The Dave-ness of Letterman


A few of us had the opportunity to attend the taping of Letterman yesterday–the first time I’d seen it in many years. (Last time I went, Richard Harris regaled Dave with great carousing-with-Peter-O’Toole stories, and afterwards, my sister and I sat at the bar at McHale’s next to an angry whiskey-sipping Irish dwarf in a green suit who was there to promote one of those Leprechaun horror films.)

Dave was of course Dave: cranky, curmudgeonly, taking endless pokes at Sarah Palin, lamenting his shoddy relationship history with the recently engaged (though she was demuring on the details) Penelope Cruz.

It was the very end of the taping, and a quartet of young Dublin hipsters known as The Script had just finished performing a song. The Script may or may not be the next Coldplay; the law of averages says they probably won’t. Dave went over to greet the band, and shook hands with the singer, the guitarist, and the drummer. The bass guitarist was furthest from Dave. The kid stuck his hand out, but Dave didn’t quite have the time or the reach to consummate the shake.

Dave thanked the audience and the show wrapped.

End of story? Yes, except for the few dozen in the audience. Dave then made a point of going over to the bass guitarist to shake his hand, as if to say, I didn’t forget about you, and certainly didn’t mean to snub you. Welcome to New York, and welcome to our show.

The bass guitarist’s face lit up. It was a throwaway moment for everyone but him (and, apparently, me), but it exhibited the essential Dave-ness of Dave. He’s cranky and seemingly getting crankier, and just yesterday gave Ms. Cruz an exaggerated and emphatic answer when she wondered if he was difficult to work for.

But it also appears that there’s a decent soul beneath all the crust–a heartland guy who essentially wants to do right by people, even if it doesn’t always work out that way. If he didn’t have that, people probably wouldn’t watch Letterman.