When I was a kid, late night television always held a special mystique. Since there were no DVR’s or even VCR’s, the only way to watch was to stay up late. Even way back then, school started pretty early, so my parents insisted that I go to bed at a reasonable time and get my full eight hours. Consequently, the appeal of Johnny Carson remained a mystery to me.
When Saturday Night Live premiered things changed. Here was a show that was on late but since I didn’t have to get up early on Sundays, there was no reason that I couldn’t stay up and watch, except ,of course, for the fact that many of the sketches on SNL weren’t appropriate for kids. Lucky for me, my parents recognized the value of brilliant comedy and would often let me stay up to watch on the nights Steve Martin would host.
The major change came in 1982 when Dave Letterman premiered after Carson. I stayed up as often as I could and by that time, technology allowed me to record the show and watch it later. There is no doubt that Letterman’s early work was a major influence on me.
Now that my kids are old enough to appreciate comedy that reaches beyond the capabilities of Zach and Cody, I encourage them to watch a variety of comedy on television. With so many chat shows on TV and the ability to watch on their own schedule, there is nothing stopping them from enjoying quality comedy, except of course, their own stupidity.
I, personally, watch Conan O’ Brien, Jimmy Fallon and Letterman every night they have a new episode. I am always amazed at how different they can all be while offering quality laughs night after night. My kids, however, refuse to recognize their brilliance. They, inexplicably, laugh out loud while watching reruns of The George Lopez Show, but refuse to sit through an episode of Lopez Tonight.
Once, I even offered to take them to a taping on Conan, when Justin Bieber was a guest and they passed when they realized they would have to stay for the whole show.
I’m sure there will come a day when some internet sensation like Fred gets his own talk show and my kids will watch faithfully but by then, I will, of course, be an old-timer who “just doesn’t get it.”