Last week David Letterman announced he was retiring. Think about the timing of this announcement. Jay Leno was finally replaced on the Tonight Show by Jimmy Fallon last February. Letterman is retiring because he made his point. He could do a better job than Jay Leno. He was funnier longer than anyone else, including Johnny Carson. It was a constant reminder to NBC, the company that employed them both, that they had made a terrible mistake. They got rid of the wrong guy. The nice guy. TWICE. And they kept making the mistake for years and would never admit it until it was too late.
Letterman almost retired a few years ago when Jay Leno was replaced by Conan O’Brian. Leno wound up doing the same thing to Conan that he did to Letterman, so Letterman decided to stick it out a few more years. It was more than professional. It had to be personal. Like a soldier who pays dearly for a piece of real estate, Letterman held his ground until reinforced. Who are the reinforcements? Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Craig Ferguson and of course his chosen replacement: Stephen Colbert. They are all followers of Letterman’s tradition and not Leno’s. To paraphrase George Clooney, they know the same people and they like him better.
It should be noted that some people have tried to get Colbert fired by deliberately misinterpreting remarks he made in a joking manner. They didn’t like him making fun of them. They have now discovered that when you try to get rid of someone, they just reappear on a bigger stage, the one in Ed Sullivan’s Theater.
Meanwhile, Jay is offline, silent. The continued silence is an admission that despite all the maneuvering, the better man won. Letterman will get the last laugh as a whole new generation carries on the work.
Dave’s funny, huh?
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