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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction

After retiring a couple of years, David Letterman is back on television, er, well, on my television, when I stream My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. Letterman jokes that he needed to get out of the house, which is probably not far off the mark, but what I think he really wanted to do was something more serious than a late-night talk show.

In the first of six episodes, Letterman interviewed Barack Obama in his first television (or the equivalent) interview since leaving office. The two were very chummy during Obama's presidency, so Letterman scored the coup of getting him for his new show. Of course, Letterman admires Obama about as much as Sean Hannity loves Trump, so this was a very cozy affair.

Letterman is a terrific interviewer, but he's no Mike Wallace. There were no controversial questions about drones or gay marriage, the questions were mostly about Obama's life since leaving office (the first day he slept in), his wife, and his kids. There was no policy talk at all, and the only time things were serious was when Obama discussed how the democracy has been endangered by people living in bubbles of information. "The people who watch Fox News are on a different planet than those who listen to NPR," Obama said, which is surely true.

Letterman, having no fucks left to give, is sporting what Obama called a "Biblical" beard ("Do you have a staff?" he joked) and is as self-deprecating as ever, telling a story about how Malia Obama zinged him at a White House dinner, and almost tearily stating that he has been nothing but lucky in his life.

In addition to Obama, Letterman had an interview with John Lewis, civil rights hero and congressman, walking across the Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where Lewis was almost killed on the march to Montgomery. Lewis is always an eloquent man, and Letterman does not kid around.

There are five more episodes, with guest ranging from Malala Yousafzai to Howard Stern. I'm sure I'll tune in for all of them, because I could watch David Letterman do almost anything (and I did--like dropping things from a five-story building). And, as always, Obama, with his wit and charm, makes me miss him all the more. If there was anyone I would think about letting be king, it would be him.

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