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Do you miss David Letterman yet?
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David Letterman appears during a taping of his final "Late Show with David Letterman" Wednesday, May 20, 2015. - photo by Jim Bennett
Before everything went digital, watching a TV show at a time other than when it was broadcast required the ability to stop the digital clock from blinking 12:00 on your VCR. Then you had to set a timer and get a tape and hope that you werent recording over a home video or something.

It was a convoluted mess. But for me, it was worth it to record every episode of Late Night with David Letterman, which I watched religiously throughout my entire adolescence.

Prior to his move to CBS, Letterman was definitely an acquired taste. People say that about his show that just went off the air, but what he did in the 20th century was far, far stranger than what he did in the 21st. His guests werent just your typical celebrities. They also included guys like Brother Theodore, an 86-year-old who argued that humanity should spend all its time walking on all fours. At one point, he went off on a rant where he shouted, I am the corpse at every wedding; I am the bride at every funeral; when I look in the mirror, I burst into tears.

It was borderline terrifying, and in the awkward silence that followed, Dave diffused the tension by glibly asking, So have you ever done any water skiing?

Now that may strike you as just sort of surreal and not really funny. But moments like those were the reasons I never missed an episode.

Lettermans early talk show career wasnt about making a talk show; it was about deconstructing a talk show and showing the world what it would look like from the inside out. It was about taking the conventions of your typical late-night blowhards and turning them on their head.

Ill always remember the contest he held to determine what the next big national catchphrase should be. The winner was: They pelted us with rocks and garbage. Which, of course, was a really stupid choice that made absolutely no sense at all, which left most people just scratching their heads.

And that, really, was the entire point.

To be an old-school Letterman was to pride yourself on being in on the joke. The confusion of a normal viewer was part of the entertainment for the abnormal viewers like myself. Dave was exposing television for being the wasteland that it is, and he was skewering the vapidity of the medium that made him a star. Few other entertainers have had the courage to so aggressively and hysterically bite the hand that feeds them.

I say all these nice things about David Letterman as prelude to why, sadly, Im really not going to miss him.

Sure, hes only been off the air for a couple of weeks or so, but the Letterman of my youth hasnt been around for at least a decade, maybe two. When Letterman brought his show to CBS, it was as funny as it had ever been, but it began to falter after Dave bombed as host of the Academy Awards back in 1995. I thought his performance on that occasion was brilliant, but the audience, like most mainstream audiences, didnt appreciate being the butt of the joke. I think Lettermans decline can be traced to that one evening. After that, he started losing to Jay Leno in the ratings. Thats when his show became less of a talk show parody and more of an actual talk show.

And, really who needs another one of those?

But it would be curmudgeonly of me to criticize him for that. Once upon a time, David Letterman was a genius who made me laugh harder than anyone else. I'll always be grateful for what he gave me back in the days when they pelted me with rocks and garbage.