Despite the title, this is no fawning retrospective. And rightly so--even Letterman (who was interviewed for the book to give his side on many controversies) admits dozens of times how his neurotic behavior led him to do stupid or downright cruel things to friends and former co-workers. He was always a complicated man, much of which came across on the air, and sometimes created incredibly funny on-air moments. No question about how funny his show could be--especially the original Late Night, which is still my favourite and my pick as funniest TV show ever. Fortunately the book digs into the reasons so many people feel that way, and does recall many of the funniest moments, so there are still a lot of laughs. Great, great read for those of us lucky enough to have watched his entire career.
As someone who followed Dave Letterman’s career since his time on “Late Night”, I was looking forward to reading, “Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night” by Jason Zinoman. I liked it, but it wasn’t exactly pleasant to read. I’ll try to explain. I liked it because it was well-written and researched, and while the author did not try to hide his appreciation of Dave’s career and his place in TV history, the book did not come across as some fanboy, hero-worshipping, piece of fluff. Zinoman wrote at length about Dave’s foibles, neuroses, and downright bad behavior, as well as his being a transformative figure in American television. The book is an honest, balanced portrayal of a complex human being, which is what a biography should be. “Letterman” was a rather melancholy read, though. It seems that Dave was completely incapable of enjoying his success. As a fan, I felt kind of sad that he was so insecure and so full of self-loathing. I had imagined what a blast it would have been to work on “Late Night” and the “Late Show”. Like being part of a big, funny family, but apparently it wasn’t that way at all. That Dave and his crew were able to produce good, sometimes great television is rather amazing, considering all the difficulties they had to overcome, most of which were of Dave’s own making. I hope he has found peace away from the limelight, and with his family.
From watching Letterman's show I always found him crabby and snarky but likeable.
After reading this book I now realize what a simmering mess of insecurity he was/is. And for no reason. Here is a smart, talented, funny man who makes people laugh (a gift!) and he makes himself and everyone that works for him miserable. I will never understand this. I thought the same about Johnny Carson after I read Bushkin's book! Just tortured souls I guess.
I loved the book and enjoyed reading the birth of the top ten list and about some of my favorite characters on the show such as Letterman staff writer Chris Elliot's recurring impression of fat Marlon Brando-forever my favorite sketch on Late Night.
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