David Letterman came back from vacation last night and didn't let his own recent sex scandal hold him back from basically devoting his show to Tiger Woods's cheating "firestorm." The man is clearly enjoying this.
In the clip above, Dave comes out swinging, beginning his monologue with "Boy, looks like that Tiger Woods is having some trouble, huh?" Audience members go wild with long applause, reminiscent, in a way, of their confused enthusiastic laughter during Letterman's announcement of his own illicit dalliances with members of his staff in October. But what, exactly, are they cheering for here, since Dave has yet to make an actual joke? The fact that someone other than Dave has been brought down by the same bad habit? Just the fact that he's even addressing it? Let's give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the applause sign came on, but it's kind of strange. Dave goes on to make jokes about Tiger, and even though they're softballs ("I used to think golf was boring") and most refer self-deprecatingly to Dave's own troubles ("I wish he'd stop calling me for advice"), it's impossible not to feel a sense that Dave is relieved and gleeful that the focus is finally off of him.
Perhaps to minimize the glass-house stone throwing nature of the whole thing, Letterman makes the audience take two polls, asking them by applause if they think Tiger Woods is a jerk, and then if they think he, Dave, is a jerk. The audience applauds both:
Then Dave brings out Tom Hanks, once again, to "react to" the Top 10 List: "Top 10 Ways Tiger Woods Can Improve His Image". (Conspicuously absent: "Get Tom Hanks, the most trusted man in America, to appear by your side during difficult moments"):
This show was basically Letterman's way of putting his own scandal to rest by signaling to his audience that in no way is he going to start treating the infidelity of other famous men, a topic which many have noted has been one of his favorites throughout his show, lightly. If anything, Letterman's status as a fellow "jerk" gives him his own special angle on Tiger and any other future men accused of similar bad behavior. We can probably expect him to pile on the jokes whenever a scandal like this breaks, because unlike Jon Stewart or Conan O'Brien, Dave can always hold up his hands and claim that he's making fun of himself just as much as the joke's victim. He can now own sex scandals by doing what he's always been able to do brilliantly: take any subject and make it about him.