One of the most bittersweet things about David Letterman’s farewell run is being pleasantly reminded of certain recurring Late Show bits and characters — and then suddenly realizing that this is probably the last time you’ll see them. Rupert Jee, proprietor of the deli down the street from the Ed Sullivan Theater, got to do his very own Top 10 list last night — and if it was indeed his swan song, “Top 10 Things I’ve Always Wanted to Say to Hello Deli Customers” was a perfect way to go out. Really, how often do you hear a line like “How ’bout you, me and your wife go make a sandwich?” on network television?
“You call it a hair, I call it garnish,” was number five on Rupert’s list, and it could have also easily been the motto for last night’s show. “The stockroom is just about empty,” Dave crowed in the wake of the brief but hilarious “Commercials Are Better in Japan” segment, and he was only partly kidding. From his necktie giveaway — because you know Dave is really retiring if he’s raffling off his ties — and the “Superheroes NOT in the Avengers” segments were good ideas hampered by are-we-still-doing-this delivery. As for the groaner about the cue card for an overused joke (“The Late Show was awarded a Tony in the category, Biggest Waste of a Broadway Theater”) being requisitioned for display in a broadcasting museum, maybe that was just Dave being meta. But it sounded as if fatigue is setting in. Someone has a case of senioritis.
Michael Keaton, who made his first appearance as a Letterman guest in 1982, came out for his last one and proceeded to pile on the praises for the host, who embarrassedly attempted to deflect them by dishing them right back. The former Birdman, however, would not be denied: “You’re going to have to sit back and just take this,” he scolded. So what if Dave encouraged his guest to tell about meeting the Pope felt longer than a month of Catholic masses; either he was happy to listen to a long-winded anecdote to avoid more effusiveness or it was simply time-killing time on the show.
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Those who stuck around were rewarded, however, with some hilarious recollections from the days when Keaton and Letterman worked together on the cast of Mary, Mary Tyler Moore’s extremely short-lived 1978 variety show. It only ran for three episodes before CBS pulled the plug, and Keaton demonstrated why with a hysterically cringe-worthy clip featuring the two of them (whose grin in the clip could truly be described as “shit-eating”) dancing and singing along with Moore and fellow cast members Dick Shawn, James Hampton, Swoosie Kurtz and Merrill Markoe on a marching band-style arrangement of the Wings hit, ‘With a Little Luck.”
Dave attempted to crawl under his desk rather than view the clip, but not before mentioning that he and Keaton once dressed as members of the Village People for a different Mary skit. If Dave and his Late Show writers continue to be stuck for new material as the show winds down, they might well consider unearthing that particular clip.