Partisan Late Night
October 11, 2003 9:14 AM   Subscribe

Leno is for elephants (NYT link), Letterman is for donkeys. When did Late Night TV get so political?
posted by adrober (32 comments total)
There's a difference between Letterman's Gray Davis gag and Leno pimping Schwarzenegger at campaign events.

However, I think there's definitely more effort these days to politicize everything -- especially among our overlords on the right. Case in point: Limbaugh's hire by ESPN. As E.J. Dionne wrote in a recent column:
... the Limbaugh hire so reeked of marketing and politics that it was an insult to all sports fans whose political commitments lay elsewhere. Most of us who love sports want to forget about politics when we watch games. Sports, like so many other voluntary activities, creates connections across political lines. All Americans who are rooting for the Red Sox in the playoffs are my friends this month, no matter what their ideology.

Politicizing everything from literature to music to painting and sports was once a habit of the left. The Communist Party's now-defunct newspaper once had a sports column called "Out in Left Field."

Now, it's the turn of the right to politicize everything.
posted by rcade at 9:39 AM on October 11, 2003

Bill Clinton was playing sax on Arsenio Hall many, many years ago.
posted by billsaysthis at 9:43 AM on October 11, 2003

Arsenio was a crony and a major fucking tool. Is Oprah a Republican because she had Arnold on?
posted by trondant at 10:00 AM on October 11, 2003

Maybe Jay was paying Arnie back for announcing his running on Leno's show. With all the free publicity and the huge ratings that they had, it's a reasonable excuse.

Now, would the decision to appear on Leno to announce his campaign be so easy if Letterman were also based in California and Letterman also had a long-time friendship with the new Gov?
posted by graventy at 10:13 AM on October 11, 2003

No, Oprah's a starfucker because she had him on. In the battle between celebrity and democracy, it isn't even close.

Vote Martin Sheen in 2004.
posted by rcade at 10:14 AM on October 11, 2003

No, Oprah's a starfucker because she had him on.

O has Streisand for Tuesday's show, so I guess she goes both ways.
posted by billsaysthis at 10:17 AM on October 11, 2003

Of course Letterman's a show for Democrats. As you know, Dave never made a single joke about Bill Clinton during his presidency.

(rolls eyes completely into head) What rcade said. Leno used his show as a platform to put someone into office. Letterman used his show to make fun of someone in office. If you don't see the difference you're grasping for outrage.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:21 AM on October 11, 2003

This is a huge stereotype I'm about to propagate, but regardless of the promotion of candidates, I think Leno's personality and approach to comedy appeals to the average conservative while Letterman's appeals the average liberal.

Conservative appeal/Jay: wholesome "nice guy", good-natured jabs, soft-ball interview questions, lots of grinning.

Liberal appeal/Dave: Cynical, disaffected, sarcastic interview questions, abstract concept-humor.

Which show can you imagine being played late-night on PAX?
posted by 4easypayments at 10:37 AM on October 11, 2003

It's a question of geography, not politics. Leno's show is filmed in L.A. and David's show is filmed in New York. Had Arnie been going for governor of New York, David probably woulda been where Leno is now. Not due to politics but due to ratings. No matter where he is, Arnold Swarzenegger on television brings in ratings. People tune in to watch the guy. He's a perpetual freak show. That's all. Granted, he's a lovable freak. If it weren't anti-constitutional he could run for president, and swarms of people who never normally vote would come in droves to the polls not because he has the answers or is qualified to run this country, but because people who are fans of his movies would get a sorta visceral, almost voyeuristic thrill out of getting him in office. It'd be like putting a slice of themselves there.

I can empathize in a way. I don't personally feel that way towards Arnold Swarzenegger, but I mean I'd feel the same way if I could get Michael Moore in there, or Billy Joel. Not because I necessarily feel they're qualified (though Moore would definitely shake things up public office). Over the years both of those men have brought great joy to my life just by doing what they do for the public arena, and I feel on some level I can't even describe somehow a kinship that's not real but it's visceral.

This has nothing to do with politics. The people of California (and I fear soon the country) are crying out in one voice they are tired of being offered two identical men in different colored ties. They want someone they identify with on a gut level. And who can't identify with Swarzenegger, eh? A first generation immigrant who came to this country Mister Universe and is living the American Dream. He has the flag wrapped around him and up his ass so tight it makes Madonna's stunt with the flag several years ago look like she was copying him. Arnie IS the American Dream in a literal form. He's the culmination of it.

This has nothing to do with politics. It's a matter of convenience. Conservative versus liberal is as absurd and annoying as shirts versus skins. Blue versus red on the map. Who gets this district? How many districts does that guy have? The Powers That Be, whatever they really are, want people to fight amongst themselves. Do ya root for the cubs or the dolphins? The yankees or the sox? Well you're not really American if you don't support [insert your choice here]. It's all bollocks and you know it. They're all great players and great teams or they wouldn't have gotten this far, but there can only be one winner, right? And all the rest are losers. Doesn't matter that the Cubs have NEVER given up the fight no matter what and they're always plugging EVERY year which makes them winners in my book. Doesn't matter that the Sox have almost won the world series several times, that they're always like second or third or fourth or fifth. They've never been first and that makes them losers?

Who came up with this shit? And why do we eat this shit?

California was given over 150 choices, and the one most of them knew and felt good about was Arnie. That's what the choice was about. Who cares whether or not he's qualified, the people they let us vote for aren't really running the show anyway and haven't been for decades. It's a lie. It's a charade. Everybody knows it. So why not vote Mickey Mouse in there? It doesn't matter anyway. Not anymore. It's too late. Might as well feel good about ourselves while we watch the stars go out.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:51 AM on October 11, 2003

Which is the reason why more people are starting to watch the Daily Show. No bias either way, Jon will make fun of anyone.
posted by CrazyJub at 11:57 AM on October 11, 2003

I don't think Letterman has shied away from mocking anyone. He was nice to Hillary when she came on his show, but I think that's more because smart women make him happy.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:01 PM on October 11, 2003


letterman is funny. leno ain't.
posted by quonsar at 12:42 PM on October 11, 2003

I think Leno's personality and approach to comedy appeals to the average conservative while Letterman's appeals the average liberal.

There may be something to your theory, cuz I'm independent and I think they BOTH suck. Badly.
posted by rushmc at 12:56 PM on October 11, 2003

Cubs v. Dolphins? That would be an interesting game.
posted by AstroGuy at 2:19 PM on October 11, 2003

I think Leno's personality and approach to comedy appeals to the average conservative while Letterman's appeals the average liberal.

Hmm, I have just the opposite impression. Of course, it's probably because I hate Leno and watch Letterman. However I still don't get the popularity of Conan, the Letterman wanna be.
posted by gyc at 2:30 PM on October 11, 2003

It's not the Miami Dolphins? I dunno. I don't care. Cubs versus somethin. I don't even like baseball. As I understand it, it's cubs versus somebody and sox versus somebody. If both teams win they'll face each other in the finals. I'm probably wrong though. Wasn't paying a lot of attention to any of it until recenlty.

Ironically I'm watching this Sox versus Yankees game. Not even sure why. I guess I'm hoping it'll end up being Sox versus Cubs. That I'd definitely like to see. Not to find out who's the winner, but just to see two underdogs finally take the top two places in this sacred grail of a sport.

Which as I type these words has devolved into a brawl. Something about someone named Martinez throwing some other guy down. And we wonder why we're at war? It's a natural American past time.
posted by ZachsMind at 2:40 PM on October 11, 2003

Course, I'm very much on the republican side, and find I prefer letterman. Admittadly, I don't think his show is as good as it was several years ago.

Course, these days through the magic of tivo I've started watching both of them. Although I find I rarely watch the interviews now, and instead just the early parts of the show, unless there's someone I'm interested in seeing.
posted by piper28 at 3:26 PM on October 11, 2003

ZachsMind: The Dolphins are a football team. I just got a funny mental picture of some weird hybrid game involving bats and tackling. You were thinking of the Marlins.
posted by AstroGuy at 4:01 PM on October 11, 2003

piper28: I'm on the democrat side and I seem to prefer Leno now. I was a huge Letterman fan in my younger days, but lately he just seems to be coasting along and not really caring anymore. Actually I flip back and forth between them when I watch at all anymore. The Daily Show, however, is a must-see.
posted by AstroGuy at 4:03 PM on October 11, 2003

I watch Koppel's Nightline, which means I miss both of their opening monologues. Then I tune in to Letterman after Koppel's done. Unless Nightline's topic for the night doesn't interest me, then I switch to Letterman. I don't think it's due to my political convictions. Letterman's funny. Leno is not.

I used to be a liberal democrat. Now I think I'm just a liberal, but I'm not certain anymore. I think all career politicians suck raw eggs through a straw. Anyone with money is going to support corporate interests, and the common man can't afford to compete with corporate money. So no matter how you slice it, it's terrible, and we've nothing left but to make fun of it all and laugh at the absurdity.

Marlins, Dolphins, whatever. The cubs'll chew'm up n' spit'm out. Or words to that effect.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:15 PM on October 11, 2003

And this just in...

From the home office in San Francisco, California, it's the David Letterman Late Show Top Ten! The topic tonight, Top ten bits of advice governor Grey Davis has for governor elect Arnold Swarzenegger! And tonight, presenting the Top Ten List, is none other than recalled ex-governor of California - Grey Davis! Drum roll please, Paul.
Number ten: "When you realize you don't know what you're doing, give me a call."
Number nine: "Baby oil will stain the mansion's Italian silk sofa."
Number eight: "Listen to your constituents — except Michael Jackson."
Number seven: "Sorry, joke No. 7 was recalled."
Number six: "To improve your approval rating, go on Leno; when you get kicked out, go on Letterman."
Number five: "Study the master — George W. Bush." (Laughs) "Ah, I'm just kidding."
Number four: "You could solve the deficit problem by donating your salary from 'Terminator 3.'"
Number three: "If things are bad, just yell, 'Save us, Superman!'"
Number two: "While giving a speech, never say, 'Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara ... same thing.'"

And the number one piece of advice Grey Davis has for Governor Elect Arnold Swarzenegger:

"It's pronounced 'California.' "
posted by ZachsMind at 7:38 PM on October 11, 2003

Liberal appeal/Dave: Cynical, disaffected, sarcastic interview questions, abstract concept-humor.

Abstract concept humor on Letterman? Holy shit I'm in bizarro world.
posted by insomnyuk at 9:52 PM on October 11, 2003

Oh, and if Letterman is abstract concept-humor, then my posts to MetaFilter are a PhD dissertation.
posted by insomnyuk at 9:59 PM on October 11, 2003

The people of California (and I fear soon the country) are crying out in one voice they are tired of being offered two identical men in different colored ties.

That's just an excuse for people who are too lazy to study and understand a candidate's background, qualifications and platform. Were *all* the California candidates "identical men?" (Ariana Huffington? :P) Are Al Gore and Baby Bush two identical men? (Then why can't I stop thinking how much better off we'd be if the popularly-elected President was in office now instead of this nightmare posse?)

The problem is with the people who vote for somebody they think is a good old boy (einer guter alter junge?). They don't vote for someone who's qualified for office. They vote for someone they'd like to have a beer with. But in reality, Good Old Boy could give a crap about people like them.

Oh, back on-topic: Letterman is *marginally* better than that bad Vegas act Leno. (They both were a disgrace in the months leading up to the Iraq invasion.) But what's up lately on Letterman's program with all these women dancing with the band and in other bits? Sheesh, it's like a 20's burlesque show.
posted by NorthernLite at 5:44 AM on October 12, 2003

Politicians all seemed "the same" before the suckyness that is George W. Bush became known. I'm a lot less independent then I was in 2k, that's for sure.

That said, if I lived in California I probably would have voted for Ahnold anyway. Why would I want to keep the state in the hands of a corrupt asshole? It seems like 99% of the hatred directed to Arnold is due only to his party affiliation. So far he's got big democrats on his 'transition team', we'll see how that plays out in the future. But there is a chance he could actually do well.
posted by delmoi at 6:17 AM on October 12, 2003

Why would I want to keep the state in the hands of a corrupt asshole?

When I could put it into the hands of a different one.
posted by lathrop at 9:34 AM on October 12, 2003

I noticed Dennis Miller gets alot of earplay on Leno as well.

Did I mention that "Leno" means "pimp" in Latin? I always try to work that into any late-night discussion.
posted by RavinDave at 10:30 AM on October 12, 2003

But what's up lately on Letterman's program with all these women dancing with the band and in other bits?

Off topic but perhaps Dave or TPTB are sick of losing the ratings battle to The Pimp?
posted by billsaysthis at 12:09 PM on October 12, 2003

"letterman is funny. leno ain't."
Quonsar, you've hit the nail on the head. Letterman may be less funny than 20 years ago, but Leno was never, ever, not even for one tiny second, funny. He's a weasle.

And a pimp.
posted by Outlawyr at 12:35 PM on October 13, 2003

Had Arnie been going for governor of New York, David probably woulda been where Leno is now. Not due to politics but due to ratings.

I have my doubts about that. In part because the Arnie thing is so completely California, it couldn't have happened anywhere else. (Okay, perhaps in Minnesota, but you understand the basic premise.) And in part, because Letterman, from watching him occasionally, just doesn't seem that cheap.
posted by riviera at 12:53 PM on October 13, 2003

I've been watching Dave and Conan, who give skilled voice to my frustration.
They're not giving any breaks to this silly public-relations administration.

Conan did the best joke, and it was surprisingly true to life:
In his fantasy film about the election, he cast Willem Dafoe as Arnie's wife.
posted by troybob at 4:21 PM on October 13, 2003

Well Dave woulda handled it remarkably differently than how Leno handled it. So it wouldn't have been Arnie. Let's say next time the governorship of New York is up for grabs, some celebrity comparable with Arnold, someone who lives in New York proper, decides to run. Provided said celebrity hasn't pissed off David some time in the past, and the celebrity's name guaranteed at least as high ratings and Arnie would, you bet your ass Letterman would be all over that action.

You are right that Hollywood and NYC are different. I don't know which celebrities living in NYC would qualify. Does Bruce Willis live in NYC? Billy Crystal? Dan Ackroyd? Any of those guys could fit the bill, and Letterman would give them air time on his show, and work him into the opening monologue every night.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:03 PM on October 13, 2003

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