I WAS A NINTH DEGREE BLACK BELT NARCISSIST

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We find ourselves at a funny crossroads with the end of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. Letterman seems to have enjoyed himself and there’s been enough that long term fans can insist he’s brought something good to the table. Yet the idea that Letterman has maybe added something new to his substantial legacy would be a stretch at best. The two late night talk shows he did were very different beasts to this program designed to entertain every minute they were on air (whether they did or didn’t) and paced to reflect this while still padding out with formula wherever you could since the workload was so high you had to have some reliable mainstays. It is not surprising to find myself wistfully missing the band, the sketches and the up to date nature of that program to comment on whatever was making headlines at the time. On the other hand Letterman can do great interviews and the long leisurely pace of his Netflix show showed potential for deeper conversations. The remotes also showed great promise to have Letterman out in the field but as the show went on this aspect more and more seemed an afterthought or a side dish that deserved to be the main. By the way let me just say that I really enjoyed the opening theme tune by the always great Paul Schaeffer.

I started this program happy with the Obama episode but looking forward to his conversations outside his comfort zone with Malala Yousafzai and maybe Jay-Z. Looking back the obvious candidates bore better episodes President Obama and George Clooney remain probably the best episodes. Malala Yousafzai delivered what I was hoping for, of challenging Dave and I hope to see more of this in the future but Jay-Z was not as good and Tina Fey was mostly entertaining because of her considerable talent. Going into the last episode I decided Howard Stern’s antagonistic needling would probably make for a good episode if not terribly original.

Stern is on point throughout, I enjoyed the relaxed way he asked Dave about his Netflix show at the end of it but Stern surprisingly got serious about his own childhood and about the apologies he owed Letterman and others. It was honest and vulnerable and showed growth but it didn’t necessarily make for good entertainment with Stern even suggesting at one point I can get the Fartman costume in five minutes if this is bad addressing the audience. Stern a contemporary of Dave’s is still in the game I guess and still ‘hot’. It made me reflect on how after all the fanfare during Dave’s victory lap in 2015 that he is maybe a little out of the loop calling on favours to have people show up for this show.

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I don’t want to beat on the show, I’m a fan and this was a perfectly good hour of viewing for me with Stern who is such a talent. But its interesting to note that what followed in the form of a bonus episode prepared by Netflix where Jerry Seinfeld and Dave sat down at an industry event as two of their stars and just chatted was far more entertaining and showed a more traditional filming dynamic. They threw back and forth at considerable pace, telling the other about the greatness of their work and vehemently denying it themselves, obviously prepared with some jokes which they fired off but also building to off the cuff remarks however the conversation threw them. At one point Jerry told Letterman he did not want to talk about his kids but he give him one thing a minute later. At another point Letterman talked about the kindness of a baseball player saying good day to him in the VIP part of the crowd. Seinfeld said that was nice of the baseball player but as Letterman insisted the significance of the nature of the gesture the former sitcom star let slip that he’s not doing this past the VIP area concluding “You’re David Letterman, you idiot.” The crowd erupted.

Watching Letterman with Stern and Seinfeld shows he can still improvise something on the spot and riff with the best after coming across unmatched with Fey. I saw him on Seth Meyers the other day and some of it was downright odd as he presented a tick in a snaplock bag from his back, so absurd I’m sure some fans of his 80s work were pleased but he also told some good jokes. So we know Letterman is still sharp and funny and under the right circumstances prickly and dignified. We know he’s earnest and curious and wanting to do good in the world. We know he can still get things out of people and can make a fascinating chat in the long time format of these interviews.

So what’s next? Come back and do another 6 or 10 episodes next year. Interview people like Amal Clooney, Donald Glover, Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Margot Robbie, Ryan Coogler, Kumail Nunjiani, Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyongo, Jordan Peele, Greta Gerwig, Patty Jenkins, or Elizabeth Warren. Maybe that’s a little celebrity heavy or whatever but just for starters. Do the remotes with those people, go with them somewhere or watch them interact with their family or crews. Go to India and look at Turbines, go wherever you like, interview whoever you like and try to change the world for the better. Because I love you Dave and I was happy to have you back and I hope to see you again soon but there’s a few things we could improve upon for next year.

-Lloyd Marken

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31 thoughts on “I WAS A NINTH DEGREE BLACK BELT NARCISSIST

  1. I used to often watch the in-depth interviews conducted by David Frost, decades ago. His interview of Richard Nixon was so powerful, they even made a film about it. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0870111/
    There was also a memorable one with Muhammad Ali, and Henry Kissinger too. Most of those are online, if this sort of thing interests you.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. Yes I saw a few Frost interviews and enjoyed Frost/Nixon. I know Frost did other types of shows and maybe wasn’t taken seriously by some until that interview but I saw stuff that he did in the 1960s where he seemed to be pretty serious and good at talking straight with people. I also enjoy chasing down old interviews with Parky who had some fantastic ones over the years. Carson too but for long form I’ve enjoyed Charlie Rose but of course that plays differently now knowing he was an asshole to women at the same time.

  2. Really enjoyed your write-up and clips, Lloyd, of this amazing entertainer. Your descriptions were well-written and intriguing, and I look forward to seeing to viewing it. Funny what Paul Shaffer said about growing a beard.

    1. That is very kind Jet, I hope you enjoy the Netflix show. I did a write-up ages ago during his retirement and talk about my favourite memories of The Late Show that I watched from 2001-2015. I think the Warren Zevon episode is something very special.

  3. Lloyd, I launched Howard Stern’s E! TV show in the 90’s – put in robotic cameras to capture him in the studio…was Executive Producer of the first 500+ episodes – he’s a total professional who works tirelessly to plan his shows – so that they come off as if unplanned! Great post

    1. That’s very cool John and I’m glad to hear he is a professional in real life. I’ve seen some of that stuff from the 90s including interviews with Roger Ebert, Sly Stallone and of course David Letterman. Also new ones too. He is a very good interviewer who gets some interesting stories because he isn’t afraid to ask and part of his schtick is people can’t be too outraged because he’s Howard Stern of course he’s going to ask that. I was hoping for more from this episode but it’s not bad. I think Clooney, Malala, President Obama were the best ones. You must have crossed paths with Clooney over the years? What’s he like?

      1. Yes, I was lucky enough to interact with Clooney on many occasions – he is self-deprecating, very quick witted, and fun..no malice or meanness at all – he was enjoying his ride as a movie star but taking that responsibility seriously as well!

  4. I’m glad you presented a balanced and open opinion about his past and present styles of interviews, Lloyd. I miss the old “shtick” but it probably is what I grew up with admiring Johnny Carson and still like Mike Douglas and others who were so familiar. I do think David Letterman is brilliant. Thanks! 🙂 Robin

      1. Oh, thank you for understanding my comment, Lloyd! Johnny Carson still is one of the all time best combinations​ of host, listener and promoter of each individual talent he had on as guests.
        It is amazing to find out afterwards, that he was actually shy and had some anxieties. Ed McMahon was a perfect match for “co-anchor,” too.
        I would never dream to say anything unkind about David Letterman and do feel his questions often were very meaningful in this new “gig” he completed. We haven’t seen the last of him!
        I thought of someone deep who reminds me of Letterman in some ways: David Frost. I’m not sure if anyone else would even consider them similar but the times I remember watching him, D. Frost was very serious and asked insightful questions of his guests. Let me know if I am crazy or not, Lloyd! 😀

      2. Of what I saw of Frost he was a first rate broadcaster. I know in some circles he was considered a lightweight because he did other types of shows before the Nixon interview but I saw a clip from the late 60s and he looked combative and inquisitive. I think he was great. McMahon played the role of best friend well. It was sad that he was to an extent that friend in real life and then things changed as time went on. As McMahon once said of Carson “He packs a tight suitcase.” There’s a fantastic PBS American Masters special about Carson you can track down on YouTube. A couple of highlights I’ve seen over the years stuff with Rickles, his duet with Julio Inglesias where he was Willie Nelson, his interview with Letterman in ’85 on Late Night, anything with Rickles, when Ed McMahon was drunk and Jimmy Stewart talking about his dog. Of course Carson got guff about being an entertainer and a comedian whereas Dick Cavett or Tom Synder went deeper. That’s true to an extent but I think Carson did good interviews.

      3. So true about many of his fabulous guests who were respectful of Johnny Carson and he was able to help them make fun of themselves and doing silly skits. Precursor for SNL and others who followed his lead, Lloyd.
        I will try to look up those YouTube videos soon! Just got home from work.

  5. I tried the first episode and really just couldn’t get into it. Howard Stern would not be the one to convince me. I really love Jay-Z but even that one I couldn’t bring myself to check out.

    1. Fair enough Jay, we all have our things that appeal and those that do not. I would suggest Tina Fey or Malala Yousafzai but if you didn’t enjoy President Barack Obama then that would suggest its not for you. Thanks for giving the show a shot though based on my stuff and thank you for your support.

      1. I think the one I watched was with Clooney rather than Obama.

        I just asked Matt if he’d watched it (he’s a big Letterman fan) and he said “No, I can’t love at him with that beard.”

  6. I have never seen much of Dave’s stuff. I don’t know how I could have watched it, if I were old enough! =P To be honest I never bothered watching anything by him because of this, but you now have me very interested!!

    The quote, the title of the film, did you come up with that or is it from one of the shows? Either way its pretty great hehe

    1. Stern says it in that episode. I hit upon it when I did Clooney’s. Thanks Jordan. I would say the best ones are President Obama and George Clooney but I liked Mala Yousafzai, Tina Fey and really enjoyed the repartee with Jerry Seinfeld. But forget all of that and YouTube Warren Zevon on the Late Show with David Letterman.

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