I always considered David Letterman a sort of father figure. With two baby boomer parents, I basically have two moms: first, my dad who blogs and reads Sufi poetry and cooks with ghee and wears bright colors, and second, my mom, who is saint for signing up for this. And so, growing up I depended on late night talk shows for the little genderizing that actually happened to me. Letterman, his shoulder as cold as the notoriously freezing Ed Sullivan Theater, represented for me a sort of fucked-up machismo. Where you come to work hammered and laugh at your own jokes and swallow your ailments and anxieties and hurt so that the only part of them we see is the times you’re mean to that Hello Deli guy. You don’t blog. You don’t wear pink.
And apparently you don’t apologize either. Not to re-hash, because by now you know, and I don’t really care because besides last week I don’t even watch the show anymore. Yeah, I know that’s counterintuitive: more people are watching Letterman now than, pretty much, ever. But I have to think the spike in ratings is the Leno/MySpace people-and not the musician MySpace users-who are afraid of Conan because of the Harvard thing and the self-deprecating thing and, duh, the Andy Richter thing. In case I’m wrong about this, though, and more people are watching because it’s better, I’m not writing the show off. Plus, it is still good.
That said, I found myself caught up in it all, and when I read on Ryan Seacrest’s assistant’s Twitter that you were apologizing last night, I thought phew, and it was cathartic. Because, what the fuck, Dave? What’s the biggie with just saying I’m sorry, and doing so last week? I mean, you didn’t even have to mean it. First, it’s none of my fucking business whether you mean what you say, and second, quibbling with sincerity is about as useless as a Michael Moore movie. You know, because even though the outrage is real, the effect is just people who already read/watch/listen to your stuff nodding along with you. So why even bother?
Maybe it’s just been a rough year. Michael Jackson, clearly. John Hughes too. But also others: Slumdog Millionaire. Not having a President who’s just a punch line. Which really means: realizing that the poverty in India is real, and that now there’s a President who can actually disappoint you. To think, all these reference points upended, and is this what grown up is? Even though I’ve technically been an adult for like half a decade (or nearly a decade if you start counting at age of conscription, which, really, you shouldn’t, because those kids are so fucking young), I can’t handle leaving childhood behind like this, that is, all at once.
On the other hand, I just moved back in with my parents a few months ago, and, honest to G-d, the “Shit My Dad Says” dude-who obviously lives with his parents-is still older than me. Plus Brett Favre is still playing pro football and he was around when I played Tecmo. So in those ways, maybe I’m still sort of young. Plus the other night I saw Zombieland and part of me got choked up because I was thinking of the “Thriller” video, and while it’s a good-ish movie you should definitely see, I got choked up? And so in that way, maybe I shouldn’t be trusted on these matters. But stick with me. I think I wanted Letterman to apologize to restore some order up in this piece.
Anyhow. I tune in and there’s Dave firing jokes. They’re funny, of course. He says that it’s autumn in New York, and so that means it’s chilly outside his house, and it’s chilly inside his house. And maybe it’s a look or a tone, but it’s there and you perceive he’s sorry and then you’re sorry for him and his situation and that you ever wanted to watch him apologize. And there’s kooky Paul. He’s cackling but it’s nervous, like a Greek chorus. And this is how comedy is catharsis, right? When the apology does arrive, it’s secondary; an afterthought. I don’t know Greek, but the Wiki says nostalgia comes from that language, and that makes sense. It feels like the flipside of catharsis. Because I could be fifteen again, for one second more-finishing my Global Studies homework, watching Letterman, wondering who finds “Will It Float” funny, and then taking a longer than usual shower.
And with that: I am sorry for this aside. That’s right. Sorry. Where I grew up it was more than a board game whose pieces you tried to keep away from small, hungry children. Blame my dad dad. That’s right, my mom dad.
Luke Mazur, one of our two correspondents on English language usage, is back living with his parents, if you can believe that.