Today is the anniversary of the The Late Show with David Letterman which premiered on CBS on August 30, 1993 and ended on May 20, 2015. Letterman had previously spent eleven years as the host of Late Night with David Letterman, but after he was passed over as the host of the The Tonight Show when Johnny Carson retired, he signed a multi-million dollar deal to move to CBS. This put him in direct competition with Jay Leno, who took over for Johnny on The Tonight Show.
Many aspects of Letterman’s show followed the basic pattern of the late night talk show genre established and perfected by Johnny Carson. Letterman added a few new wrinkles of his own that became staples of his show and focus points for his fans.
One of Letterman’s trademarks was “found comedy”: people, places, and things found on the streets of the city that become the subject of Letterman’s ironic wit. These consist of actual items found in the newspaper, viewer mail, “stupid pet and human tricks” performed on the show, esoteric videos, or -person-on-the-street interviews (1).
Letterman’s best known feature is one that is originally “found” in the Old Testament, a list of ten — sometimes called a “decalogue.” This list of ten is best known as The Ten Commandments. The Book of Exodus records Moses bringing the commandments, which are carved on two stone tablets, down from Mount Sinai and delivering them to the people of Israel.
Of course Letterman’s Top Ten lists are meant not to deliver the law but to deliver laughs. Based on a topic from current events, each list counts down ten hilariously warped responses. The very first list, for example, featured TOP TEN WORDS THAT RHYME WITH “PEAS”:
While this was probably not the funniest top ten list, it is interesting to note that the Top Ten began on a poetic note.
Today’s Challenge: TOP TEN TOP TENS
What would be the topic of your Top Ten list? Below are some of the list topics from David Letterman’s first book of Top Ten Lists. Select one of the topics, or create your own topic. Then, complete your list. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)
- Top Ten Ways Life Would Be Better If Dogs Ran The World
- Top Ten Ways To Pronounce “Bologna”
- Top Ten Unsafe Toys for Christmas
- Top Ten Prom Themes
- Top Ten Questions Science Cannot Answer
- Top Ten Things We As Americans Can Be Proud Of
- Top Ten Interview Questions Asked Miss America Contestants
- Top Ten Reasons To Vote
- Top Ten Reasons Why TV Is Better Than Books
- Top Ten Rejected Provisions of The U.S. Constitution
Quotation of The Day: Based on what you know about him in history books, what do you think Abraham Lincoln would be doing if he were alive today?
1) Writing his memoirs of the Civil War.
2) Advising the President.
3) Desperately clawing at the inside of his coffin. -David Letterman