Saturday, March 21, 2009

Time for Letterman to go

I'll be honest. I've never liked David Letterman. I didn't like when I was 13, and I didn't like him when I was 23.

I don't like angry comedians. Part of laughing and enjoying oneself is to let troubles and anger drift away. Cynicism and hatred is not funny. Yet, Mr. Letterman has been on the air for 20+ years. How this man has been so popular for so long is beyond me.

The truly great comedians are able to dance around the line of being mean and being funny. For instance, legends like George Carlin and living legends like Dave Chappelle have a knack for being able to rip people in a way that isn't offensive or hurtful. Edgy at times yes, but it's always in jest, and they always make sure to equal opportunity offenders.

For Chappelle that means making fun of white people and black people. Both sides get a laugh out of it, because it's funny, and most of the time pretty accurate.

People like Al Franken, Janeane Garofalo, David Letterman, and even Jon Stewart are not funny to many people because they are one sided ideologues whose bitterness manifests itself into their routines/campaigns/shows, etcetera. Jon Stewart seems to do the best job of this, but I still don't appreciate his slanted political humor-- even if he does a great job of keeping the bitterness out of it.

The only conservative funny people I can think of are Dennis Miller and Ben Stein. Of course I'm excluding the Blue Collar Comedy guys like Foxworthy, Engvall, Ron White and Larry The Cable Guy, because they fall into a different category. Their humor is not inherently political, it's redneck humor (which has some obvious political overtones at times), but it is nothing like the supposedly smart shticks of Letterman, Stewart, and Co.

Of course it is the job of Letterman to needle public figures and make light of absurdity or foolishness in the news. It is the way he does it that turns people off. By mocking McCain during the campaign and calling Rush Limbaugh a "bonehead" last week, Letterman is increasingly pigeonholing himself as a partisan entertainer. His favorite segment is "Small Town News" where he rips typos from Middle American publications. Funny, but there's still something vitriolic about the way he does it that's offputting.

It is this elitist, arrogant tone that turns people off.

Jay Leno on the other hand is an agreeable guy. He's not cynical and angry. He's the type of everyman gearhead that people young, old, conservative, and liberal can laugh with. It is no coincidence that Leno has consistently beaten Letterman in the ratings since 1995-- at one point leading by 2 million viewers a night.

This current situation is less about Leno and more about Craig Ferguson, who's currently toiling in semi-obscurity in the Late, Late spot following Letterman.

Ferguson is genuinely funny, kind of a cross between Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno with a Scottish accent. Ferguson also is a legitimate standup act, evidenced by his new special on Comedy Central.
Letterman is getting up there in age, and he's just too abrasive these days. A happy-go-lucky goofball like Ferguson doesn't have a mean bone in his body, and he deserves that coveted Late Show spot.

The world needs laughter these days without it being at someone's expense-- no more character assassination and partisan attacks on Late Night TV. You know what I mean?

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