David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
from the world's big
Start Learning

David Letterman Would Be the Undisputed Web Series King

The late-night host's departure from television is yet another reminder that our media consumption is changing.

David Letterman has hosted his final episode of The Late Show on CBS. Letterman has been a fixture of late-night television for over three decades, beginning in 1982, when he joined Late Night on NBC.  

Whether we've merely dabbled at open mics or made our livings in comedy, those of us who love to make people laugh cite Letterman's influence more frequently than almost anyone else's. The summer of 2004, when I was 12 years old, was the first point in my life when I was allowed to choose my own bedtime. Almost instantly, The Late Show became the last piece of my nightly routine. 

Letterman fascinated me with his ability to combine broad appeal with genuine comedic innovation. At that point, he was approaching 60, but came off as a "cool grandfather" rather than someone who had fallen behind the times. He delivered monologue jokes that were tame enough to sit well with my grandmother's sensibilities, but followed them up with subtle asides that revealed a darker, more twisted part of his sense of humor. He was the rare entertainer who stayed true to his artistic vision, even as he experienced runaway success.

As I got older, YouTube and Netflix helped me to gravitate toward other comedians. They were every bit as funny as Letterman, but didn't have to operate within the formulaic, advertiser-conscious confines of The Late Show. Plus, I could watch them whenever I wanted, on demand, without commercial interruption. I haven't watched an episode of The Late Show in years, and not because I like it any less. I just like a few other shows — and formats — even more. 

Letterman got his start in the days when the three major networks dominated television. Cable was in its infancy, found only in the homes of those who were far ahead of the curve. He is, perhaps, the last prominent television personality to hail from an era when popular culture was unified under a limited umbrella of options. Putting nostalgia aside, most would say we're better off with more choice, and I can't disagree. I enjoy being able to watch shows as disparate as Parks and Recreation and Brain Games without leaving my Netflix app. An optimist would say that pop culture has been diversified. 

But, a world with literally millions of entertainment options is one where I constantly find myself looking for greener pastures. I'll watch a movie for 10 minutes, a show for the next 15, and never actually finish anything. "There must be something better to watch," I think to myself, and there probably is. But the ability to move from one choice to the next so quickly keeps me from approaching art and entertainment with any patience. Perhaps worse yet, if I am able to find something I love, there's a good chance none of my friends have seen it. A pessimist would say that pop culture has been fragmented; water-cooler moments enjoyed by the relatively captive audiences of Letterman's heyday are long gone. 

Letterman's farewell is yet another installment of the long goodbye to the days when television brought large groups of people together. But those who bonded over last weekend's Mad Men finale can take heart, while also keeping in mind that the stories of Don Draper and company never would've made it to air on broadcast television. And while the end of the David Letterman era may be emotional for many, we should hold out hope that we'll see him in a web series someday. 

And now, here's a video of contemporary American comedian Rob Huebel recalling his biggest comedy heroes:

LIVE EVENT | Radical innovation: Unlocking the future of human invention

Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo

Keep reading Show less

Bubonic plague case reported in China

Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.

Vials Of Bacteria That May Cause Plague Missing From TX University

(Photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Getty Images)
  • The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
  • Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
  • Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Keep reading Show less

Self-driving cars to race for $1.5 million at Indianapolis Motor Speedway ​

So far, 30 student teams have entered the Indy Autonomous Challenge, scheduled for October 2021.

Illustration of cockpit of a self-driving car

Indy Autonomous Challenge
Technology & Innovation
  • The Indy Autonomous Challenge will task student teams with developing self-driving software for race cars.
  • The competition requires cars to complete 20 laps within 25 minutes, meaning cars would need to average about 110 mph.
  • The organizers say they hope to advance the field of driverless cars and "inspire the next generation of STEM talent."
Keep reading Show less

The dangers of the chemical imbalance theory of depression

A new Harvard study finds that the language you use affects patient outcome.

Image: solarseven / Shutterstock
Mind & Brain
  • A study at Harvard's McLean Hospital claims that using the language of chemical imbalances worsens patient outcomes.
  • Though psychiatry has largely abandoned DSM categories, professor Joseph E Davis writes that the field continues to strive for a "brain-based diagnostic system."
  • Chemical explanations of mental health appear to benefit pharmaceutical companies far more than patients.
Keep reading Show less

Navy SEALs: How to build a warrior mindset

SEAL training is the ultimate test of both mental and physical strength.

Scroll down to load more…