Letterman Makes Return With a Big First Guest

Barack Obama speaking to David Letterman

At first, I was disappointed with the premiere of David Letterman's new Netflix show, "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction", for what it did NOT do. If there's a bold idea with My Next Guest, it's to be as un-bold as possible. And you can imagine that hour repeated, say, weekly, with Obama engaging other interesting people in wide-ranging, intelligent discussions of the issues of the day.

John Lewis sounded the alarm over the Trump administration posing a "threat" to the entire world when appearing on David Letterman's new show.

I have always thought of Letterman as an acquired taste that not everyone acquired. With Obama and Clooney, Letterman - a late-in-life dad - talks to them about experiencing fatherhood, which is about as much as he opens up.

The Obama's largely respected the custom of not knocking the sitting president, save for comments criticizing President Trump's immigration policies without naming him.

"When you become president and you're in the Oval Office you feel, 'OK, now I have to act presidential.' And we lost track of what had gotten us there, and that was our ability to tell stories and relate to people", Obama said.

The Obama interview, conducted at City College in New York City, touched on his post-presidency, Russian election interference, voting rights, race, family, and more.

In late 2016, Letterman hosted an installment of the National Geographic Channel's "Years of Living Dangerously", traveling to India to report on climate change. Back in 2014, he announced he was (voluntarily) retiring from hosting the Late Show.

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"I'm prevented from running again by the Constitution, but even if it were not for that amendment, Michelle would leave, and I - I want her around", Obama said. There seem to be a seventy-nine cameras pointed at Letterman's stage, with overly dramatic cutting to close-ups and iMovie-worthy photo montages.

Early on, he turns a question back on Letterman, asking how the former late-night host had spent the early days of his retirement-"Did you just brood in the dark somewhere?"

Obama has laid low since leaving the White House past year, appearing only in a few public appearances and a radio interview with Prince Harry of the British Royal Family recorded in September and broadcasted in December.

The conversation with Obama, while mostly dense, was not without moments of levity.

"Here's how this is going to work", Letterman said. It was as if they tacitly agreed - and I suspect they explicitly agreed before the interview, too - that the episode would not stoop to the level of insult and provocation.

You could appreciate the irony: A recent President explaining show business to a late night legend. A little longer, a little less aggressive and a little more ponderous than the Letterman we remember. What better fantasy come true for anyone who misses both men terribly? But the spare set and approach does allow for more give and take, in a conversational manner, than a talk show where guests have something to plug normally would. The next episode, featuring George Clooney, streams February 9.

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