In a few days,
will emerge unscathed from the hullabaloo surrounding the bombshell about that extortion plot against him.
His fans don't care about his indiscretions, and the notoriety will probably make his show more popular than ever. And what do you bet the blackmailer will join the ""Fire Dave"" protesters as regulars in Dave's monologue?
No, that's not how it's going to be at all. This is the beginning of the end for Letterman. He was funny once, but in recent years his on-air persona has gone from goofy to eccentric to, as he put it Thursday night, ""creepy.""
More revelations will leak out about young women in his office being cherry-picked for a role on Dave's casting couch, and as they do, disgusted viewers will start switching to
No, that's too pessimistic a view. Dave will be chastened by this episode, as he was by his heart bypass, as he was by 9-11, as he was when he learned that the woman breaking into his home was suffering from schizophrenia (which is when he stopped making jokes about her).
He knows he needs to make amends with some of his viewers. He'll apologize for his lack of workplace ethics. He'll ease off the jokes about public figures' sex lives. And he won't make light of blackmail on his show.
It's too early to tell how this episode will end, though any of the above scenarios strikes me as plausible. One thing is certain: Letterman's confession on Thursday's ""Late Show"" provided us with an instant cultural Rorschach test.
In the 12 hours following the broadcast, hundreds of readers posted comments to my
— and a woman they both reportedly shared a bed with.
Let's start with the weird way Letterman broke the news to his audience.
During the monologue, Letterman told several jokes about
, and the audience ate them up — having no idea, of course, that the person on stage was about to enshrine himself in their rarefied company.
It's possible that Dave knew all along that he was going to play his confession for laughs — not unlike his retelling of the story of driving to the county courthouse in
When the show aired, many of those watching at home hadn't heard the news, so they laughed right along with the audience as Dave started sharing the tawdry details of what he called the ""creepy stuff"" he had done. Many in the audience were still laughing even after he revealed he was the target of a
""With Letterman, one is never sure if the story is true,"" tweeted ourpaldave. ""I wasn't sure until the end, so I tittered with the audience.""
But on TVBarn.com, E. O'Neal said Dave's fans are way too easy to please. ""They're supposed to laugh every time he pauses. It's a conditioned reflex that shows they're in on the joke. Last night was especially creepy.""
""He certainly flipped the script in TV confessions,""
tweeted. ""My first reaction was, 'Huh. He did not do what you're supposed to do in situations like this.' And that's kinda remarkable.""
As for the incident itself, the responses can be roughly distributed among four large, overflowing buckets:
There are the fans of Dave, those who find a bit of consensual office sex to be not that big a deal — especially in a week that has featured Polanski's arrest,
lurid Daddy-dearest tale and the heartbreaking testimony of
. The only crime here is extortion.
""It was fine,""
said. ""He didn't molest a child, nor has anyone accused him of sexual harassment. People sleep around at the office. Human.""
Others, including some ""Late Show"" viewers, found the news troubling.
""Unless he had no power over their jobs — financially or otherwise — he's on the hook,""
wrote. In fact, as the owner of the now unfortunately named
And then there were the many readers of the Drudge Report, which linked to my story. They posted comments similar to this one from Rob: ""Isn't this the man that made fun of
daughter for sexual escapades? THE CHICKENS ARE COMING HOME TO ROOST!"" But I sense these folks don't really watch Letterman.
Of more concern to the ""Late Show"" joke writers might be the sentiment put forth by this commenter: ""Letterman should get out and apologize to
and others in similar situations he lived off of over the years making jokes about them. I don't care for them, but fair is fair.""
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