Grodin where Grodin made Dave his pinata and people felt Grodin was being mean to Dave who couldn't help laughing his head off each time Grodin would viciously turn on him.  

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Rupert Jee from the Hello Deli brought some of the most awkwardly hilarious bits to the Letterman show. 

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7 minutes ago, Getzlaf15 said:

As mentioned, I loved all the comedians Johnny put on.   I was introduced to George Carlin at the age of 9.  Carlin appeared on the show 108 times.  Hosted about 25 times.  Many of the Dangerfield and Robin Williams clips from the show are :cry::lmao:

yeah, dead on.  Bob Uecker was unbelievable when he was on as well. 

So many comedians back in the day.  

 

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Posted (edited)

Voted Carson.  
 

Maybe because my most recent memories of Letterman were the old grumpy, bitter and political Letterman.  
 

Unfortunately,  we’re seeing a number of comics and entertainers going this route today.  I don’t care about your politics.   Just be fun and funny.  Let me forget about all the current event garbage and just have fun watching you be funny. 
 

edit:   I also LOVE some of the stuff Conan has been doing over the last few years.  Especially Conan Without Borders. 

Edited by One
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11 minutes ago, One said:

 Unfortunately,  we’re seeing a number of comics and entertainers going this route today.  I don’t care about your politics.   Just be fun and funny.  Let me forget about all the current event garbage and just have fun watching you be funny. 

 

edit:   I also LOVE some of the stuff Conan has been doing over the last few years.  Especially Conan Without Borders. 

Seriously, this. This was the founding principle for the late night genre. It's been completely lost to time. It's a damn shame.

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3 hours ago, falguy said:

"WHO WAS THE KING OF LAST NIGHT TELEVISION?  ". I didn't watch last night (:P) and don't think either of these guys was on but I voted Carson.  I liked Letterman too but he was a bit off the wall at times. Johnny was consistently great and can't think of a better interviewer.

Personally I think Craig Ferguson was the best. GB Geoff!

 

God, I miss Craig Ferguson as a host

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Loved the Mujibur and Sirajul shtick.

It was a riot watching the first episodes with those guys and after a while their shop had "As Seen On Letterman" type shirts and stuff. :lol:

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3 hours ago, Sullie said:

I voted for Johnny Carson but, honestly, it's not that cut and dry.  Dave was way more fun when it was Late Night with David Letterman from 82-93 than damn near anything on TV at that time.

💯 percent this. There was a palpable difference once he moved up an hour, just wasn’t the same. When 30 Rock was hands off and didn’t micromanage the writers it was brilliant. I basically lost interest once he replaced Carson.

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When Letterman started out he was pretty bad as an interviewer. He really has come a long way in that area. The progress he has made is very evident on his "My next guest needs no introduction" show.

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4 hours ago, otb_lifer said:

 ... i hope that goofy, gap-toothed hick gets bisch slapped.  eff Dave.  

ETA: and eff Paul ... prolly the most punchable human to ever trouble a keyboard.  what a tedious lil' knob that chrome dome was 🤮

 

I agree with this. David was such a creep with women also, and not in a funny-pervy way Craig Ferguson was. I hate Paul also.

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1 hour ago, Jules Winnfield said:

God, I miss Craig Ferguson as a host

Fergie had the best monologues IMHO.  Arsenio's monologues were pretty good too when he was on.

Letterman getting dinged in this thread for his flirty-perv game but Ferguson made it a running-bit that was funny.

And to be fair Carson got away with murder, see Zoftig and I guess some people still cringe at this one Raquel Welch - Tonight Show   

Jane Fonda turned the tables on him and got one of the bigger laughs in this clip   >>  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijdUnQZ9014

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9 minutes ago, Bracie Smathers said:

Fergie had the best monologues IMHO.  Arsenio's monologues were pretty good too when he was on.

Letterman getting dinged in this thread for his flirty-perv game but Ferguson made it a running-bit that was funny.

And to be fair Carson got away with murder, see Zoftig and I guess some people still cringe at this one Raquel Welch - Tonight Show   

Jane Fonda turned the tables on him and got one of the bigger laughs in this clip   >>  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijdUnQZ9014

you would like his 6 part show on amazon prime - Hobo Fabulous if you haven't seen it yet

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3 hours ago, Getzlaf15 said:

When I was 9, my dad gave him a small B/W TV for our room.  We were told we could not watch it after 9pm.

We watched Johnny Carson almost every night.  And the roller derby (LOL) when it was on.
 

I had a little B/W also, but I was using it to watch Benny Hill late at night.

 

As for the poll, this was a difficult decision for me.  Enjoyed both, but went with Letterman.  I just found Dave to be a little more entertaining.  I was in my teen years through the 80s and gravitated more toward the the Letterman skit/humor style.   I didn't care as much about the guest interviews...which, admittedly, Johnny was better at.

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2 hours ago, Jules Winnfield said:

God, I miss Craig Ferguson as a host

Ferguson was my favorite.  Conan probably second.  Carson was before my time, and I just never got into Letterman.  He was funny, I won't try and say I didn't like him, just always been indifferent towards him for some reason.  Always liked Leno, but Ferguson was the funniest and had the most fun IMO. 

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2 hours ago, northern exposure said:

When Letterman started out he was pretty bad as an interviewer. He really has come a long way in that area. The progress he has made is very evident on his "My next guest needs no introduction" show.

NBC era Letterman is some of the best entertainment ever.

CBS era Letterman is one of the greatest interviewers ever.

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Posted (edited)

Voted Carson. David Letterman was insincere, a point against his genius of manipulation. His capitulation to certain forces within a darker era and different deliveries of doubt and inegalitarian insecurities to the public for public consumption will forever mark him. He took everything vulnerable about ambitious, class-conscious, or nervous America and mocked it incessantly. You weren't in on Letterman's joke, he made sure of it. I'd say RIP but he's not dead yet.

I don't miss him. 

Edited by rockaction
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I liked them both.

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16 minutes ago, rockaction said:

Voted Carson. David Letterman was insincere, a point against his genius of manipulation. His capitulation to certain forces within a darker era and different delivery of doubt and inegalitarian will forever mark him. He took everything vulnerable about ambitious, class-conscious, or nervous America and mocked it incessantly. You weren't in on Letterman's joke, he made sure of it. I'd say RIP but he's not dead yet.

I don't miss him. 

What in the absolute ####?

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, shuke said:

What in the absolute ####?

A nice explanation here.

https://playboysfw.kinja.com/late-night-david-foster-wallaces-first-published-fict-1304018034

I bolded the relative takeaway.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

"If he wants to make me look silly, I guess he's welcome to try," I said. "I guess."

Rudy swirled the contents of his own glass. "That's just the attitude I've tried to get her to cultivate," he told Dick. His ice made a sound as he crossed his legs and looked at Dick's white cat. He smiled grimly. "She thinks he's really going to be like what she sees."

The two of them smiled, shaking their heads.

"Well, he isn't really like that, of course," Dick told me. Dick, who is NBC's vice-president in charge of broadcast resources, has maybe the smallest mouth I have ever seen on a human face, though my husband and I have known him for years, and Charmian, and they've been dear friends. His mouth is utterly lipless and its corners are sharp; the mouth seems less a mouth than a gash in his head. "Because no one's like that," he said. "That's what he sees as his great insight. That's why everything on the show is just there to be ridiculed." He smiled. "But that's our edge, that we know that, Susan. If you know in advance that you're going to be made to look ridiculous, then you're one step ahead of the game, because then you can make yourself look ridiculous, instead of letting him do it to you."

I cocked an eyebrow. "I'm supposed to go out of my way to look ridiculous?"

My husband lit a cigarette as his old superior stood. "It has to appear that way, yes." Rudy's brand is that foreign sort that lets everyone around know that something is on fire. "It's got to be clear it's your choice," he exhaled. The couch he sat on was in a slant of sunlight. The light, this high, seemed bright and cold; his smoke hung in it like ink in water.

Dick is known for his tendency to fidget. He will stand and sit and stand. "That's good advice, Rudolph. There are definite dos and don'ts. Don't look like you're trying to be witty or clever. That works with Carson. It doesn't work with Letterman."

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Everything is there to be ridiculed, including Paul Schaeffer ridiculously jamming with bands he has absolutely no business providing musical accompaniment to. I loved when the La's handed him a tambourine. 

 

Edited by rockaction

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I'd take either one over the entire current crew of hosts. 

One big advantage Carson had was that few of guests were there to plug something.  Most interview segments now are built around the plug and are over quickly so the show can move to its next scripted bit.  Carson was able to have his guests run long, even to the extent that other guests occasionally got squeezed out of the show.  That never happens nowadays, Kimmel's Matt Damon schtick notwithstanding.

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31 minutes ago, rockaction said:

A nice explanation here.

https://playboysfw.kinja.com/late-night-david-foster-wallaces-first-published-fict-1304018034

I bolded the relative takeaway.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

"If he wants to make me look silly, I guess he's welcome to try," I said. "I guess."

Rudy swirled the contents of his own glass. "That's just the attitude I've tried to get her to cultivate," he told Dick. His ice made a sound as he crossed his legs and looked at Dick's white cat. He smiled grimly. "She thinks he's really going to be like what she sees."

The two of them smiled, shaking their heads.

"Well, he isn't really like that, of course," Dick told me. Dick, who is NBC's vice-president in charge of broadcast resources, has maybe the smallest mouth I have ever seen on a human face, though my husband and I have known him for years, and Charmian, and they've been dear friends. His mouth is utterly lipless and its corners are sharp; the mouth seems less a mouth than a gash in his head. "Because no one's like that," he said. "That's what he sees as his great insight. That's why everything on the show is just there to be ridiculed." He smiled. "But that's our edge, that we know that, Susan. If you know in advance that you're going to be made to look ridiculous, then you're one step ahead of the game, because then you can make yourself look ridiculous, instead of letting him do it to you."

I cocked an eyebrow. "I'm supposed to go out of my way to look ridiculous?"

My husband lit a cigarette as his old superior stood. "It has to appear that way, yes." Rudy's brand is that foreign sort that lets everyone around know that something is on fire. "It's got to be clear it's your choice," he exhaled. The couch he sat on was in a slant of sunlight. The light, this high, seemed bright and cold; his smoke hung in it like ink in water.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Everything is there to be ridiculed, including Paul Schaeffer ridiculously jamming with bands he has absolutely no business providing musical accompaniment to. I loved when the La's handed him a tambourine. 

Dick is known for his tendency to fidget. He will stand and sit and stand. "That's good advice, Rudolph. There are definite dos and don'ts. Don't look like you're trying to be witty or clever. That works with Carson. It doesn't work with Letterman."

This is funnier if you imagine Larry "Bud" Melman reading it.

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I messed up the formatting. The part with "Everything is there to be ridiculed..." was something I was saying, not the author of the work. and "Dick is known..." is in the passage. Not that it would mean anything to anyone envisioning "Bud" Melman reading it, to be sure, but for exegetical purposes, probably best to delineate who is saying what, regardless of the narrative voice. 

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2 hours ago, rockaction said:

A nice explanation here.

https://playboysfw.kinja.com/late-night-david-foster-wallaces-first-published-fict-1304018034

I bolded the relative takeaway.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

"If he wants to make me look silly, I guess he's welcome to try," I said. "I guess."

Rudy swirled the contents of his own glass. "That's just the attitude I've tried to get her to cultivate," he told Dick. His ice made a sound as he crossed his legs and looked at Dick's white cat. He smiled grimly. "She thinks he's really going to be like what she sees."

The two of them smiled, shaking their heads.

"Well, he isn't really like that, of course," Dick told me. Dick, who is NBC's vice-president in charge of broadcast resources, has maybe the smallest mouth I have ever seen on a human face, though my husband and I have known him for years, and Charmian, and they've been dear friends. His mouth is utterly lipless and its corners are sharp; the mouth seems less a mouth than a gash in his head. "Because no one's like that," he said. "That's what he sees as his great insight. That's why everything on the show is just there to be ridiculed." He smiled. "But that's our edge, that we know that, Susan. If you know in advance that you're going to be made to look ridiculous, then you're one step ahead of the game, because then you can make yourself look ridiculous, instead of letting him do it to you."

I cocked an eyebrow. "I'm supposed to go out of my way to look ridiculous?"

My husband lit a cigarette as his old superior stood. "It has to appear that way, yes." Rudy's brand is that foreign sort that lets everyone around know that something is on fire. "It's got to be clear it's your choice," he exhaled. The couch he sat on was in a slant of sunlight. The light, this high, seemed bright and cold; his smoke hung in it like ink in water.

Dick is known for his tendency to fidget. He will stand and sit and stand. "That's good advice, Rudolph. There are definite dos and don'ts. Don't look like you're trying to be witty or clever. That works with Carson. It doesn't work with Letterman."

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Everything is there to be ridiculed, including Paul Schaeffer ridiculously jamming with bands he has absolutely no business providing musical accompaniment to. I loved when the La's handed him a tambourine. 

 

You're quoting a fictional piece from DFW?

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, shuke said:

You're quoting a fictional piece from DFW?

Yes, but it's through this that he made his critique. That probably shouldn't be lost on anyone. He's using fictional characters, as he often did, to further a broader point about a real subject of his choosing. He doesn't stop to write a whole piece about an appearance on Letterman without stopping to analyze who he is writing about, and for what reason.

Otherwise, what's the point? It's cultural criticism. He would explain it further in E Unibus Pluram, his essay on television and irony. 

I think there's certainly room for criticism of Letterman. To take him at face value is to do his whole raison d'etre a disservice. So that it's not an exercise in merely the cerebral, let me say this: He was always undermining everybody and taking the piss out of everything. For those that preferred the at least the semblance of good banter and sincerity that our lonely, television-fed late nights give us, he was going to assure us that it was all artifice, the whole lot of it, and that we had better be prepared to deal with that sad fact. It was all able to be sent-up, this pent-up longing for community and communion with the stars among us, those that had replaced or stood in for real meaning in our lives. In doing so, he took America's longing to be part of the joke, part of the dream, and he was going to tell us the dream itself was bull#### and our ambitions were bull####. If need be, he'd take the piss out himself and his position in the industry and turn his show into a sort of panorama of celebrity curiosities (some of which he created) built up and destroyed, but only up to the point where he was still above the joke. Anytime Letterman got behind the joke saw something different. This was best exemplified by his personal reaction to not being given the prime time late spot as the replacement for Carson, which let everyone know exactly what he was taking the piss out of. And it certainly wasn't his own powerful ambitions, that's for sure.

Edited by rockaction

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3 hours ago, shuke said:

You're quoting a fictional piece from DFW?

it was quite a thing at the time, although it was rather cynically embraced by those who were painting everything "post-modern" that they used to call "commie". Letterman, Stern, even Lucas & Spielberg were breaking Daddy's toys, but it was only cuz Daddy werent giving us no tools. unfortunately, all the younger kids had was broken toys for a while. the games they played with those might have been even stranger and that's why we can't have nice things anymore...

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52 minutes ago, wikkidpissah said:

it was quite a thing at the time, although it was rather cynically embraced by those who were painting everything "post-modern" that they used to call "commie". Letterman, Stern, even Lucas & Spielberg were breaking Daddy's toys, but it was only cuz Daddy werent giving us no tools. unfortunately, all the younger kids had was broken toys for a while. the games they played with those might have been even stranger and that's why we can't have nice things anymore...

Lucas and Spielberg are different animals with differing career paths. Lucas is an earnestly uneven talent. Spielberg takes the tropes and deconstructs them. Lucas simply fetishizes archetypes into space; Spielberg winks at the audience but gives them what they want. In the television realm, Letterman won't let you have any of it for consumption until you know that in its reconstruction you're the butt of the joke itself. 

That realization that you are ridiculous is necessity for his act to work on your unwashed self and to his own benefit.     

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