As David Letterman ends his career in Late Night with the final Late Show appearance tonight on CBS, I'm reminded of how long a run it truly has been for Dave. 33 years is a long time. I remember staying up on Friday nights, watching Late Night with David Letterman, after my dad had passed out on the couch during Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. I remember how fun and different it seemed, Dave throwing pencils at the camera, throwing watermelons and tv sets off rooftops, and throwing us all for a loop for so many nights. I became a student of Dave, literally. By college, I was working on getting his voice down to do an acceptable voice impression.
When the show changed to CBS and The Late Show, I was out of high school, and starting my radio career in college. I was also starting to do an impression of David Letterman, among other celebrities and polilticians. In 1994, I got what was the coolest gig a 21-year-old kid could have: Doing voice impressions on a live morning radio show. Thanks to the generosity of a man named Gene Taylor, executive producer of the Dick Purtan Show on Q95 in Detroit, Dick heard about me and hired me after a brief audition in his office. I gave him a list of voices I did, and one by one, with his eyes closed, he ran down the list while I performed each impression.
Now, not all of my celebrity impressions were perfect, especially David Letterman, but it was a starting point. And having some people you respected in the business you love, believe in you to the point that they'd like you to perform your voice impressions on the air with them, well that was everything to me in my very early professional life.
Here's one of those early performances of my David Letterman impression with Dick Purtan:
That old recording makes me cringe, but it also makes my point: Start with what you have, keep working with what you got, and soon you may have something special. Since then I added a Paul Shaffer impression, and seeing it all come full-circle twenty years later, I have to say, it really is mind-blowing to me.
I'm sure going to miss you Dave. Thank you for all the years of inspiration!