My Next Guest Needs No Introduction: David Letterman’s Return to Television


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From February 1982 until May 2015, David Letterman hosted two television shows: Late Night with David Letterman, which aired on NBC, and the Late Show with David Letterman, which aired on CBS. In total, Letterman has hosted a staggering 6,028 shows; making him the longest serving light night talk show host in American television history.

The man has become an icon, and whether or not you have had a chance to watch any of his shows intently, you have probably come across an episode or two while passing by the television at some point. Letterman’s show was often bizarre and included iconic moments, such as the time Andy Kaufman had an altercation with a professional wrestler on the show, or the numerous ridiculous Bill Murray entrances, or even that time Joaquin Phoenix pretended to be a rapper and made the interview very uncomfortable for a mockumentary he was making with Casey Affleck.

Letterman’s commentary and interviewing style was often riddled with an apathy towards everyone and a contempt for himself and his job. It’s where his comedy comes from: a sense of exaggerated nihilism. While often sympathetic, there are many instances in which Letterman eviscerated a guest live on his show.

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This is why his new show on Netflix, titled My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, is a departure from the formulas of his previous television endeavours. Letterman appears in his now trademark beard and begins his show in a shirt and tie. He talks to the audience for about a minute before asking them if they know who today’s guest is. The audience is usually unaware of who is in fact the guest, with the exception of the first episode, which featured Barack Obama and a swarming of security around the place.

As soon as Letterman riles up the audience, he opens with the show’s title and introduces his guest while he is handed a suit jacket to wear.

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The show has had four guests so far: Barack Obama, George Clooney, Malala Yousafzai, and Jay-Z. While the name of the show seems potentially generic and the guests seem random, they are not -at least not to Letterman. He chooses the guests based on several components; the first being the fact that they actually do not need any introduction due to their unyielding success. The second is that they are people whom Letterman himself admires and reveres. These are not just ordinary people who have merely been successful in one field; rather they are driven people who seem to be interested in doing many things as opposed to one. Whether it’s charity, activism, writing, film, music, or community development, the guests on the show are people who Letterman believes embody true excellence.

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Throughout the show, the sequence jumps from a live interview in front of an audience and a pre-taped exploration of the different aspects of the interviewee’s life. Sometimes the interviewee’s family is involved, such as with George Clooney or Malala Yousafzai, and other times collaborators and mentors are the ones with the mic, such as with Jay-Z and Barack Obama.

Letterman was notorious for shying away from divulging personal information throughout his career. He would not actively seek to clarify his stance on a topic, which makes this show a little more interesting. Throughout the four episodes released so far, there isn’t one where Letterman does not mention his son and the way he feels about him, whether its pride or love. He conveys humorous and honest articulations of his political opinions. It is a more candid Letterman, still as funny and self-deprecating but with an honesty that allows for more depth to exist in the show.

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