As David Letterman gets ready to sign off for his final Late Show on May 20th, we’re keeping a running journal of the man’s moods as he goes into his last month of late-night broadcasting.
We’re given to understand that David Letterman is not a habitual toker. Sure, like most of us, he’s dabbled with Mary Jane; according to a 1994 Playboy interview, the talk show host once went through a six-month period of pot smoking that culminated in eating two post-joint pints of Haagen-Dazs, waking up with “a startling thump in my chest,” and a panic-induced visit to the emergency room. After that, he said, his drug-experience days were over. So while we have no reason to believe that he’ll be opening for Cheech and Chong on tour after his retirement, last night’s 4/20 episode had quite the weed-addled vibe.
Maybe it was Dave’s opening monologue, which seemed to jump from basic riffing on the latest sports news — “Tim Tebow has been on the bench longer than Ruth Bader Ginsburg” — to the discussion of New York City’s possible decriminalization of public urination faster than you can say, “Dude, where’s my vape pen?” Maybe it was RJ and Joe’s “highlight reel” [ahem], in which the undynamic duo repeatedly took and left the stage to the wistful sound of panflutes. Perhaps it was the new segment, “Rick Perry: Master of the Silent Screen,” which simply consisted of clips of the former Texas governor gesticulating meaningfully in front of an American flag as wacky cartoon music played in the background. (The bike horn squawks were an especially nice touch.) Or maybe it was the flashback to a February 1995 segment called “May We Press Your Pants Please?” which culminated in a brown-haired Dave buying a fake Rolex from a guy off the street
In any case, last night’s show boasted more than a few riotously silly and rather stonery moments, and Dave seemed to be mellow, relaxed and definitely enjoying himself as he heads into his last month. After bantering with Paul Shaffer about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremonies (the bandleader sounded worn out from his long weekend in Cleveland), Dave bemoaned the fact that Shaffer hasn’t been inducted. “Who has been responsible for more rock and roll over the past 33 years than this guy right here?” he said. “If Paul and his friends are not inducted, I will leave this damn show!” We think he means it, people.
This was Letterman in playful mode: During John Travolta’s interview, Dave left his desk to greet Travolta’s wife, Kelly Preston, and their young son Ben, who seemed reluctant to stay onstage despite the host’s playful entreaties. (“I think we’ve got a place for him on the staff!” Dave cracked.) And though he initially seemed to be entering the paranoia phase of a strong high during Amy Schumer’s appearance — it was hard to tell if he was uptight in the comedienne’s brassy presence, or just had something else on his mind — the Comedy Central star gamely kept things peppy. When Dave finally snapped out of it long enough to implore his guest to “Do something now that you”ll regret,” Schumer revealed a small blemish on her left thigh. “See that scar?” she proudly announced to the audience. “That’s my vagina!” It wasn’t exactly Drew Barrymore flashing the flustered host, but the giggle fit that it gave Letterman spoke volumes. What we would not give for a few more years of that double act.