In his first interview with David Letterman in a decade, comedian and ex-Chappelle’s Show host Dave Chappelle discusses his abrupt 2005 exit from his popular Comedy Central sketch program. Here’s a preview of tonight’s sit-down on Letterman:
On the day the king of late-night longevity announced his plans to retire, we thought we’d take a look back at some of David Letterman‘s most memorable moments. We’ll start with two unforgettable incidents from his NBC days and work our way up through the CBS era. First, we set the wayback machine to the first Reagan administration …
Andy Kaufman vs. the Wrestler, July 1982
The polarizing comic was known at the time for wrestling women and mouthed off until he finally got into the squared circle with a man. He took on pro grappler Jerry “The King” Lawler and lost, falling victim to a piledriver. A few months later, the two faced off on Late Night:
Unlike NBC, with its Tonight Show host training camp (aka SNL) and clear heir apparent in Jimmy Fallon, CBS does not have as evident a line of succession for David Letterman‘s late-night throne — though Craig Ferguson hosts CBS’ other late-night program which, like Late Show, is produced by Letterman’s Worldwide Pants (it’s now a co-production with CBS). He has a succession clause in his contract, but that contract is set to expire this summer. Presumably, he’d seek the same in his next contract. Should CBS balk, the network might find itself looking for two late-night hosts within months of each other — which would be tough, and not the image of stability CBS has so carefully cultivated. Additionally, Ferguson has won a Peabody Award for his show and has hosted the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and that kind of prestige appeals to Moonves. Regardless, almost immediately after Letterman announced on his show tonight he’s stepping down sometime in 2015, The Reporters Who Cover Television began playing The Replacement Game. Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert name keeps popping up; he’s said to be well-liked by CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves and, with his contract coming up in mid-2015, Colbert could be available if his network does not sign him to a new contract by the time Letterman bows out. Ditto Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart, whose contract also is set to expire at around the same time and who, years ago, was under option at CBS as that network was looking for a Late Late Show host – CBS went instead with then-Daily Show host Craig Kilborn. (Ferguson won the companion-show gig, from a slew of auditioners, after the network threw in the towel on Kilborn.) Some sources speculated the April Fools’ Day job-swap of Ferguson and CBS’ Price Is Right host Drew Carey might actually have been Carey’s first late-night audition at the network. Others on the list are known to be looking for employment elsewhere – like E!’s Chelsea Handler, who has said her show will be toast at the end of the year because the network has become a “sad, sad place.” Another name that popped up this afternoon: Neil Patrick Harris, the versatile How I Met Your Mother star who has demonstrated a knack for talk shows when he sat in with Kelly Ripa on her syndicated daytime talker and is highly regarded at the network for his stints hosting the Tony and Emmy Awards. And don’t forget Louis C.K., who during the third season of his FX series was offered a chance to take over Letterman’s show by the head of CBS (played by Gary Marshall) — until everything goes wrong for Louie, and Letterman re-ups for 10 years and declares his wannabe replacement persona non grata.
EXCLUSIVE: I’ve just learned that one of the longtime writers and producers of Late Show With David Letterman, Matt Roberts, is becoming the new head writer effective immediately. The previous head writers Justin and Eric Stangel will remain as writers and producers with the show but also get a fat new multiyear development deal with Worldwide Pants, the production company run by Letterman and Rob Burnett. ”The Stangel brothers are going to remain with the show as part of the deal because we need them,” Rob Burnett just told me. ”These guys are as good as it gets.” The twosome have had an unusally long and successful 14-year run as Letterman’s head writers and now will turn a lot of their attention to coming up with TV shows in any format for Worldwide Pants. “For people like this super valuable to the show, this deal keeps these guys from walking,” Burnett said. He especially wanted to ensure the pair were signed to a deal in order not to repeat what happened when Letterman writers Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, who walked out the door of Worldwide Pants and created the long-running and profitable franchise How I Met Your Mother. I happen to think the Stangel Brothers are hilarious (remember their online antics with Bill Scheft during the writers strike?) and look forward to their scripted and unscripted pitches. “Whatever they want to do,” Burnett told me.
Late Show With David Letterman executive producer Rob Burnett tweeted that tonight’s show is “bizarre and beautiful”. The CBS late-night show sent its audience home but is taping anyway with guest Denzel Washington. Might make for must-see TV. (UPDATE: CBS has posted what Letterman’s monologue could have been. Check it out here.)
David Letterman celebrated his 30th year on late-night TV with a Top 10 that’s a nice shout-out to his long-time staff:
Eddie Murphy was on Late Night With David Letterman last night to promote Tower Heist, giving Letterman a chance to ask about Murphy’s upcoming Oscar-hosting gig. “It aint all it’s cracked up to be,” said a semi-joking Letterman, a former Oscar host himself. Murphy then went on to talk about what won’t be on his Oscarcast. Here’s the clip:
With new Two and a Half Men star Ashton Kutcher as a guest, CBS’ late-night host David Letterman predicted that the veteran sitcom is “going to go through the roof” with him. Kutcher agreed. “I think it’s going to go through the roof, I really do,” he said. “I’ve been laughing really hard.” The first indication was the taping of the season premiere on the Warner Bros lot. “The roof popped off Warner Bros that day,” said Kutcher, who wore protective gear for the interview in reference to the recent jihad threat against Letterman. With a solid feature career, why did Kutcher decide to go back to sitcoms where he started years ago on That ’70s Show? Kutcher said he remembered how, while he was on That ’70s Show, he used to dream of a feature career all the time. Then one day, Robin Williams, fresh off winning an Oscar, stopped by the set to see the show’s Kurtwood Smith and confessed to wanting to do a sitcom again. “And I never forgot that when I was on That ‘70s Show because I never forgot what we had, and how great and how fun the job was and how incredible it was, and how great it is go to work every day and make people laugh,” said Kutcher. Here is the clip:
In his first night in front of the cameras at Late Night With David Letterman since a threat on his life was posted to a jihadist website, Letterman hit the ground running and used the occasion as one big punch line in his monologue. Saying that the feds were investigating the threat, the late-night host said “they could save themselves some time: Everybody knows it’s (Jay) Leno.” Joking aside, a bomb-sniffing dog was posted outside the Ed Sullivan Theater in Manhattan, where the show is taped; there were no incidents reported. Here’s the monologue: