Top 10 David Letterman Top 10 Lists That Would Be Hard to Explain to a Teenager

Topical humor has a shelf life — here are the top 10 examples of lists that are past their expiration dates
Top 10 David Letterman Top 10 Lists That Would Be Hard to Explain to a Teenager

From its inception, the Top Ten List was a staple of Late Night With David Letterman, the talk show that followed Johnny Carson before Letterman’s escape to CBS. The bit was a sure laugh-getter, but because the lists often tackled the news of the day, the jokes would likely be met with confused silence by anyone born after 2000. Here are our top ten Top Ten lists that would make absolutely no sense to a teenager in 2023… 

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Top Ten Things Overheard at the Berlin Wall

The wall, which separated East and West Berlin during the Cold War, was torn down in 1989. The fall paved the way for the unification of Germany.

Most Outdated Joke: “We’re coming to save you, Zsa Zsa!” (Zsa Zsa Gabor was a glamorous Hungarian-American actress who was famous for being famous.)

Top Ten Ways Dan Rather Could Conclude ‘The CBS Evening News’

After Rather took over for legend Walter Cronkite, the new anchor experimented with ending each night’s newscast with the word, “Courage.” It didn’t catch on.

Most Outdated Joke: “Pretend to ‘sweep up’ spotlight on the floor.” (This was a reference to a corny yet signature bit of old-timey clown Emmett Kelly, a pull that was outdated even back in the 1980s.)

Top Ten Rob Lowe Pickup Lines

Sure, today’s teens would know Rob Lowe. But it would be hard to explain why everyone thought Lowe taping himself having sex with a 16-year-old was considered so funny. (At the time, the legal age of consent in Georgia? Fourteen.)

Most Outdated Joke: “Care to slip into the Snow White costume?” (Lowe appeared in a disastrous opening number for the 1989 Academy Awards, crooning “Proud Mary” with Snow White.)

Top Ten Rejected Names for Joan Collins’ Perfume

Collins achieved sex-symbol status in the 1980s for her star turn in night-time soap opera Dynasty.

Most Outdated Joke: “Better than that crap Linda Evans is selling.” (Evans was Collins’ less popular costar on Dynasty.)

John Gotti’s Top Ten Tax Tips

The boss of the Gambino crime family in New York was convicted of tax evasion in 1992. Oh, and five murders. 

Most Outdated Joke: “Another write-off: Long-distance calls to Pete Rose.” (All-time baseball hit king Rose had recently been shamed for betting on the game.)

Fawn Hall’s Top Ten Turn-Ons

Fawn Hall was an assistant to Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North — both were implicated for their involvement in the Iran-Contra affair. She was also reasonably good-looking, making her tabloid fodder and the subject of lists like this.

Most Outdated Joke: “People in really goofy costumes who jump up and down (Oh, sorry, that’s a Monty Hall turn-on.)” (Monty Hall was the Pat Sajak of his day, host of popular game shows like Let’s Make a Deal.)

Top Ten Excuses of the Exxon Tanker Captain

The Exxon Valdez was an oil tanker that ran aground and spilled an ungodly amount of crude oil into the sea. The drunk captain caused the second-largest spill in history. 

Most Outdated Joke: “Wanted to impress Jodie Foster.” (John Hinkley Jr. tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in an attempt to woo Foster. She wasn’t impressed.)

Top Ten Courses for Athletes at SMU

SMU received the NCAA “death penalty” in 1987 after the school paid several players. You know, like all schools do now.

Most Outdated Joke: “The Poetry of Hank Stram” (Stram was a football coach who had most of his success in the pre-Super Bowl era.)

Top Ten Chapter Titles from Shirley MacLaine’s New Book

MacLaine is an Oscar-winning actress who was best known for her New Age beliefs. For instance, she claimed to have lived in Atlantis in a previous life where she was a brother to a 35,000-year-old spirit named Ramtha. 

Most Outdated Joke: “Flying Saucers: More Dependable Than Eastern” (Eastern was one of the Big Four airlines until 1991, when it went belly-up thanks to labor strife.)

Top Ten Names for Robert Bork’s Beard

Even though today’s teenagers would have no reference for Bork, the weirdly bearded legal scholar who the Senate refused to confirm for the Supreme Court in 1987, they still might appreciate some of his beard’s names, including Chin Slinky, Gopher Butt and Señor Itchy. 

Most Outdated Joke: “Salute to C. Everett Koop” (Koop, the Surgeon General under Reagan, also had unfortunate facial hair.)

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