Fair to say that retirement is treating David Letterman pretty goddamned well.
“He was a joke of a wealthy guy. We didn’t take him seriously. He’d sit down, and I would just start making fun of him. He never had any retort. He was big and doughy, and you could beat him up.”
“Trump’s the president and he can lie about anything from the time he wakes up to what he has for lunch and he’s still the president. I don’t get that. I’m tired of people being bewildered about everything he says: “I can’t believe he said that.” We gotta stop that and instead figure out ways to protect ourselves from him. We know he’s crazy. We gotta take care of ourselves here now.”
“Comedy’s one of the ways that we can protect ourselves. Alec Baldwin deserves a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Sadly, he’s not going to get it from this president.”
“The man has such thin skin that if you keep pressure on him — I remember there was a baseball game in Cleveland, and a swarm of flies came on the field and the batters were doing this [mimes swatting at flies] while the pitcher was throwing 100 miles an hour. Well, that’s Alec Baldwin and Saturday Night Live. It’s distracting the batter. Eventually Trump’s going to take a fastball off the sternum and have to leave the game.”
Beyond that, the 69-year-old displays a fairly candid understanding of the risks of normalising Trump through friendly rapport – much like the criticism Fallon copped for his puddle-deep “hair tousle” interview with the then-Republican Presidential candidate – but nevertheless feels its foolish to ignore it altogether. Politics, according to Letterman, is the “elephant in the room.”
“That press conference that he held berating the news media? I mean, how do you build a dictatorship? First, you undermine the press: “The only truth you’re going to hear is from me.” And he hires the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Steve Bannon, to be his little buddy. Bannon looks like a guy who goes to lunch, gets drunk, and comes back to the office: “Steve, could you have just one drink?” “Fuck you.” How is a white supremacist the chief adviser to our president? Did anybody look that up?”
“He would really rather not have a society where free speech was going to be a factor.”
“What defence do you have for ignoring these topics? None, really.”
And after ruminating on it for a while, Letterman reveals the President would be his preferred guest if he ever wanted to go back to the old job, purely because there’s now infinitely more fodder to punch him with.
“I would just start with a list. “You did this. You did that. Don’t you feel stupid for having done that, Don? And who’s this goon Steve Bannon, and why do you want a white supremacist as one of your advisers? Come on, Don, we both know you’re lying. Now, stop it.” I think I would be in the position to give him a bit of a scolding and he would have to sit there and take it. Yeah, I would like an hour with Donald Trump; an hour and a half.”“How do you know if Donald Trump is lying? His lips are moving. Thank you! But in addition to every other thing that’s wrong with the Trump, he’s ignorant in a way that’s insulting to the office, insulting to America, insulting to human rights, insulting to civil rights.”
The whole interview is, frankly, an incredibly fascinating look at one of the more adept comedic minds the industry has seen, and certainly one of the more fearless late night talk show hosts in American TV history.