My name is Ryan Alexander Diduck, I’m a writer and doctor of communication studies currently living in Montreal. I am not affiliated with David Letterman in any way. I started the @geniusglitch twitter account in 2016 with few expectations: I imagined it as a little avant-garde art project in which I would post screenshots of glitched-out David Letterman episodes. I never intended it to be a typical “out-of-context” account; originally, there was never any context to be out of. After a while, I started noticing that people were following and liking these posts. Then, text in the form of subtitles eventually worked its way in. This made it easier to comment more directly on things that were happening in the world. But I always wanted to keep an element of absurdity to this feed. Because David Letterman was and is absurd, and that is one of the reasons we all love him. Besides fingers and toes, it’s one thing we all share.
As more and more of you began to follow this account, I became interested in who you all were. I discovered that the audience for Genius Glitch was much like the audience for David Letterman himself: a cross-section of good and decent people from all walks of life. A group of people who love to laugh and generally love life. Single, married, old, young, gay, straight, woman, man, both, neither. I have suffered surprisingly few trolls or negative comments. This made running the account rewarding and fun: it pleased me if I was able to re-contextualize something from an old Letterman episode, to make it make sense in a different or especially funny way. And it really pleased me if it resonated with you. It made me feel like maybe someone else thinks and feels and understands the world like I do. You’ve all become my community.
In 1982, I was five years old. I grew up in the country, but we moved to the city when my father got a new job teaching grade four in an elementary school in Edmonton, Canada. I was just starting kindergarten, and I would walk to and from school with my dad every day. In his classroom, he had put up his students’ artwork and drawings on the walls. Kids’ drawings. I will never forget one that caught my eye: it was a fairly realistic portrait of a talk show host sitting behind a desk. But the image, like a pointillist masterpiece, was composed entirely out of letters from the alphabet. The caption read “Late Night With David LETTERMAN.” I thought this was the cleverest thing I had ever seen. And then and there, I became obsessed with David Letterman, who had only just started his show on NBC. I was too young to watch it regularly, and too immature to understand some of the humour, but my parents let me stay up late whenever there was an Edmonton connection: whenever Dave’s guests were SCTV cast members, or Wayne Gretzky. It made me feel grown up, and part of a world that seemed exciting and exotic. It introduced me to the idea of cities and nighttime economies. It introduced me and the world to New York City — specifically, a New York City that seemed brimming with wonder and excitement. Later in life, I visited New York a number of times, and found that to be true.
Today, as I sit and watch the news like all of you, my heart is breaking for New York City, for America, and for the entire world. My heart is breaking because I am watching as this wonder and excitement sours at the hands of someone who used to be a regular punching bag for David Letterman. How did things turn upside down like this? David Letterman retired on May 20th 2015. On June 16th, Donald Trump officially announced his candidacy for president. It was almost as if he waited for Letterman to retire, knowing that he wouldn’t have to go through Dave’s Late Show wringer.
When Trump won, everyone on the left compared him to Hitler. This might prove to be an insult to Hitler, as we are witnessing the collapse of freedom as we know it. As I write this, my home city of Montreal has instituted a law stating that no more than two people are allowed to congregate. This makes it very difficult to, say, protest. This makes it very difficult to do anything. I am not a conspiracy theorist, and the only thing I know for sure is that I won’t know for sure whether this virus is “natural” or man-made, a weapon, from China, from the US, or from little green men on Mars. None of that matters right now.
What is clear, though, is that Donald Trump has hijacked any semblance of democracy. There are too many things to take issue with at present, but just one that I will point out is that Jered Kushner is not an elected official. He has neither experience nor expertise. Hell, I have more diplomatic skills than he does, and as a PhD, I’m more qualified. Not just in America, but around the world, in Hungary, in Israel, leaders have used this virus as the pretext to suspend any appearance of the democratic process.
So what do we do? The world counts on America to provide leadership. I am afraid that Trump will use this crisis as a reason to a: start a war; b: suspend elections; c: let the most vulnerable of us die; or d: all of the above.
As a teenager, I would sometimes watch Letterman on LSD. Anyone familiar with the psychedelic experience might relate to having somewhat extra-sensory perception in this state. I remember seeing Dave through my screen like I’d never seen him before. It was as if I could, for lack of a less cheesy metaphor, see his soul. And what a good soul. David Letterman is like a lightning rod or an antenna for all that is right and true, for values of decency and honesty. We need to summon that spirit and broadcast it, and we need to do it now. I wouldn’t recommend psychedelics particularly, but we do need to see the world through “acid eyes”, to see through the skin right through to the very essence. We even need to see Donald Trump as a fellow human being — a deeply flawed, possibly insane, enormously unpleasant human being, but a human being nonetheless.
I don’t really have answers. But I think what I am going to do now is to leave this account alone for a while, and hope that you Letterman/Genius Glitch fans will figure out how to get that unpleasant and insane man away from the driver’s seat. We all need levity and joy, but this isn’t a laughing matter, and I’m almost out of relevant screenshots anyway. Simply put, as the kids say, this hits different now.
With love, Ryan