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Late Night Returns: David Letterman

By admin Published: January 3, 2008

OK, I know this is a little weird. I just watched Leno in real time and am now watching Dave. So consider the context of what follows. ... (One semi-rude joke included)

Dave starts with a coup of sorts. Leno had Mike Huckabee. Dave has Hillary Clinton doing a taped intro noting Dave's long absence. "Oh, well," she says, "all good things come to an end." Her makeup looks terrible, by the way.

After the credits, we get a chorus line with WGA picket signs. And Dave still has a strike beard. Later says that he looks "like a cattle-drive cook" and "a missing hiker." I like the reference to the chorus line as the "Eugene V. Debs."

Talks about what he's learned during the hiatus. Notes his show is the only one on the air with union writers. Well, until Ferguson comes on. More strike jokes, and bad-writing jokes.

Dave's at the desk. Says he hasn't been off this long since his heart attack. (The beard is really bothering me. If I wanted to see a beard that gray, I would grow my own.) Talks about being home with his son, Harry. Thanks the Writers Guild for making a deal. Mentions the guest list. Much audience excitement re Robin Williams. And promises a piece about things they would have done if the writers had not come back. "Without writers and without caffeine I have virtually no personality whatsoever," Dave says.

Questions from the audience about the strike -- setup for jokes. One asks about picketers outside. Dave says they're just people who hate the show. Woman asks what the terms were that let the writers come back. Dave introduces his "personal attorney" to explain. Attorney runs without explanation.

Dave's got his big laugh on 11. Good to hear. But he has also been scribbling during this whole bit and seems less than attentive. Of course, the jokes aren't really worth much attention. One punchline is cut off so writer Bill Scheft can point out the strike is still going on outside Dave's world. I remember Scheft back when he was a sportswriter-turned-comedian, not long after he had graduated to getting paid money for gigs instead of just getting comped meals. But I digress. Nice shot at producers' greed.

After a break, Dave talks about the beard. Now says people think he looks like Kenny Rogers. Promises to have someone come in and shave him on the air.

Top 10 List: Demands of the Striking Writers, read by 10 striking writers, among them Nora Ephron and Alan Zweibel. Number one demand: Producers must immediately remove their heads from their asses.

Robin Williams. Starts with long riff on Dave's beard, and eventually gets to Walter Brennan in "Brokeback Mountain."

After a break, Dave tries to have something closer to a conversation. Robin dials it down but is still tossing jokes. Clip from his Iraq trip. Overall fair, not great, but Williams hits a really nasty Britney joke right before the next break.

Dave sets up the bit about things they would have done if the writers hadn't come back. Brings back Hal Gurnee and a gimmick from the '88 strike. Not funny, though. After another break, "Know Your Staff." Long chat with an associate producer. Includes baby pictures.

You know, Letterman feels like the show with writers on strike -- angrier about the strike, more aimless and time-filling in this segment -- while Leno looked like business as usual.

Musical guest: Lupe Fiasco with Matthew Santos. And it's very late, since I kept forgetting to fast-forward through the commercials. So I'm going to save the music act for contemplation another time. And Kimmel/Conan/Craig for the morning.

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