David Letterman appeared on Howard Stern’s Birthday Bash over the weekend, and for Letterman fans, there’s little better than his sit downs with Stern. I would not consider myself a huge fan of Stern, but I appreciate his loyalty to Dave, and more importantly, he’s one of very few guest that Dave has on that can get Letterman to open up about his personal life, or talk about the uncomfortable things that Dave doesn’t usualy address. Stern has no boundaries, and God bless him for it.
With Letterman actually sitting down on Stern’s show for a full half hour, Letterman provides even more insights than usual, thanks in part to the prying questions that Letterman asked. I’m not going to transcribe the full half hour, but here are the highlights paraphrased (and you can listen in full below).
— Asked about young celebrities who come on the show, and whether Dave has any patience for them, Letterman said that it’s kind of a case-by-case thing, and that it’s obvious within a few seconds that some of them have substance. He singled out Jennifer Lawrence as someone he cared about instantly, after her first appearance on the show. As for Justin Bieber, while he didn’t call him out as being obnoxious, Letterman did find it amusing that Bieber whined and nearly cried when Letterman touched a sensitive tattoo he’d gotten the day before he was on the show. It was clear that Letterman didn’t think much of Bieber.
— Letterman also talked a lot about his early career. In the 70s, he was a stand-up comedian, and he hated it. It just wasn’t in his “genetic makeup,” he said. He had also been hired at one point to write for Bob Hope, but that didn’t work out because they were not a match. He and Leno both wrote jokes for Jimmy Walker and, no, Dave doesn’t feel an obligation to bring Jimmy Walker on the show. He brings him on because he’s a good guest.
— Speaking of guests, Dave does have a few favorites, but he only identified Steve Martin and Bill Murray as being among them.
— While Stern wouldn’t say who the band was, he did betray that, during one of his visits on the Letterman’s show, while the act was performing, Letterman leaned over and whispered to Stern, “Look at this a**hole.”
— Letterman also spoke about Johnny Carson for a minute, saying that it was a thrill to have played tennis with him on one occasion, and that he’d have beaten Carson “if only I were a better tennis player.”
— My favorite story from the interview, however, was Lettermans’ feud with Oprah. A popular misconception is that it started over a practical joke that Dave pulled on Oprah several years ago. I’ve heard this story before, but I never tire of it: Oprah and Dave didn’t really know each other at the time, but the two were in the same restaurant (Oprah was with Stedman). At some point during the dinner, the waiter comes over with the check, and Dave tells the waiter that Oprah is going to pick up the tab. Dave waves over at Oprah, and Oprah waves back, and the waiter takes that as confirmation that Oprah was picking up Dave’s bill. HA!
But that’s NOT why the feud started. The feud started because Oprah was upset with Dave because the first time she’d appeared on his show, when he was taping out in Chicago, the crowd booed Oprah for some reason, and Oprah was hurt that Dave didn’t try and defend her, especially in his own town. Though he still has not seen the tape from that episode, Dave acknowledged that he probably didn’t defend her and should have.
— Longtime Letterman fans rarely get insights into his politics. It wasn’t until a few years ago when Obama first ran, that I had an inkling that he was liberal. Up to that point, I figured him for an Independent, leaning right. However, while he wouldn’t come right out and say that he was Democrat, he did admit that he’s never voted for a Republican before (and considering some of the elections he’s been around for, that puts him squarely in the liberal camp). He did, however, acknowledge that George W. Bush — in his experience with him on the show — was smarter than he came off as on television, although the time Bush came on the show and wiped his glasses on the shirt tail of one of the assistants without permission did demonstrate a certain level of entitlement.
— Finally, as to the much talked about phone conversations that Letterman has had with Jay Leno, Dave cleared up some misconceptions on that front, too. He has only spoken on the phone to Leno once, and that was a few years ago when NBC announced that Leno was getting the boot for the second time. Basically, Dave called him because he felt that he needed to get over it, already. He said he felt like Leno had done some things in the past that he didn’t feel were fair, but that after carrying that grudge around for years, he felt it was time to simply let it go, bury the hatchet. It doesn’t mean that he’s friends with Leno now, nor does it mean that he’s necessarily unhappy that Leno is leaving, but he is over it.
— Speaking of leaving, Dave also said that he’d like to stay on his show until he drops dead, but he understands that it’s not his decision. While he wouldn’t divulge any details, he did say that he has a “game plan” for his endgame.