David Letterman is not at his peak right now, and he’s probably right to walk away from late night television this year. In Tuesday night’s installment of the Late Show, many of Dave’s gags fell flat, and the audience responded with polite reverential applause. It was especially sad because Letterman made his bones as a sort-of anti-talk-show-host. For him to be treated with such kid gloves is almost worse than the awkward silence following a less accomplished comedian’s failed joke.
Then Chris Elliott came on to do a turn in the guest chair. If you’re a long-time fan, you could remember the old Late Night show, when Elliott was a writer and Letterman did what was arguably his best work. Their friendly banter was genuine – from Letterman making fun of Elliott’s new project, Schitt’s Creek to Elliott pinging Letterman for being two or three years away from being a “wacky Regis.” It’s always kind of fun to watch people on a stage who really respect and enjoy each other’s talents.
Never above making a public spectacle of himself, Elliott offered a touching tribute to Letterman as only he could:
Letterman’s response (“Thank you Chris. That was awful.”) was somehow heartfelt and ironic all at once. It’s too bad they couldn’t save this performance for the final show.
(Sidebar: It’s not the first time Elliott has used the song, as fans of his short-lived sitcom Get a Life might recall.)