David Letterman is heading back to TV, but he’s leaving the desk behind. The longtime late-night TV personality will appear on the second season of the Emmy-winning documentary series Years of Living Dangerously, which centers on the issue of climate change. This marks Letterman’s first TV project since signing off as host of CBS’ Late Show in May.
Producers Joel Bach and David Gelber talked to The Hollywood Reporter about how Letterman came on board, explaining that they decided to reach out to him after seeing his passion for the issue when he interviewed scientists on the Late Show.
“It’s thrilling to have him do this — we’re beyond excited,” Bach says. “The reason why Letterman’s part of this is that we just noticed that he seemed to perk up when this issue came across his lap. We reached out to him to see if he’d want to be part of this, and he said, ‘Absolutely.’ He said [that climate change is] something he does think about a lot.”
Letterman will appear on one of the new season’s eight episodes, as he’ll head to India to speak with Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the nation’s energy concerns.
Via The Hollywood Reporter
For every comedy bit produced, there were roughly a hundred pitches that didn’t make it. So I asked fellow Late Night and Late Show vets to recall their most memorable rejections. Then I ran some of those by Dave, who was happy to reminisce about former writers.
“I can’t thank these men and women enough,” he said, “because I was doing their show more than they were doing mine.”
GERARD MULLIGAN (1980–2004)
One rejected joke that I really wish had made it to air: “So, the Congress is debating whether to spend billions on a so-called stealth bomber that would be invisible to Soviet radar. Why don’t we just say we built it?” But I look back on some other rejections with relief: Halloween costume: “That thing on Aaron Neville’s forehead.” Typing that, I wince now, as I should have winced then.
Some things were written to be rejected. Occasionally I would hand in an opening remark so vulgar it would have sent NBC’s Margaret Dumont–like standards-and-practices lady out of Studio 6A on a stretcher. I was safe in the knowledge that Dave would never do the joke on air. (“The American Medical Association issued this warning today: Be wary of a doctor who tries to take your temperature with his dick.”) Imagine my surprise when, during that night’s taping, Dave began, “This warning today from the American Medical Association …” but then concluded, “with his finger.”
ANDY BRECKMAN (1982–1983; creator–executive producer, Monk)
I remember trying to convince Dave and (head writer) Merrill Markoe to do an entire show where Dave and his guests are hooked up to lie detectors. I remember being very excited about this. We’d be making talk-show history! Merrill had to talk me down and explain how potentially embarrassing it could be for everybody.
To be fair, it was a long time ago and this could be what therapists call a “false memory.” I’ve had them before. For example, I also distinctly remember leading the Seal Team that killed bin Laden.
Letterman: Well, I don’t remember this idea. It sounds fantastic. And I’ll tell you, I know where he got the idea. There used to be a show called Lie Detector and there was a polygraph machine and this guy was an expert … his name was Ed Gelb. He would put the guy in the chair and grill him. And I think this would be tremendous. I would love to see somebody do this. So in this case I think Merrill was taking a bullet for me. Because if anyone had anything to hide, of course, it would’ve been me.
GEORGE MEYER (1982–1984; The Simpsons)
One idea I wish Dave had rejected was when we invited audience members to create fishing lures out of pipe cleaners, sequins, etc. The plan was to test them out on live trout and see which one got the most “action.”
Shortly before we taped the show, the trout perished. (Apparently they need cold, aerated water.) I didn’t know what to do, so the prop lady and I got some of those pointy things you stick memos on and jammed the poor fish on them in a preposterous simulation of life. Later, the contestants tried to entice these expired creatures in a macabre piece of absurdist art.
How I longed for the soothing arms of Sweet Lady H!
Letterman: I think George was responsible for maybe the single most brilliant idea on the show ever. It was a contest between a humidifier and a dehumidifier. And at the start of the show they would be switched on simultaneously, and at the end of the show we would see which of the machines had done its designed task more productively. As I recall, the problem was that the noise made by these machines just ruined the audio for the rest of the show.
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File video of David Letterman on WTHR, which was then under the call letters WLWI, giving a weather forecast, how to measure a tree and hosting his show “Clover Power.”
In the 1978–79 season, Mary Tyler Moore attempted to try the musical-variety genre by starring in two unsuccessful CBS variety series in a row: Mary, which featured David Letterman, Michael Keaton, Swoosie Kurtz and Dick Shawn in the supporting cast. CBS canceled the series after three episodes.
In this classic remote, David Letterman mans a drive-thru window at Taco Bell, in a highlight from the last episode of the Late Show with David Letterman.
Saluting David Letterman, Conan O’Brien declares “We will not see a man of his talents and comedic integrity again in our lifetimes.”
Dave takes the stage for the last time.
Jimmy Kimmel took a moment to discuss the importance of David Letterman and Late Show during the opening portion of a recent Jimmy Kimmel Live episode. Jimmy talks about the time David went to the Just Shades store as a skit, and I still remember it so clearly.
See? All the tears are coming out from people. And Jimmy still manages to tell people not to watch his show tonight, but to watch David’s instead.
Comedian Norm Macdonald performs stand-up on the Late Show on May 15, 2015. Come because it’s Norm, stay because he does his all-time favourite Letterman joke, and wipe a tear because of the last few minutes.
Jimmy takes some time to pay tribute to Late Show host David Letterman and wish him well on his retirement.
“I want to take a minute to talk about David Letterman, who I’m sure everyone here knows will be retiring after 33 years of innovation, fun and just plain weirdness—but mostly fun,” he said. “I, like many of you, grew up watching Dave. Everybody did. I mean, if you saw somebody throw watermelons off a roof and you go, ‘Oh my gosh. Adults get paid for doing that?’ That type of stuff had never been done on TV before. This is at 12:30. This is after The Tonight Show. All you had was Johnny Carson, so this is kind of like unexplored space. This is like the Wild, Wild West. I think this show and what late-night has become is a result of him playing with the genre and experimenting and exploring and doing that stuff. I, like every kid who grew up watching him, will miss him.”
Fallon then pulled out his eighth grade yearbook.
“At the end, my teacher makes predictions about what her students were going to go on to do…It says, ‘James Fallon will replaced David Letterman on the Late Night show.’ I want to go to the racetrack with this teacher in two weeks. It’s pretty close. It’s so weird because I never thought I was going to do a job like this…so when they offered me to do the Late Night show before this show, and I was like, ‘God.’ I talked to my wife and I go, ‘I don’t know. Should I do this thing?’ And she goes, ‘Yeah! You’d be great.’ She goes, ‘Take a chance. If anything, the list is short. There’s only two other people who’ve done it before you: Conan O’Brien and David Letterman. So even if you fail, it’s still a good list to be on.'”