NEW YORK – David Letterman can catch up with Jay Leno by adopting my Top 10 suggestions for improving his Late Show.
1. Get out of the studio. I miss the days when Dave used to tape bits out on the city's streets. By barricading himself inside the Ed Sullivan Theater building, he's let Leno commandeer one of his biggest strengths.
2. Do more bits yourself. Much of the comic load is being borne by the likes of stage manager Biff Henderson or announcer Alan Kalter. We want to see Dave being funny - not those guys.
3. Throw the guests as many curves as possible. Dave justifiably has a reputation for conducting edgier interviews than Leno. But lately, he's gone soft on the celebs.
4. Dump repetitive bits. The Top 10 list is still consistently inventive, but some of the other stuff has got to go - including the nightly "Words of Wisdom from Dr. Phil" and the bit called "Is this anything?" No, it's not. Can it already.
5. Curb the absurdity. Too often, the comedy bits on Letterman leave viewers scratching their heads. Dave should ask the writers to write him some actual jokes once in a while.
6. More Stupid Pet Tricks. It's not absurd -- it's a Letterman classic. We need to see more of what made Letterman great.
7. Take fewer vacations. Dave couldn't help getting sick those two times, but when it comes to vacations, he definitely takes more time off than Leno. And those rerun weeks are ratings killers.
8. Lighten up on the commercials in the bottom third of the show. Speaking of instant tune-out, Late Show airs so many commercials between the segments that come near the end of the program that it borders on abusive.
8. Ban Brokaw, Rather and Jennings. When the pompous news anchors come on as guests, I'm outta there.
9. Book more quirky guests. Few things on TV are more dull than movie stars promoting their latest pieces of Hollywood-produced junk.
10. Court the press. It's a self-serving suggestion, I guess, because all of us critics would like to get to know Letterman better. But it can't hurt to have a relationship with the media. Leno does it -- why can't Dave?