April Fools Day is, without question, one of the most-annoying days of the year. An entire 24-hour period based on lies—or more lies than usual—doesn’t make for a particularly good time unless the pranks are skillfully executed (Note: The majority are not). That said, this April Fools Day was a completely different experience for me, because I avoided the shenanigans altogether by sitting in on a David Letterman taping.
Letterman was never my go-to late night host—at least not initially. As an adolescent, I stayed up past my bedtime to watch Johnny. As a teen and 20-something, I was into Arsenio. I didn’t appreciate Dave’s wit until a handful of years later, and by that time, I often crashed before his show aired due to being burnt out by a string of highly stressful jobs. I caught clips on YouTube and Entertainment Tonight whenever a celebrity did or said something stupid on the show. Letterman was always an entertaining gent who cracked wise in the peripheral.
That’s why sitting in the historic Ed Sullivan Theater was such a rewarding experience. I watched an entire episode of The Late Show for the first time in my life. Dave owned the show with a laid back sarcasm and witty banter with the audience, Senator Al Franken, and the incredibly annoying host of Billy on the Street. It was glorious.
I had one regret after the show wrapped: I had zero photos to preserve the experience, as photography was understandably not allowed in the theater. Then it hit me—the camera ban was the best thing that happened that afternoon. I didn’t fiddle in my seat adjusting flash and correcting zoom. Letterman, and his incredible house band fronted by Paul Shaffer and featuring jazz great David Sanborn, had my undivided attention for the first time in my life. It was an evening of great punchlines and dazzling musical segments.
There was a two-hour wait period in the time between picking up my tickets and being seated for the show. The impatient New Yorker in me began to bubble up, and I even questioned if the wait would be worth it. It was. Watching the television legend in his final days on the job—Dave exits late night on May 20—was magic. There were a couple of flat jokes, but the set was humorous, topical, and thoroughly enjoyable.
I wish I had done it sooner.
I’m kind of glad that I didn’t.
*Image courtesy of CBS.