New York Times: You featured Donald Trump on your programs many times over the years. What perspective has that given you on his presidential candidacy?
David Letterman: I’ve known Donald Trump for a long time, and I always thought he was exactly what New York City needed to have: the big blowhard billionaire. “By God, I’m Donald Trump, and I date models, and I put up buildings, and everything is gold.” Nobody took him seriously, and people loved him when he would come on the show. I would make fun of his hair, I would call him a slumlord, I would make fun of his ties. And he could just take a punch like nothing. He was the perfect guest.
So now, he decides he’s running for president. And right out of the box, he goes after immigrants and how they’re drug dealers and they’re rapists. And everybody swallows hard. And they think, oh, well, somebody will take him aside and say, “Don, don’t do that.” But it didn’t happen. And then, I can remember him doing an impression, behind a podium, of a reporter for The New York Times who has a congenital disorder. And then I thought, if this was somebody else — if this was a member of your family or a next-door neighbor, a guy at work — you would immediately distance yourself from that person. And that’s what I thought would happen. Because if you can do that in a national forum, that says to me that you are a damaged human being. If you can do that, and not apologize, you’re a person to be shunned.
Over a year and half after leaving his Late Show , David Letterman returns to television to host an upcoming episode of National Geographic’s climate change series Years of Living Dangerously. Letterman’s episode features his travels to India to examine how that nation provides energy to its entire population. I know what you’re thinking…Wait…What? Don’t worry, he really hasn’t changed.
The second season of Years of Living Dangerously premieres on National Geographic on October 30th.
David Letterman on YEARS of LIVING DANGEROUSLY from YEARS of LIVING DANGEROUSLY on Vimeo.
Woman spits out her chewing gum into the air and inhales it back into her mouth. For real? Sure looks like it on the slow motion replay.
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.