David Letterman’s first choice as his replacement was Jon Stewart

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David Letterman is old-school and he loves New York. So he did what will probably constitute as his “exit interview” from The Late Show with a lengthy Q&A session with the New York Times. It’s a pretty classy thing to do, especially since Letterman has never been the guy you go to for open self-reflection or lengthy discussions about the scope of his career. The brief times we’ve gotten a glimpse of “the Real Dave,” he seems like a humble Midwesterner, not looking for personal glory or trying to follow whatever trend. The NYT is pretty epic and to Letterman’s credit, he didn’t shut down or shy away from answering any questions, not even about his affair with a female staffer, not even about his harsh feelings about Jay Leno, etc. There’s even an interesting admission that Letterman wasn’t even consulted about his replacement. You can read the full piece here. Some highlights:

He’s more relaxed since he announced his retirement: “I think there’s a difference between regular-season hockey and playoff hockey. And I’m not in the playoffs. Yeah, I do notice a difference. When I was watching those interim shows they did on “The Late Late Show,” and I saw John Mayer hosting one night, I thought, “Ohhhh, now I see exactly what the problem is.” Because he’s young. He’s handsome. He’s trim. He’s witty. He was comfortable. So then I realized, I got nothing to worry about. I know I can’t do what Jimmy Fallon’s doing. I know I can’t do what Jimmy Kimmel is doing. There’s nothing left to be worried about. It’s all over, Dad, you’re going to be just fine. You’re going to a new place. They’ll be very nice to you, Dad. You’ll make a lot of friends.

He didn’t feel pushed out by Kimmel and Fallon: “No, they didn’t push me out. I’m 68. If I was 38, I’d probably still be wanting to do the show. When Jay was on, I felt like Jay and I are contemporaries. Every time he would get a show at 11:30, he would succeed smartly. And so I thought, This is still viable — an older guy in a suit. And then he left, and I suddenly was surrounded by the Jimmys.”

He wasn’t consulted about Stephen Colbert as replacement: “No. Not my show. When we sign off, we’re out of business with CBS. I always thought Jon Stewart would have been a good choice. And then Stephen. And then I thought, well, maybe this will be a good opportunity to put a black person on, and it would be a good opportunity to put a woman on. Because there are certainly a lot of very funny women that have television shows everywhere. So that would have made sense to me as well.

Whether it bothers him that CBS didn’t consult him: “Yeah, I guess so. Just as a courtesy, maybe somebody would say: “You know, we’re kicking around some names. Do you have any thoughts here?” But it doesn’t bother me now. At the time, I had made the decision [to leave] and I thought, O.K., this is what comes when you make this decision.

[From The NYT]

He basically says that he believes in Colbert and that he likes that Colbert isn’t some kid, that Colbert has helmed a late-night show before and he’ll be fine. I find it interesting that in Letterman’s mind, Jon Stewart was his first choice. I wonder if CBS did go to Stewart first and Stewart was already feeling like he was “done” with late night? Because it’s been feeling like Jon Stewart’s heart hasn’t been in late night for a while.

As I said, Letterman also talks about Leno and how CBS has been good to him over the years, especially when they could have fired him, like when he was having an affair with a staffer. The whole piece is worth a read.

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Photos courtesy of Fame/Flynet and WENN.

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18 Responses to “David Letterman’s first choice as his replacement was Jon Stewart”

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  1. bella says:

    late night, for me, will never be the same.
    letterman is an icon and one of a kind…will miss him.

    • Msmlnp says:

      I agree. I have been watching him For 20 years. In fact my first trip without my parents at 19 was to NYC to see him live. While I like Fallon & Kimmel too, Dave was always the best with the celebrity guests from a viewers perspective. Fallon is funny, but ingratiated himself to his guests- something Dave doesn’t do.

      • bella says:

        ah…my 1st trip to NYC was to simply see the ed sullivan theatre!
        i stood out front in awe – LOL.
        it wasn’t till the following year that i went back to be in the late show audience.
        so very exciting.

        i’ve got to say, i don’t watch the other late night shows.
        no one appeals to me as letterman does.
        letterman is and always was the best at satire, edge and delivery.
        the others don’t come close, which is fine.
        i’m good with letterman being one of a kind…it’s his legacy…he’s earned it.

        happy to know there’s a fellow celebitchy who has the same affinity for letterman ;-)

    • Gea says:

      Oh Dave! I was crushing on him years back and still find him very entertaining. Personally, I think he was at his best back in ’80 on his show at NBC. Will miss him a lot.

  2. Virgilia Coriolanus says:

    Did the staffer get fired or reassigned?

    • Aysla says:

      EDIT: the person that was trying to blackmail him didn’t work for his show, it was a TV producer named Robert Halderman. He had numerous affairs with staff… I never paid attention as to who gave Halderman the information. Anyone know?

    • bella says:

      she vanished when the scandal broke.
      you know, it was SO obvious the flirtation on dave’s part.
      i saw her twice while in the audience and her awkwardness/shyness around him stood out.
      she was an enamored college student with stars in her eyes.
      funny though…my adoration for letterman wasn’t tarnished after learning he had an affair with a much younger, impressionable staffer.
      had it been anyone else, i’d have spewed disgust.
      not fair i know, but that’s how much i love him!

  3. maria1981 says:

    and now we are left with jimmy fallon and seth meyer…god bless us all!

  4. PunkyMomma says:

    He’s going out with a grace I never thought he had. I wish him well.

  5. AtlLady says:

    A personal and amusing story about my late night viewing – Dave was my Pavlov’s dog. I used to go to sleep to the sound of his voice. Didn’t realize how my sleep response was attached to Dave’s voice until I was listening to him on a radio interview broadcast at 10 in the morning and found myself yawning and nodding off. Just a head’s up to Dave watchers in case your sleep patterns get screwy after his shows stop airing.

  6. Aysla says:

    I feel bad that Dave was essentially aged out of late night; the medium is now populated by hosts that have to be vaudevillians. There’s no room for the classic Johhny-Carson types that simply interviewed and cracked jokes. It’s the 24/7 insta-culture.

  7. Timbuktu says:

    I actually wonder if one had to grow up with Dave to be so attached to the show. I moved here relatively recently, so Letterman is not any more special in my frame of reference than Craig Ferguson or any number of other hosts who have been around a few years. Without the nostalgia and the reverence, I do not find his show particularly iconic or entertaining. I find a lot of his jokes flat, a lot of his segments downright boring, and some of his interviews very poorly done.

    (runs and hides)

    • bella says:

      @Timbuktu
      no need to run and hide from us dave – a – lunatics!
      interesting perspective.
      yes, i was young when i started watching dave but he was so different from anyone i had seen on late night – he was cutting edge – difficult to ignore and not admire.
      i watched johnny carson who aired earlier than dave – another legend.

      i’m surprised to hear that someone new to the letterman scene doesn’t find him appealing.
      who knows if it’s because fans like me have watched since the begining..perhaps.

      but then i think about saturday night live…
      that show was absolutely the best in the first several years…nothing came close.
      when i watch now, i just can’t…it’s not the same…
      true, the cast is different…
      but i’m simply not a fan anymore…
      in the early years, i’d never miss it.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      Don’t run. I’m American and I don’t hate him, but I’ve never thought he was particularly nice or funny.

    • Magpie says:

      Maybe so. Drew flashing him on his desk in the 90′s was like yesterday. Always loved his dry humor. True in this internet age Dave does not do youtube bits. Dad will be fine. Love you Dad.

      • Timbuktu says:

        I’m not all about YouTube bits, though. I like a good TALK show, no gimmicks, etc. I just think there’s dry humor and there, well, lack of humor. For me, Dave falls in the latter category. :-(
        Just my perception.

  8. WillowS says:

    Interesting interview. I loved his show when I was a kid back in the 1980′s but have not watched him for many years and found all the revelations about his womanizing creepy. The 80′s were definitely his heyday-he was considered to be somewhat “cutting edge” at the time. Also, back then the options for entertainment were much more limited. Late night TV was much bigger than it is now.

    I like that he acknowledges that his time has passed and that it’s time for him to retire.

  9. ¡mire usted! says:

    “I suddenly was surrounded by the Jimmys.” LOL I grew up watching David. His Top 10s are priceless. My friends and I used to create our own all the time. I’m really going to miss David Letterman. How in the world is he 68? Time flies. CBS should at least asked him for his input on his replacement. I’m a huge Colbert fan! I’m missing the Colbert Report. I hope Colbert works out. It’s a whole new format for him.