The season premiere of Norm Macdonald Live featured a rare appearance from David Letterman. The retired host of The Late Show had a casual conversation with Saturday Night Live alum Macdonald, talking about his career and the current state of the late-night game — but there was plenty of time for the two to crack some jokes while doing so.
There was no talk about the ’90s late night wars in the hour-long conversation that premiered on YouTube, but towards the last 15 minutes of the interview, there was plenty of conversation to be had about his time doing show and the current slate of late-night talk shows on the air today. He mentions how he didn’t want the title of his show to be l The Late Show Starring David Letterman. Instead, he chose to use “with” in place of “starring.” He said using that in the title would be embarrassing for him.
“I could not possibly, and still don’t, consider myself a star, because I couldn’t refer to myself as a star,” said Letterman. “Johnny Carson was a star, there’s no question of that. So for me to adopt Starring Dave Letterman — that was just ridiculous. In the same way, I always cringe a little when people refer to the folks who watch their show as their “fans” – you kind of step over the line of basic humility there. So to call myself a star didn’t go.”
Macdonald remembers the days on how there were only two late-night shows: one at 11:30 p.m. (Johnny Carson) and another at 12:30 a.m. (David Letterman). He then adds, “Now there are 100 Johnny Carsons and no David Letterman.” He goes on to say that there are “100 11:30 p.m. shows” and how, with the exception of Conan O’Brien, they are indistinct.
To a certain extent, Letterman agreed, but said that they many of the shows are the same template. Then says, “I think you’re bound by the pressure of who’s writing the checks.”
Considering the show is an audio and video podcast, the format follows a casual conversation between two friends rather than a formal interview that you would see on network TV. It gave the chance for the two to reminisce, be sarcastic and have a sincere conversation.
One of the main questions that Letterman gets asked is whether or not he will return to the talk show scene — and it’s covered again in this interview. However, fans expecting for him to get back behind the desk for late night, don’t hold your breath.
“I’ve done it for 30 years. I don’t want to do it anymore,” said Letterman.
Norm Macdonald Live started in 2013 and is currently in its third season. Past guests include Larry King, Adam Sandler, Roseanne Barr, Marc Maron, Bill Hader, and Carl Reiner.