by Jason Snell
The changing face of David Letterman
Don Giller is the unofficial archivist of David Letterman’s talk show career. It’s a crying shame that a curated sample of Letterman’s output from his NBC and CBS shows isn’t on a streaming service somewhere, but all of it is in Don Giller’s archive and some of it is on his YouTube channel.
His latest video compilation, The Faces Project Part 1, begins with some dialogue between Letterman and bandleader Paul Shaffer in late 1989 as they were preparing for their eighth anniversary special (which I attended!): “We’re looking at stuff that we did, you and I, eight years ago. Boy do we look dorky…. My fear is that eight years from now we’ll look at tapes from tonight and I’ll be saying the same thing.”
What follows is Letterman’s face from every episode of the show on NBC, 1,810 shows aired between 1982 until 1993. Don explains how he did it:
Searching and selecting appropriate screen-captures took a full month. “Tedious” doesn’t begin to describe the slog…. I used iMovie 9 for its relative simplicity. Instead of importing every image into one iMovie file, which would have slowed the processing down considerably, I instead chose the modular approach, creating one file per show year.
It’s an amazing project and over 13 minutes you can watch Letterman age 11 years.
As to whether he still looks dorky or not, that’s up to you.