Norm Macdonald Live is back for a new season, the host’s third, and the online talk show has a full hour of David Letterman. I wasn’t sure, frankly, whether I wanted to sit through 60 minutes of the current white-bearded, post-talk-show Dave, who’s starting to seem like a guy who doesn’t really want to retire. But the difference between all the after-the-Late-Show interviews Letterman has done and this new one is Norm Macdonald, who approaches his guest on multiple levels simultaneously: as an admirer and as someone posing precise questions; as a comedian talking to a colleague, both of them working at a very high level; and as one pal to another, sharing war stories and can-you-top-this anecdotes.
Because I can’t look away whenever Letterman pops up on a screen, and because I read Jason Zinoman’s recent biography Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night, I thought I’d just be hearing variations on Dave stories I’d heard before. Not at all: Here is Letterman talking about being drunk while taping the game show Password; discussing talk-show hosts other than his idol Johnny Carson; joining in Macdonald’s admiration for the late comedian George Miller; and being brutally honest about, of all people, Pat Sajak. The hour zooms by, and you’ll want to listen to every second of it, even the commercials Norm reads himself, in one of which he reveals he’s been reading Nabokov’s novel Pale Fire.
Macdonald urges Letterman to start interviewing again, but this time without a studio audience — both agree that would be the way to go, and Norm makes a further suggestion that Dave get himself “a big Charlie Rose desk — how much could one of those cost?” He accepts Letterman’s admission that he, Letterman, “worries” about Macdonald, wanting Norm’s place in the show-biz firmament to be more fixed and secure.
Once you’re done watching this terrific interchange, you can scroll through Macdonald’s YouTube channel and catch up on previous installments of Norm Macdonald Live. It’s one of the better things you can do during this miserable time we’re living through.
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