It’s like Coke vs Pepsi. You’re either a David Letterman fan or a Jay Leno fan. Sure, there are a few people that bounced back and forth, but they were very different styles. And they appealed to different audiences. For me, it was Letterman all the way. I love his Top 10s, Stupid Pet Tricks, Football Toss at the Meatball and tons of other skits. While I enjoyed his monologues, I believe it was all about his interview style. He appeared to be genuinely interested in his guests and he made the conversation look effortless – with the exception of Joaquin Phoenix and Farrah Fawcett and perhaps a few others.
I would watch Leno when a specific guest was on, but it always left me even more disappointed. Jay had a few skits in his monologue that were always entertaining, but his interviewing skills are horrible. And believe it or not, I feel the same way about Jimmy Fallon – great monologue and skits, but painful to watch as an interviewer. Both of these guys remind me of the SNL skit where Chris Farley interviews Paul McCartney.
To me, Letterman was up there with Johnny Carson. Both incredibly creative and witty, but more importantly were able to connect with their guests.
As Letterman prepares to sign off after 30+ years on TV, I’m thrilled to say that Lisa and I got to see one of his shows in person.
During a trip to Scranton in the June 2001 – yep, just 3 months before that fateful day, we planned a visit “The City” as a side trip. After watching the show for years, you know there are always a ton of out-of-towners in the audience, so I figure it was easier to score tickets if you contacted them in advance and told them you were coming in from another state. We found the process to request tickets online and submitted.
Even though the tickets are free, the process to request them is pretty regulated. You had to submit three months in advance, select 3 specific days and you can only request tickets once every 6 months. And when you consider the iconic Ed Sullivan Theater holds only about 400 people, it’s not a given that you’ll ever get lucky.
So, we selected our days and hoped for the best. Sure enough, a few days before we were scheduled to leave Arizona, we received a call that we’ll have tickets available at will-call! We weren’t sure who the guests would be at the time, and I recall some confusion around the scheduling the guests. At some point prior to arriving in NY, we found out that the guests would be Poway California’s Punk Rock Trio, blink-182, coming off their hit, All the Small Things; and daytime talk show host on The View, Star Jones. Not the best guests, but regardless, we were going to see Letterman!
They made you arrive at the studio early in the day, around 11am, to check in, then you had to come back later, about 2pm, to secure your spot in line for the 4pm taping.
Between the original check in and arrival, we went around the corner of the theater to visit the Hello Deli, owned by frequent participant of the show, Rupert Jee. We were even able to get him to take a photo with us.
There are no reserved seats, so it’s essentially, first come, first served. When you came back prior to the show, they had interns walking around talking to people and sharing the house rules – laugh a lot, don’t shout out and no pictures.
We found out prior to trip, that if you show some enthusiasm and excitement when you arrive, you’ll have a good chance of being seated in the lower rows near the stages.
So, when the young intern approached us, we played along and hoped that our attitude would score us the coveted front row seats. Sure enough, after talking to the person for a bit, we were told to go into a separate line. Hmmm…
Little did we know, there were plenty of others that were either genuinely excited or knew the same secret. The other line we got into was already pretty long. As you enter the theater, they escort you to your row and you file in. We ended up in the third row, center stage!
The show itself was fairly mediocre. Fourteen years later, I can barely recall the details. By the way, this is yet another reason I started this blog – to capture the details when they occur as opposed to decades later.
Fortunately, we have the internet! I was able to find a video of the blink-182 performance. And I was even able to find a recording of the entire episode – but I’m not willing to install the software to watch it!
Even after 32 years of performing, not many people can say they actually got to attend a taping of Letterman – and in the theater that started the British Invasion.
Thanks Dave. You’ll be missed.