MY LIFE WITH DAVID LETTERMAN (A RESTORATION OF A DIFFERENT KIND)

On May 7th, 2015, David Letterman did one of my jokes in his monologue. Yes, that is correct -- the funniest man on national television for the last 30+ years decided to use a chunk of one of his last Late Show monologues to do a bit I did for him from the studio audience TWO MINUTES before the show started. I am honored, awed and frankly, on cloud nine.

As customers of our shop already know, in my current life I own a mid-century furnishings business in Brooklyn. It is very fulfilling to use my brain and my hands in equal measure to restore and renew worthy pieces from another era, and I am proud of my work.

But before I did that, I was a comedian.

I started doing stand-up gigs in my early 20's, and by the time I moved to NYC a few years later, I had gone from opening in local clubs to headlining venues around the nation. Through the exhaustive amount of travel to unfamiliar places, my one constant was laughing and bonding with Dave in every hotel room, in every nook and cranny of this country. Unbeknownst to him, he was my mentor, friend and my home away from home.

Over the years I saw more than a few friends do his show, but for various reasons, some in and some out of my control, I never landed that golden spot. A lot of funny guys never do and that's that. Anyway, I know this funny furniture guy in Brooklyn...yes, always a comedian at heart, I'll occasionally crack up customers in my shop, spin a sidewinder at the DMV and be mildly amusing at school meetings. It's all just enough to keep me at least vaguely connected to my comedic roots and that's perfectly fine with me...Oh yeah -- and there was always still Dave on the TV, my last connection to hanging out with fellow comedians, a twisted and deeply funny pastime for which there is no substitute...

Once Dave announced his retirement, it was like hearing that a great old friend was joining the witness protection program. I realize that as a matter of necessity, when joining the witness protection program, your friends most likely can't know that you're joining the witness protection program in order for it to succeed in your not finding out first hand where Hoffa is buried. But please go with it anyway, because there is definitely one major parallel, ALL CONNECTION LOST.  

With the news, I'd been lamenting more than usual not getting the show and never meeting Dave. All of these years I could have at least gone to see the show but didn't. And now I assumed that getting tickets would be impossible. But when some friends had recently been able to do just that, knowing what it would mean to me, my wife made it her mission and amazingly succeeded in getting us tickets to his tenth-to-last show.

My mind started to race. I had wanted to be on his show mainly so he could see what I'd done with what he'd taught me. And to make him laugh would've wholly ratified my constitution. Now the Universe had provided this unexpected eleventh hour opportunity to be in the same room with Dave, but the last thing I wanted was to make a stupid human of myself.

Fortuitous random seating placed us in close proximity to the stage. Energetic audience coordinators told us that Dave would come out and take a question or two before the taping. And like a Grand Plan it happened: mid warm-up, Dave peered into the audience and said "questions anyone?" I shot my hand in the air like a kid in class. Somehow, through the blur of noise, he pointed at me and said "Yes?" The audience hushed, time expanded, and just yonder was David Letterman watching, waiting...

All right funny furniture guy, make it count: "Dave, you've made me laugh for over 30 years. I was a working comedian for over a decade and I wanted nothing more than to get on your show just to make you laugh. May I have this one last chance to try to make you laugh now?"

The audience laughed in a giddy but supportive way. He smiled and said "Sure, give me a little piece of your act." My heart raced. I'd been granted the Golden Ticket. But now the reality: I'd just asked the funniest man alive if I could make him laugh. I bared down and  launched into a bit I'd done a million times about an unaffectionate girlfriend. I interjected that this wasn't about my current and beautiful wife sitting next to me. "She's great, everything's good but no act."

The audience laughed. But in the microphone, Dave's laugh was the loudest -- low, guttural and authentic. He laughed at me! "I did it!" Wonderful applause as I shouted "Yes! Thank you!" He laughed again then said that I'd touched on a truth about comedians, that without misery there's not much funny. I was truly floating. As a cynic pushing 50, I don't much float. Kids float, but they're tiny idiots who don't know any better. For that brief moment, I was once again a tiny idiot. Then, through my haze of elation, I heard Dave say "So what's the bit?" HE STILL WANTS TO HEAR THE BIT!

Okay, no big deal, just the defining moment of a career...or, more appropriately, the career of life. Let's go with that. Feeling the time pressure, I speed-talked my way through the rest of the bit, somehow still making it work. Laughing once again, through a smile, he repeated my punch line as does Dave, he waved and said "Thanks everybody, see you in a minute", then handed the mike off and disappeared back stage. Within two minutes the taping began. Dazed on morphine I didn't know I had with me, I smiled and watched; then, about three minutes into his monologue, "IT" happened...

David Letterman, on national TV, to my utter amazement, uttered the first words of my bit. A roar of joy left my body. The crowd wailed with awe and extended appreciation. As he skillfully paced through this obviously unscripted tangent, his razor-sharp chops firing on all cylinders, he delivered his version of a bit he'd barely heard once with the giddiness of a kid who'd just pulled a major fast-one over on all of us. Although my intercut reaction shots clearly indicate that this had quite a bit to do with me, he never said so. He didn't have to. He knew he was giving me a priceless gift, for which I was, and will be, forever grateful.

So watch the clip for yourself. It's a testament to Dave's generosity, the fact that anything can happen, and, well my hero David Letterman must think I'm kinda funny. Or funny for a furniture guy anyway.

And on the off-chance that Dave may stumble onto this post (I have no idea why that would happen but as I've certainly learned, you never know), I would like to leave a personal note for him: Thank you Dave, for making my life better in a profound manner that has already manifested in an underlying but constant bit of 'extra' happiness for me and my family. And thanks for devoting your life to making us all feel a little bit better every night. We, the nameless and faceless millions will miss you as much as all of those sobbing celebrities. I do sincerely wish you all the best and happiness for your retirement. It's hard to say good bye, but I will with one last hopeful word: PODCAST? (Once a week from your garage -- how hard could it be?)



6 Responses

Kim Kelly
Kim Kelly

May 14, 2016

I found you looking 4 the Candlestick that I thrifted today. reading through your site i got to the blog and saw the Letterman story. Loving him but never imagining how much it actually involved him and the Mike of the candlesticks… I started reading. what an enjoyable story. I remember seeing that show even without looking at the link. Good going Mike. I’m glad that happened for you. I’ll watch it now and know why they kept cutting to you and why the audience seemed so supportive. BTW my score was a single of the trio that sold!

paul
paul

June 28, 2015

i cried twice: when i watched it and again when i set up the clip for my family and showed it to them. yes, it’s a funny bit but this story is so meaningful, moving and beautifully told. kol hakavod, as we say in the ’hood. xo

Bonnye Mannin
Bonnye Mannin

May 22, 2015

I also love David Letterman and will miss him. Loves seeing this happen for you.

Max
Max

May 22, 2015

Cool story! Congratulations!! I never got a chance to meet you or buy any furniture while I was still in NYC but I still admire it from afar.

Brian Shube
Brian Shube

May 22, 2015

Hi Mike,
I watched that show and remember the bit. I didn’t notice that it was you, but now I recognize you in the clip. Congrats on the dream come true

Craig
Craig

May 22, 2015

Congrats Mike! That is such a great story!
And couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy :)

I was on the Letterman show back in the 90s – well, I was in the studio audience and the he interviewed the person next to me. I still have a tape of it somewhere. He will be missed!

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