I remember when Johnny Carson left the air. It meant something to me as he had been a long running staple on television. I thought he was funny, but I didn't shed a tear or anything. He was an old comedian that belonged to my parent's generations (the Boomers, the Silents).
Letterman's impending retirement, though, which I have been vaguely aware of, was not something that I had thought a great deal about up until now. His departure is strangely affecting to me.
Letterman's original late, late night show (the slot after Carson in the early 80s) debuted when I was 8. In a sense, it has always "been there" throughout my childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. He seems to me a voice that I have always associated with my own generation, though he is more than two decades older than me and my cohort.
Letterman's show after Carson was that strange space where one went sometimes if one was up later than other human beings. It was full of odd celebrities, bands that wouldn't normally be booked on Carson (or later Leno), and a bizarre sense of comedy that was smarter and edgier than Carson or Leno. He was a cynical asshole with a dry wit, and he was ugly and weird and smart.
He was us, a mirror of sorts to the disaffected weird, ugly, smart kids of my generation, and I'm only now realizing that I'm going to miss his presence as some emblem of that.
It makes me feel low.