Post-retirement, Dave Letterman continues to be selective (possibly even elusive) about where he pops up. A Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame induction here, a climate change documentary there, sure, but it’s rare to see him just shoot the breeze anymore. Which is why it was so invigorating to see Letterman mix it up with his old pal Norm Macdonald this week, on the third-season premiere of Macdonald’s video podcast.
Macdonald and Letterman—both of whom worked for years to make the world of late night a weirder, less predictable beast—talked about a number of topics in their complementing deadpan styles, but often circled back to the talk show game itself. At one point, Letterman derided the concept that the average talk show host is a “star,” saying it’s why he never put his own name in the Late Night title. “I was embarrassed,” Letterman said. “I could not possibly, and still don’t, consider myself a star, because I couldn’t refer to myself as a star. Johnny Carson was a star, there’s no question of that. So for me to adopt that—Starring Dave Letterman—that was just ridiculous.”
They also discuss the current glut of late night hosts, with Macdonald asking Letterman whether he thinks they all operate from a similar template. “I don’t know, perhaps,” the late night veteran answered, offering kudos to their mutual friend Conan O’Brien for shaking up the formula over at TBS. Still, Letterman remarked, “I think you’re bound by the pressure of who is writing the checks.”