So PBS earlier this week aired a special recorded exactly a month ago today in which David Letterman received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center in DC. I’ve been a Letterman fan from the start. I think I went probably 3 or 4 years when I was in high school without missing a single show when he was on NBC. No, I didn’t stay up that late but I’d record it every day on our old Betamax and watch it after I got home from school the next day. I still remember during my junior year when the announcer over the credits at the end of the show said that Dave would be doing a week of shows in Chicago a few months later and you could send off for tickets.
My letter was in the mail the next morning.
When I got the tickets and read the fine print I learned that there were no assigned seats and they send out way more tickets than the theater holds because they expect a lot of no-shows and they want a full audience.
So on the day of the show we were in line in front of the Chicago Theater at 6 AM…for a 5 PM taping. I still thank my parents for that. They understood how much it meant to me. We were front row. I don’t remember who the other guests were, but Mellencamp was the musical guest. I don’t recall the song he performed. My most vivid memory, though, was just how different a talk show looked live as compared to on TV. In the audience you see the cameras, the directors, the lighting people…all of the people that work hard to make it appear as though Dave was just talking directly to you through that old 80s tube TV.
Back to the point, the Letterman Mark Twain special was incredible. If you’ve ever been a Letterman fan or just a fan of comedy in general I suggest you visit the WTVP website and watch it. So funny. But maybe the most special moment of the evening had nothing to do with comedy. It was musical. Dave always tried to promote musicians he loved as much as comedians. And among his favorites, if not his absolute favorite, was the late Warren Zevon.
Eddie Vedder doing this Warren Zevon song at the awards ceremony is really, really, really incredible.
Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.