Top 10 Things in NYC for David Letterman to Do in Retirement

Andrew Rosenberg

May 20 will mark the end of an era in late-night television. It would have been hard to imagine back on February 1, 1982, when Late Night with David Letterman first aired on NBC, that its off-kilter host would go on to redefine the talk-show genre, but here we are, throwing well-deserved bouquets 33 years on. And when Letterman retires and CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman—which debuted August 30, 1993—finishes its run (Stephen Colbert, the real one, not the blowhard partisan journalist, takes the reins at the Ed Sullivan Theater on September 8), there will be an undeniable void. But we’re less concerned with how CBS fills the slot and Colbert the shoes than with what Dave will do with all his free time. So we’ve considered his interests and have put together a few local suggestions in the form of a list, of course. Drumroll please…it’s the “Top 10 Things in NYC for Dave to Do in Retirement.”

10. Check out the leaping lemurs and other animals doing amazing, if not quite stupid, tricks at the Bronx Zoo.

9. While his days of poking fun at George W. Bush are well in the past, Dave might look to honor great moments in presidential speeches by a much-earlier George at Federal Hall National Memorial, which stands on the site of Washington’s 1789 inauguration.

8. Score some extra cash working the counter at a place his show helped make famous, Hello Deli; maybe he can personally help increase sales of his namesake sandwich to the level of the Shaffer (the main difference: the Shaffer is made with a breaded chicken cutlet rather than turkey and ham).

7. Carry a piece of fruit into the sea with the disciples of King Neptune and Queen Mermaid at the Mermaid Parade. Will it float? We’re sure Dave will get the answer right; he’s had plenty of experience guessing, after all.

6. Head to the Grace Exhibition Space for the Great American Performance Art Festival, or the Public Theater to see playwright Suzan-Lori Parks hard at work on a typewriter. Bring frequent fellow judge Paul Shaffer along to help answer an important question: is this anything?

5. After keeping us up all these nights, Dave is owed a dose of his own medicine, say, seeing a loopy late-night show at a place like the UCB East. One possibility: The George Lucas Talk Show (a Friday a month), which imagines the Star Wars creator as host of his own forum, with the faithful Jar Jar Binks as his sidekick.

4. Head down to the General Post Office and check if there’s any viewer mail that never reached the studio.

3. The band will be breaking up, so he can find other musicians to stump with quirky musical queries, like the metal karaoke guys at Arlene’s Grocery, or the Manhattan Inn’s piano karaoke, where it’s claimed that Joe McGinty “can play just about any song there is.”

2. Watch recordings of his glory years, as well as episodes of his short-lived 1980 morning show, at the Paley Center.

1. Sign up early to get tickets for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.