The Letterman Confession: Do you hear what I hear?

Posted by Dan October 2nd, 2009 at 12:43am In David Letterman

LETTERMAN-775520I really don’t know quite how he pulled it off. I’m a little surprised and a little horrified, but mostly just baffled.

Just now, David Letterman made the rare step of discussing his personal life on his show. Unlike other moments, like his marriage and the birth of his child, this wasn’t going to be a happy occasion. As I’m sure you’ve heard from a hundred other sources by now, he basically admitted to having had sexual encounters with several female members of his staff (due to the fact that he was being blackmailed by an individual who was arrested on Thursday before the show was taped). Letterman has been married for several years to a woman who had been married his long-time girlfriend in March. The LA Times says these incidents occurred when they were a couple.

To start off, let me say this — I don’t necessarily care who David Letterman has affairs with. Or any celebrity for that matter. Unless it’s Barack Obama or my fictional boyfriend, I really have no investment in anyone’s extracurricular dabblings.

But still, I am a little slack-jawed at how Letterman was able to turn this no-win situation into essentially a comedic bit — thanks in part to a clever framing of the anecdote, in part to his rather cavalier and nonchalant tone in telling the story (he recounted it as if it were a yarn about the dog chewing up his slippers) and in part to the laughter and insipid applause of his nervous and confused audience.

Basically, Letterman told the story of how he was extorted — not specifying the adultery and calling his misdeeds “horrible creepy things” (or something to that effect). For about five minutes, he spoke of himself as the victim (which he not doubt was) and only at the end copped to the sex. When he mentioned that, he was actually met with laughter and applause by the audience — no doubt an inane gaggle of tourists who were ready to laugh at anything (including his excruciating, Leno-worthy monologue).

Now that it’s all said and done, I don’t like Letterman any less than I did before.  I am, though, in slight awe of the whole spectacle.  I kind of wish I had done some grievous misdeed, just so I could expertly talk my way out of it.  After all, one commercial break later and everyone had managed to have had their palates cleansed and were ready to see Dave talk to Woody Harrelson about his new zombie movie.

4 Comments

  • 1. sara  |  October 2nd, 2009 at 11:34 am

    I think it’s just delightful that Dave considers the women who work for him good enough to sleep with but not good enough to write jokes for his crummy monologues.

  • 2. Theo  |  October 4th, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Let’s try getting our facts straight before we start passing judgment. Letterman has been married for just over six months, not “several years.”. And he has not admitted to any affairs. His spokespeople have said these encounters happened well before he got married. Having sex with people you work with may be a little gauche but I hardly see how it qualifies as a “grievous misdeed” especially as no one has ever complained about him or accused him of harassment.

  • 3. Dan  |  October 5th, 2009 at 12:08 am

    Point taken regarding the length of his marriage — although, to be sure, he has been in a relationship for years and years.

    But my question is this: Was my passing of judgment the part where I said that I didn’t care who Letterman (or anyone else) sleeps with? Or the part where I said I didn’t like him any less than I did before?

    My post addressed the strange delivery of his coming-clean segment. It wasn’t a hand-wringing indictment — which you defensively imply I did. (And I didn’t categorize his actions as ‘grievous misdeed’ — just that I wish I had the skill to play off looming bad publicity and get laughs in the process. After all, whatever he did was apparently worthy of blackmail.)

  • 4. Theo  |  October 5th, 2009 at 2:54 am

    Thanks for the response. I guess I just caught this undercurrent of admonishment in your post, usings words like “horrified”, “affairs”, “adultery”, and “misdeeds.” I think we’re mostly on the same page here, but I guess I see Letterman’s speech a bit differently than you do. I don’t think letterman saw himself as doing anything really wrong, thus his sarcastic statements that he did “horrible, terrible” things. I don’t think he really saw it as blackmail worthy, honestly. But I catch your point. Didn’t mean to be at all rude about it. I very much enjoy the site.


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