Late night TV legend David Letterman signed off for the final time this week, wrapping a career that spanned two networks, 33 years and 6,028 shows. But between strapping cameras to monkeys, dropping random objects off tall buildings and discovering the next Stupid Pet Trick, one classic bit that stood the test of time was his iconic Top 10 List.
Besides becoming a predictable yet endlessly varied formula for nightly comedy (just pick a subject and run with it), Dave’s Top 10 List was also a historical benchmark of sorts. From baseball jokes about Pete Rose in 1990 to election cracks in 2000, major events in the life of the nation usually inspired their fair share of Top 10 Lists.
The genius of the bit was its simplicity and flexibility — anybody could appear on the show and read the list, no extra props were required and the audience always knew when the final punchline was about to drop.
Truth be told, Dave’s Top 10 Lists had all the hallmarks of effective communication: straightforward, concise, organized with a clear purpose — and all building toward a tight conclusion. As an increasingly chaotic media landscape competes for our attention, it’s the direct, honest messages that cut through the noise and hold our focus in the end.
Plus, who could deny this gem?
Top 10 Calls Received By The Oreo Hotline (2003)
#8: “Will you walk me through how to eat these things one more time?”