I’m all over this week’s Perpetual Post! Catch this week’s discourse about the David Letterman scandal! Jillian and Howard’s sides can be found here.
I go to bed pretty early these days, and thus I lead an existence that is fairly sheltered from prime time and late night. But I’ve always had a soft spot for David Letterman, so when I heard that he had revealed the scandalous details of a plot to blackmail him during a broadcast of the Late Show, I was chagrined. My first response was, “Letterman! What the hell were you thinking?! ”
However, as my initial shock wore off and it became clear that Letterman’s televised confession was a brilliant, ballsy move that diffused the entire situation, my concern for his career turned to confusion. “Wait,” I thought. “Who the hell would try to blackmail David Letterman?!”
You see, even though I have a fondness for David Letterman, it’s not because he gives me the warm fuzzies. He’s a curmudgeon! He keeps his studio freezing cold and tells nasty jokes about celebrities and politicians and glares around a lot! He reminds me of my hometown of New York City. He’s brutal, he’s hilarious, you’re kind of scared of him, and he won’t be ignored.
In hindsight, it’s not much of a surprise that the blackmail attempt was a spectacular failure. Anyone who has watched more than ten minutes of the Late Show could have predicted as much—and it’s because Letterman doesn’t actually have that much to lose. He’s a celebrity, and as such, he wants to avoid scandal and negative attention as much as anyone else—but he’s not a politician. He doesn’t set himself up as a role model or a leader or an exemplary citizen. We don’t turn to him for guidance, and his career doesn’t hinge on holding the moral high ground—it hinges on being entertaining. And what’s more entertaining than a good old fashioned extortion scandal—especially one in which the audience gets to feel like they’ve got an insider perspective because the blackmail victim is confiding in them on national television?
The line between the politician and the celebrity has never been more blurred—and Letterman’s would-be extortionist miscalculated when he assumed that Letterman, like your average politician, would do anything to keep his reputation intact. If anything, Letterman’s reputation has improved thanks to this whole situation. Because he now comes across as the kind of grouch who will f— you UP if you come after him. Go Dave!