Letterman and Obama Refuse to Name-Check Trump in Bland Sit-Down

President Barack Obama with David Letterman whose interview

In My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, his new six-episode weekly Netflix talk show, there's no desk that Letterman sits behind, and no monologue or house band. Obama observes, "If you watch Fox News, you are living on a different planet than if you listen to NPR" - and you know the former president is speaking in front of a self-selecting, New York City audience because the applause and derisive laughter start after Obama says "Fox News", thus proving his point. Paul Shaffer has added some appropriately jazzy riffs (there's no band, of course, the only constants in the first two episodes, which took place in NY and Los Angeles, being the two leather chairs plopped down on sparse, massive stages inside lovely theaters; the airy feel and cinematic look of these Netflix shows are in stark contrast to his network show). Letterman admits he thought Twitter would be a "mechanism" for truth-telling, but Obama swoops in: Are you really getting the truth if "you're getting all your information off algorithms being sent to your phone?" That's not unlike the situation (multiplied a million-fold) when Letterman competed with Jay Leno and Leno beat him in the ratings from 1995 to 2009, and then 2010 to 2014 (with Conan O'Brien taking up a few months on "The Tonight Show in-between Leno's two stints)".

A subsequent communique from Netflix p.r. described the Obama interview: "In the interview, Obama discusses his family, life after the presidency and what he views as the pressing issues facing our country". It was a long-evolving process and you could say it was sped up either by his heart surgery or the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but those are easy markers. "How big a setback is the current administration (to civil rights)?". Letterman gushes about Obama's memoir "Dreams From My Father", as if he doesn't realize it came out in 1995, and they revisit Obama's youth in Hawaii.

Perhaps even more impactful than the Obama interview itself was how it was interwoven with a supplementary discussion between Dave and revered civil rights activist John Lewis. Obama teased Letterman now about his "biblical" beard and idiosyncrasies.

"Oh, he would have been here", Lewis replies. Paul Shaffer recorded a jaunty instrumental for the animated theme, which seems to be the show's lone nod to Letterman's old format. Much of the conversation with Obama was personal, and the two men mostly stayed away from politics and news. "Meanwhile, Michelle's finished scrubbing and she's organizing closets and all this, and I was just pretty pathetic". When John Lewis and his friends (marched across the bridge), in April of '65 me and my friends were driving to Florida to get on a cruise ship to go to the Bahamas because there was no age limit to purchase alcohol, and we spent the entire week, pardon my French, s-faced.

David Letterman interviews former president Barack Obama
Letterman and Obama Refuse to Name-Check Trump in Bland Sit-Down

"Why wasn't I in Alabama?" he asks.

When Obama first appeared onstage as a surprise guest, he received more rapturous applause than the master of ceremonies. "I have been nothing but lucky".

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman is streaming now on Netflix.

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