I had never fully realized how fast time moves until I experienced the countdown until your final show. On April 3rd, 2014, I heard of your retirement just like everyone else. It was ruined for me on Twitter before I heard the announcement from you later that night. Paul Shaffer, who’s been there to highlight your funniest moments for decades, reacted with the same candor he has for everything. I almost didn’t believe you. How am I supposed to believe a guy who spent so many nights wondering whether obscure items would float in a tank of water?
There’s been a massive shift in late night in the last few years. The problem is that I don’t find myself being as loyal to these new shows and these new hosts. Their guests and YouTube videos keep me invested for a few minutes at a time, but I don’t watch their shows to completion like I did yours. When I was a kid, I’d stay the night at my father’s house on the weekends. I remember being afraid to sleep in my own bedroom, so I’d stay in his bed and watch TV with him before we rested our eyes. Your show was the last thing I saw on those nights.
Now, I know that’s not the first time you’ve been told that. Hell, you’re a late night talk show host. But I remember my dad laughing at you. As a kid, I don’t recall my sense of humor consisting of anything beyond fart noises and Nicktoons, so you informed a significant portion of my adult personality.
I’m not political by any means. In fact, I’m as ignorant as they come. Whatever knowledge I have of Iraq or Bill O’Reilly is due to your engaging and intelligent interviews. I found myself absorbing your ideals. I have no idea how liberal or conservative you might be, I just think you’ve always stood for what’s right. Nobody but Stewart and Colbert were asking our world leaders the real questions on late night television. You are truly the thinking man’s talk show host, and you make me feel smarter for agreeing with you.
The admiration and respect you garner from your peers is so evident. Your own sense of respect and professionalism is something many have learned from and continued into their own shows. Since high school, my dream has been to be your peer as a talk show host. I don’t believe I have what it takes to start as a stand-up comedian, and I haven’t received a degree from any university. But I owe my podcast to you. For those nights when I was a scared boy that sought comfort in one of the funniest human beings on the planet; I thank you.. One of my guests recently had the nerve to compare myself to you. Even though I recognize the absurdity of that statement, I found myself weeping.
I’ve always laughed at Paul just as much as you. Especially when all he would do is repeat the punchline of your joke. He stretched your ridiculous jokes into being common dialogue between two people. When you suggest to the audience that you’re leaving One Direction, Paul would validate it just to amp up the absurdity.
I will miss everything you’ve given me:
I’ll miss Alan Kalter, Biff Henderson, Todd the Intern, Rupert Jee and the Hello Deli, the CBS Orchestra, and all of the others in the cast and crew that I feel like I’ve known all my life.
I’ll miss Jack Hanna episodes where you ask if every animal is a lemur. I’ll miss strange people interrupting your monologue for absolutely nothing at all. I’ll miss Stupid Pet Tricks. I’ll miss the band members raising their hands, admitting to things they shouldn’t have. I’ll miss hearing that glass breaking sound effect. I will miss the Top Ten lists.
I’ll miss seeing you run across the stage in a sprint before taking the stage to thunderous applause.
You truly taught me to take the setups in life, and find the punchlines. You changed television and you changed me. I will be drinking from my Late Show mug with you Wednesday night, my friend.
Ryan Snelling writes for Filmbeef.com and hosts the Filmbeef podcast. Follow him on Twitter @FilmbeefSnell