“My name is David Letterman,” announced the Late Show host last night. “And tonight, I’m giving my two-week notice.”
It has indeed come down to the final two weeks of Letterman, though last night’s episode thankfully revealed no inclination on Dave’s part to simply run out the clock. The opening monologue crackled with guffaw-inducing one-liners, even though viewers under the age of 50 probably didn’t the one about how he’d been booked to star with Jay Leno in a production of The Sunshine Boys.
The host hasn’t been shy about mining jokes about his own advancing age for laughs, but last night he gleefully got off several at the expense of the even-older Harrison Ford. “How many folks remember the original Indiana Jones movie?” Dave asked, referring to Raiders of the Lost Ark, which hit the big screen a little over half a year before Late Night made its television. “In this [rumored new] film, he goes in search of a tomb for himself. And instead of outrunning a giant boulder, he has to pass an enormous kidney stone.”
A riff about Kim Kardashian’s book (and ass) gave way to the evening’s biggest surprise: an appearance by Cher, the real Armenian goddess of pop culture, who interrupted Dave’s monologue by strutting out in her Eighties MTV-era finery. “Thank you for being here,” he grinned, playing it smooth and casual. “What’s going on?”
“For a number of years,” she told him, “there’s always something that I’ve wanted to get straight between us.” (“Me too,” he replied with a Groucho Marx-worthy leer.) Cher recalled how, during her first Letterman appearance 29 years earlier, she’d called Dave an asshole. “But this is one thing I mean from the bottom of my heart — I really love you, and I’m gonna miss you,” she said, wrapping him in an affectionate clinch that lasted for nearly a minute. “And you’re still an asshole.”
After the in-person Cher flashback, Martin Short had Dave chuckling heartily with his memories of Letterman’s “high concept” approach during the show’s early days. (For example, the false ending to the December 3, 1982 episode that caused all of Short’s friends and family to miss his initial Letterman appearance.) He then brought the house down with a hilarious song that he claimed to have written for Dave’s funeral. For once, the host seemed to really enjoy the “guest at his own wake” aspect of his farewell run, probably because Short peppered his musical tribute with lines like “For 30 years, Dave never cared for actors.”
Norah Jones closed the evening with a more subtle musical tribute of her own, performing a lovely rendition of her torch song “Don’t Know Why” — the same song she’d sung while making her Letterman debut exactly 13 years ago to the day. Dave, obviously enthused by her performance, thanked Jones by being almost as handsy with her as he’d been with Cher, making us wonder what will happen when and if Drew Barrymore shows up during the next two weeks.