Quiet Desperation

Wishing it were earlier in the late-night world


I am drifting into obscurity and irrelevance, and there is no known cure, except to lie about it, and to pretend I know what is going on.

I used to be current. I used to know these people, these “personalities,” but that’s all changed, and I blame David Letterman.

When he retired, I retired.

I began to watch late night talk shows in 1954, when Steve Allen originated “The Tonight Show.” Admittedly, I rarely watched it because I was rarely allowed to watch it.

I liked the format. It seemed live and unscripted, although I learned that it was never live, and that some conversations were prearranged.

Late-night talk shows introduced me to just about everyone I now appreciate and quote and refer to, from 1960 until Letterman packed up on May 20, 2015.

I haven’t watched late night programming since then, and it shows.

Who are these people?

Who is Ariana Grande?

Or is that a large coffee?

As a barometer of my irrelevance, I take a look now and then at the upcoming guest lists for Kimmel, Fallon, Colbert, Meyers and Corden.

(Who is Corden?)

Week by week, year by year, I recognize fewer and fewer of the guests.

I never see Orson Bean’s name anymore.

Eventually, I will be referring to personalities my young readership has never heard of, and when that happens, I might as well grow a Civil War general’s beard and join Letterman on the sideline.

I guess I could subscribe to “People,” but I don’t have the stomach.

Who is Meghan Markle? The poor girl. Every headline I read about her is frightful.

Carson had the newest acts, but he also brought out relics like The Mills Brothers, and at first I was disinterested. Until I heard them sing, and did a little research.

Sure, “Up a Lazy River” in 1965 didn’t do much for me, but when they were at their peak in the 1930s, they were incredible. They were “Four Boys and a Guitar,” but seemed like a small orchestra because they made musical instrument sounds with their voices.

Bob and Ray? Professor Irwin Corey? I met them on “The Tonight Show,” along with a character named Brother Theodore, who was parts Boris Karloff and Salvador Dali.

He called his act “stand-up tragedy.”

Now? I don’t recognize names, and that makes my references dated and stale. Maybe I could hire a personal trainer to rejuvenate me, and bring me up to date.

Let’s start with Bruno Mars.

Maybe on the Twelfth? The Twelfth of Never.

Today’s music has passed me by. I let it play through. I wave it on ahead. I can’t stand it, is what it amounts to. And I know exactly what that means. I am the chaperone at the dance who separates the boys and girls who are rubbing up against each other.

Before my warm milk and a nap, I just wanted to admit the truth about my condition.

I don’t want to wind up like Joe Franklin, who was still interviewing people five years after he died.

But seriously.

I guess there is some good news. Except for Corden, I still recognize the names of the late-night hosts. Eventually, I won’t and then I know it will be time to wander off with Larry “Bud” Melman.


Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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