Letterman Makes Return With a Big First Guest


Obama describes how he became inspired by civil rights, how the absence of his father led to his desire "to be present in my children's life", and how he does not miss "the trappings of the office".

After that, he clocked 11 years on NBC's Late Night with David Letterman, from 1982 to 1993, then went straight to CBS' Late Show with David Letterman, where he lasted another 22 years. Of course, this wish was just a lark: clearly the job was beneath the dignity of the office he was leaving behind.

At first, I was disappointed with the premiere of David Letterman's new Netflix show, "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction", for what it did NOT do.

Around 40 minutes of the 56-minute-long episode are dedicated to an intimate and meandering conversation with the former president in a stripped-down, studio audience setting.

The guest is Barack Obama, and both the interviewer and the interviewee struggle mightily not to mention President Trump.

Addressing Letterman, Obama said, "Don't you say to yourself, 'boy, am I lucky?' I'm always surprised when I see people who have been successful and they are absolutely convinced it's because they're so smart".

'I have dad moves, ' Obama clarifies to a long-bearded Letterman. The closest Letterman came to calling out the current president was when he asked Lewis, "Without being just flat-out specific about it, how big a setback is the current administration [to civil rights]?" Tension between Lewis and the current president stretch back to last January when Lewis skipped Trump's inauguration and said he did not view him "as a legitimate president". Never known for his chumminess with fellow-politicians while President, he nonetheless affects just that in this format. At the time, though, Lewis was pretty sure he was going to be killed. He shows off his quick wit, his playfulness, and his ease and pleasure at delivering a good joke. He makes fun of his own limited dance moves, and tells a charming story about trying to put together a lamp, and hold back tears, when he dropped his daughter Malia at her dorm room at Harvard. This is late-night talk. They upset Letterman, but Lewis zooms out to make it more about the fight against hate.

He was clearly pleased as punch with his scoop, and initially the programme seemed a bit too self-congratulatory, as the two swopped bromance-y anecdotes about how they were filling the time these days and how uncool their children find them.

When Obama first appeared onstage as a surprise guest, he received more rapturous applause than the master of ceremonies. Obama later said that Lewis' ordeal "carried me through multiple failures, not just as an organizer but also early efforts in politics, when I was reminding myself that nobody's siccing dogs on me, nobody's beating me half to death". If they don't keep making more, I'll be stunned.