Comment Since retiring after 33 years on the late night television, David Letterman has kept a low public profile — aided by the growth of a truly impressive beard. She was an art major, and for her final project she did a pencil-drawing portrait of Chuck Close.
I wish you had been with us. What do you know? What have you heard? If anybody fucked me up, it was me, by getting old and stupid. I was one of a few people who had routinely interviewed him. He looks like Al Jardine of the Beach Boys. I mean, we elected a guy with that hair?
He was a joke of a wealthy guy. He never had any retort. He was big and doughy, and you could beat him up. He seemed to have a good time, and the audience loved it, and that was Donald Trump. Beyond that, I remember a friend in the PR business told me that he knew for a fact — this was three or four presidential campaigns ago — that Donald Trump would never run for president; he was just monkeying around for the publicity.
Now, who owns New York? We gotta take care of ourselves here now. Is comedy useful for that? Alec Baldwin deserves a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Can you explain that a bit more? How does satire protect us from Donald Trump? The man has such thin skin that if you keep pressure on him — I remember there was a baseball game in Cleveland, and a swarm of flies came on the field and the batters were doing this [mimes swatting at flies] while the pitcher was throwing miles an hour.
Is there any validity to that argument? That press conference that he held berating the news media? I mean, how do you build a dictatorship? First, you undermine the press: Bannon looks like a guy who goes to lunch, gets drunk, and comes back to the office: Did anybody look that up? Watch a supercut of all the times Letterman has interviewed Trump over the years: The comedy potential of these people is incredible.
Kellyanne Conway was my favorite for a long time. Boy, if this administration decides you need counseling — whoa. And poor Sean Spicer is a boob who just got out of a cab and now here he is. Then the other kid, is it Miller? Wow, that guy is creepy. He fell out of a truck. And the guy from Exxon, Rex Tillerson. They gave him tips: Do you feel any better about your fellow Indianan Mike Pence? He only got elected because he looks like Bobby Knight.
Jeez, Pence scared the hell out of me. There was a therapy … Conversion therapy. Then this transgender issue that just happened, I just think, Are you kidding me? We have the same problems. Who the fuck are you to throw a log in the road of somebody who has a different set of difficulties in life? I will see clips now and stuff. I was at a thing the other night and so was Lorne Michaels. This guy is now the prince of New York. And the scary goddamn thing is that Don would like that not to be the case.
He would really rather not have a society where free speech was going to be a factor. So if we assume that Russia does have compromising material on Trump, can you give some insight into his behavior?
Would that make you have any sympathy for him? Well, yes, I was blackmailed. But in baseball you have the major leagues and then you have your instructional leagues.
My situation would have been down in the instructional leagues, and I was dumb enough to put myself in a position where I was vulnerable. But do I equate it with the possibility of international interference from an authoritarian dictator? I have a conspiracy theory that your blackmail was a Vladimir Putin long game to get you off the air.
Now we be having a conversation! This is the scene in the movies: We have a new page one. You can fill in your own joke. I can turn that into something. This idea is money in the bank. I think you have an obligation. Jimmy got a fantastic viral clip out of that. The comparison that comes to mind is during the Vietnam War, Johnny Carson had an unstated policy that he would never mention the war. He would talk about the personalities involved, but not the war.
There is that obligation. I would have gone to work on Trump. Your words, not mine! For probably the first half or so of your TV career, you stayed away from politics — Because Carson was my model.
All of that changed because of Jon Stewart. Because what he did on The Daily Show influenced you? And also it was having Monica Lewinsky and President Clinton. It was hard to ignore that. After that it became George W. Bush, and I thought he was funny in a harmless way. So the political jokes were about expedience?
We changed our attitude to make it easier on ourselves. And again, what defense do you have for ignoring these topics? You mentioned Fallon and viral videos. How do you feel about late-night shows becoming vehicles for social media? When people around me would come up with ideas, I felt like, This is exploitation beyond the pale. But nobody wants to sit through an eight-minute interview with fill-in-the-blank.
So these things are useful. But the idea of Twitter: Rather than a laughable expression of ego run amok, it could be a useful tool. If we get a president sometime soon who does not have a mental disorder, Twitter will be useful. I wish we were all better at ignoring the tweets. And the Democrats, goddamn it, get a little backbone, get a little spine. The only person I can trust anymore is Al Franken, who has a great brain and a great heart. I believe what he says. We talked during the election about Ted Cruz.
And one of the three funniest. Who are the other two? Norm Macdonald and a guy named Jim Downey. Aside from the hunt for viral videos, it seems like late night also had a shift in its style of comedy.
It moved away from the irony and sarcasm you were known for and toward something more earnest. I mean, Jay Leno would seem like a smartass now.
Did you notice that shift happening?