Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Funniest Guy Wasn't There

They've been after him for years, so David Letterman must know something.

Maybe it's because of his famous anti-social proclivities. Maybe Saturday really is Yoga night at the Letterman home. Maybe he learned a tough lesson when he hosted the Oscars: it ain't fun bombing in person.

Thanks to C-SPAN even nobodies can be a fly on the wall at the White House Correspondent Association's annual dinner. I'm no Sanjaya but I like watching a train wreck as much as the next guy.

Don't worry if you missed it last night -- C-SPAN will repeat it several thousand times. But you missed nothing. Well, almost nothing: the only thing worth seeing, Letterman's virtual appearance, is already on YouTube.

Please Help Me Forget

Rich Little, making his second and certainly last appearance as "the talent" at the dinner, was horrible. A choice intended to make everyone forget last year's pointed commentary by Steven Colbert, he probably succeeded by putting everyone to sleep. Little's impersonation pipes are a far cry from his prime (circa the last time he appeared here, in 1984) and his material is the kind grandpa thinks is still funny after all these years.

Bush laughed a little, but maybe he was just savoring his wise decision not to do his own material this year, too soon after the Virginia Tech massacre, while Little went down in flames. Watching another proxy take the heat is pretty funny, actually.

But the funniest guy in the room wasn't in the room -- props anyway to WHCA president Steve Scully for calling Charlie Gibson "Brian Williams" as the ABC News anchor left the podium, which not enough people seemed to hear. Letterman was prevailed upon to provide a video edition of his "Top 10 List" for the occasion, and it killed.

True to Form

Made up entirely of familiar Bush malapropisms and pratfalls, the compiliation exactly captured Letterman's signature tone of unapologetic irreverance shorn of real malice. This is a tough balancing act for a guy who does an almost nightly video of "Great Moments in Presidential Speeches" which unflatteringly compares Bush to JFK and FDR over and over and over again.

I hope the next WSCA president, Ann Compton, has better luck wooing Letterman to actually show up. Or maybe they should get the message and just dispense with booking an act to do 30 minutes of bad material that keeps attendees from getting to the after parties, where everyone really wants to be.

Letterman's three minutes from afar, calmly sitting at his Ed Sullivan Theater studio desk, was a perfect tonic at this moribund annual event everyone wants to attend and can't wait to leave -- you know, sort of like the Oscars. So next year how about getting by with brief video "tributes" from the people in the news, sprinkled throughout the evening. And another "Top 10" from Dave, of course.

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