The man leaps out of the shadows and into the light, a silver blur in a white shirt and violet tie. He bounds across the stage toward his desk, brakes and turns and scampers back stage right, grabs the microphone by its cord and swings it around, letting it thunk on the ground next to his caramel-colored loafers as the CBS Orchestra plays frantically. The audience is on its feet. A fake cityscape frames the man as he hits his mark: a red sticker on the iridescent-blue stage floor of the Ed Sullivan Theater in midtown Manhattan.
The band music ceases, the applause dwindles and David Letterman, jacketless and loosey-goosey, warms up his audience before the the 3,759th taping of “The Late Show.” His color and vigor belies the fact that he’s spent more time on late-night television than anyone, including his idol, Johnny Carson, who reigned for 30 years. Dave passed that mark in February — half a lifetime doing “the dog and pony show,” as he routinely belittles his livelihood.