David Letterman Insists That He Stayed On TV For A Decade Too Long

No one disputes David Letterman‘s status as an institution. His 30-year run on late night TV (both on NBC’s Late Night and CBS’ Late Show) means that he passed Johnny Carson as the longest running host in the business back in 2013. Yet in retrospect, the wry funnyman feels that things dragged out too far. Although Letterman has not retired — he’s still Netflixing with the best of them — it seems that he’s got more time these days to reflect on the grand scheme of life. As he bluntly tells Ellen DeGeneres on Thursday’s episode of her talk show, Letterman believes that there’s a wasted decade there:

Letterman: “Here’s the mistake I made. I stayed on television way too long…”

DeGeneres: “That’s not true.”

Letterman: “Yes, it is true and I’ll tell you what happened. Turns out nobody had the guts to fire me. I should have left 10 years ago.”

Although the live audience chuckled throughout the above dialogue, Letterman appeared to be dead serious. He explained how he neglected to make sure that he had energy for other things while sustaining his TV run. This, he said, contrasted Ellen’s style of having “nothing but energy,” so she devotes time to other projects inside and out of show business. Whereas Letterman regrets that he only devoted time to himself, so when he left Late Show, he realized, “Oh, I’ve been looking through the wrong end of the telescope. There’s more to life.”

Letterman did, however, clarify that DeGeneres would appear with him on the next season of Netflix’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman. So there will be some bright moments to come between these two, although the current reigning queen of daytime talk has recently hinted at wanting to dispense with the sunshine for some darker projects to come. Will this Letterman appearance push her in that direction faster than intended? It’s a fair question, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear her talk more about this interview in the future.