It is real time on The Late Show with David Letterman. Just six shows to go now and every one feels like a finale.
On Tuesday’s seventh-last episode, former President Bill Clinton paid a visit followed by a disheveled Adam Sandler. Sandler looks like a mess, but pulls out a heartfelt final salute to Dave with an original song. It is silly, politically incorrect and just plain wrong but funny and deeply moving all at the same time. It makes up for the last 12 Adam Sandler movies. Sandler nails our relationship with Dave at the end. Watch it and try not to be moved in the clip above.
The night before it was Howard Stern and Don Rickles. Stern was also a mess, more awkward than ever. Letterman looks pissed as Stern bitches about not getting to have dinner with Dave after the show and that that honor has been reserved for Rickles.
As only Stern can, he manages to bully Dave’s producers into confirming that Jay Leno had been invited into the final shows but declined. Letterman than revealed Leno made the same offer to him and that he declined, explaining he didn’t want to steal Jay’s spotlight. So Jay also declined, “and that’s when we called you,” said Letterman, putting Stern in his place one last time.
Rickles looks older than Yoda and is already in the chair when we find him after a commercial break. That brain is still firing but boy, he could go any minute. When they show a still from Rickles’ first appearance 30 years earlier, he looks old then. He’s still funny, fusses over Stern and makes sure Letterman plugs both of his upcoming stand-up gigs. Letterman does it because it will be one of his last sacred acts of the old school comedy covenant.
There’s no, “but sincerely…” moment from Rickles because Stern will not shut up.
Here’s how I think the final episode should go:
Paul McCartney and Ringo Star close the show with “The End.” The whole world sings along to, “And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.” Dave walks off into the sunset with Madonna.
On all the other talk shows next Wednesday night: Jimmy Kimmel has already announced he’ll air a rerun out of deference to Dave. A better idea: every other late night band opens every rival show with Paul Shaffer’s Late Show theme. It just plays on every channel. By Cleto and the Cletones, Conan’s The Basic Cable Band, The Roots, the new guy with the wild ‘fro behind Corden. Maybe not by Fred Armisen on Seth Meyers.
Tonight: Julia Roberts is the first guest and it will get sloppy. Shaffer is scheduled to sit and talk as a guest. Ryan Adams closes things out. Thursday is George Clooney and Tom Waits. Friday: Oprah Winfrey and Norm Macdonald.