David Letterman has his final show tonight, after 22 years hosting "The Late Show with David Letterman" on CBS, and 11 years hosting "Late Night with David Letterman" on NBC before that. I was too young to enjoy "Late Night with David Letterman" - heck it was a real treat at that age if I got to watch Johnny Carson's monologue, much less stay up til 12:30 Central time to see Letterman's madcap antics. By the time I was old enough to stay up to watch Letterman, he had moved to CBS, left many of his recurring gags at NBC thanks to copyright attorneys, and had rounded out the edges of his show to make it more palatable for a mainstream crowd.
It was still hilarious to me, even if it wasn't quite the absurd, surreal show I had heard "Late Night" to be. Despite being a watered-down version, it was still a nice alternative to the much more mainstream, white-bread "Tonight Show with Jay Leno." I loved the remotes to visit his neighbors at "Hello Deli" with Rupert Gee. I loved the completely random rantings of announcer Alan Kalter. I loved the absurd situations they put stage manager Biff Henderson in. I loved that #2 on the "Top Ten List" was always funnier than #1. I loved that Letterman's production company was named "Worldwide Pants", an acknowledgement that the word "pants" on its own is simply hilarious.
The jokes and gags could miss badly - there were entire evenings where the show was not funny at all - but when they did connect, the show hit it out of the park. I liked the show because it went beyond the "hey, did you see this in the paper" broad comedy everyone could get, and instead had nonsensical gags that I felt you had be part of the club to understand, and I liked that. It was the same strain of humor that would influence many of the absurd comedy shows I would watch as a young man - "Kids in the Hall", "Mr. Show", "The State", "Late Night with Conan O'Brien", "The Daily Show", and Letterman's successor Stephen Colbert with "The Colbert Report."
Letterman himself has acknowledged the show went off track after many years, and its pretty clear he lost the zip on his fastball in his later years, as many do. But there is little doubt the influence he had, especially among comedians. I don't mean to knock Jay Leno - he does what he does and he does it very, very well - but there is a reason why when Leno retired, it happened with barely a peep (despite the fact that by all accounts he is an extremely nice person), while with Letterman retiring there are tributes and retrospectives and well-wishes from every corner of the comedy world (despite the fact that by all accounts Letterman is irascible and grumpy with a sex scandal to boot). Letterman was an innovator, a titan in comedy, and he will be missed.
Anyway, this is just a flimsy excuse to write some words about David Letterman, but there have been a few Royals-related moments on his shows over the years. Here are just a few.
Letterman once devoted an entire show to slugger Harmon Killebrew, who briefly played for the Royals. Twinkie Town does a great job explaining how this night came to be. Dave is a bit confused which team plays in Kansas City.
George Brett stopped by just before Opening Day in 1986, fresh off winning a championship, and talked about one day being a Royals executive - "hopefully the kind that doesn't do much."
Letterman famously made Royals light-hitting shortstop Buddy Biancalana a household name by tracking Biancalana's pursuit of the hit record. After Biancalana became an unexpected World Series hero, he was game enough to come on the show.
Bo Jackson came on the show after returning to the big leagues following artificial hip replacement surgery and they showed a few highlights of Bo in a Royals uniform.
More recently Kansas City native and Royals fan Jason Sudeikis came on Letterman to show his George Brett-autographed bat.
Jason Sudeikis' signed bat, from George Brett, as he showed on Letterman a few years back. pic.twitter.com/oQdDM4huJj— Royals Review (@royalsreview) May 15, 2015
And Royals fan Paul Rudd came on Letterman to talk about being at the World Series and the post-game kegger.