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Alan Pergament: Funny and genuine, Letterman went out his way

My Top 10 takeaways from David Letterman’s amusing star-studded and clip-heavy farewell Wednesday:

10. I can’t believe I stayed up until 12:55 a.m. to watch it rather than DVR it and watch it in the morning. But it would have seemed disrespectful to watch it in the morning since Letterman started his TV career there with a morning show that flopped. The normal hour of the final program averaged an 8.0 live rating on Channel 4, but it slipped to a 5.9 from 12:30-12:45 a.m. when he was saying his goodbyes. I imagine those going to bed DVRed the end of it. If you want comparisons, Jay Leno’s more emotional goodbye in February 2014 had a live local rating of 9.7.

9. It was a nice touch by Letterman to praise his replacement, Stephen Colbert, early in the show and wish him well. Of course, he would have been killed on Twitter if he hadn’t.

8. What a terrific start to show with a prerecorded segment featuring clips of the late President Gerald Ford, President George H.W. Bush, his son President George W. Bush, President Bill Clinton and President Obama involved in the opening joke by saying “our long national nightmare is over.” I just wonder how many viewers in the early part of the age 18-49 demographic that Colbert will be looking for when he comes on in September could identify all the presidents and knew Ford spoke the line when he took office after President Richard Nixon resigned.

7. Loved the last Top 10 list with all those celebrities delivering “Top 10 Things I’ve Always Wanted to Say to Dave.” My favorite line came from Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the look Jerry Seinfeld gave after she said it: “Thanks for letting me take part in another hugely disappointing series finale.” I’m glad Leno never showed up in the Top 10 or any other way to make up with Letterman but wasn’t surprised. After all, Letterman had said on the show recently he doubted Leno would want to do it.

6. My one bit of criticism of the finale: The day in Letterman’s life bit as the host played with his co-workers wasn’t exactly riveting stuff.

5. The old bit in which Letterman pretended to be working at a taco drive-thru window killed again, especially when a female customer thought she was in on a joke and asked: “Are you Howard Stern?”

4. The old bit in which Letterman played along with young kids also killed again, especially when it ended with a kid telling him, “You are not funny.” The kid presumably has grown up and learned how wrong he was back then.

3. It was a real sweet moment when Letterman’s son Harry and wife, Regina, were shown in the audience during the host’s final speech. Letterman’s genuine smile as he looked at Harry was priceless.

2. What a nice touch it was to have the Foo Fighters – who performed at Letterman’s first show after he came back from heart surgery – come back to sing “Everlong” as hundreds of photographs of big moments on Letterman’s programs in 33 years flashed before viewers’ eyes and reminded us all of his legacy in the process.

1. Johnny Carson would have been proud. Letterman went out his way – classy and self-deprecating – on a finale that seemed modeled in a few ways with his mentor’s more emotional finale. There was no final guest but there was a short speech by Letterman thanking just about everybody associated with the program. He also sprinkled in some jokes, which undoubtedly helped him avoid tearing up. The lack of tears was in keeping with his detached personality and general discomfort with praise and sentiment. Letterman was just being Letterman until the end – and proved the Louis-Dreyfus comparison to the “Seinfeld” finale to be wrong.