Dave Letterman chugs vodka as Martha Stewart looks on. Photo: YouTube
It’s the end of an era: David Letterman’s retirement from late night is around the corner. It’s not only a farewell to Dave, but a goodbye to the comedian’s unique take on cooking segments, which couldn’t be more different from the polished television demos more common today.
For instance, when Julia Child visited — she was a frequent guest both on NBC’s Late Night with David Letterman and the Late Show with David Letterman on CBS — the equipment often didn’t work. One time, a cockroach interrupted the broadcast. And more than once, Dave flat-out said he didn’t like the food. How’s that for honesty?
He didn’t pull punches with other famous guests, either. Letterman liked to catch the usually-proper Martha Stewart off-guard, and keep up with peppy British chef Jamie Oliver quip for quip. Even the famed chef Daniel Boulud wasn’t safe.
Below, watch through our five favorite food moments on Letterman. Farewell, Dave! We can only hope that future generations of talk show hosts follow your lead.
Julia Child visited Letterman several times over the years, beginning in 1983. Something always seemed to go wrong. Here she is in 1987 on NBC’s Late Night with David Letterman, when her hot plate went on the fritz. About that hamburger she’d intended to make … Julia switched gears and turned it into a beef tartare smothered in melted cheese. Dave was not amused. “I’ve just never eaten raw ground beef before!” he says moments after spitting a hunk of meat into his napkin. He eventually forces a bite down.
Here’s a little-known fact: Liberace loved to cook. The glitzy musical legend stopped by Late Night with David Letterman in 1984 to show off his skills, preparing an egg casserole. Letterman couldn’t get past the singer’s flashy jewelry, though. “What do you if you get Crisco on those rings?” he quips in the video above. “I don’t usually cook with my rings on, but when I have a dinner party, you know, when I go to the table to greet my guests, I put the rings on,” Liberace responded, unruffled. “They say, ‘Did you cook with those rings on?’ And I always say, ‘Yes,’ because it makes them eat very slowly.”
This 1996 appearance by Daniel Boulud on CBS’s Late Show With David Letterman is truly something special. He and Letterman flat out don’t get along. At first, there’s some gentle sniping back and forth — Boulud brusquely cuts Letterman off mid-joke — and then halfway through, Boulud actually wrestles a bursting champagne bottle from Letterman’s hands, soaking them both. The chef then watches in horror as Letterman tosses raw clams into the now-hysterical audience. If you think that’s as bad as it gets, just wait until Dave presses a plate of raw scallops to his face. It’s late night television at its finest.
In 2006, British chef Jamie Oliver swung by The Late Show to demo a Thai seafood dish. Also in attendance, Tom Cruise, who was on hand to promote Mission: Impossible III. Cruise looks remarkably uncomfortable at having to touch raw shrimp and scallops with his bare hands, which prompts a brusque pep talk from Oliver: “Be proud, be a man.” Letterman steals the show, though, when he straight up chugs olive oil. Cruise and Oliver quickly follow suit. “I don’t feel that good,” Letterman says afterward. We could have guessed that, Dave.
The day before Letterman announced his retirement, frequent guest Martha Stewart dropped by with some deviled eggs and vodka. And Dave seemed … a little checked out. In the video above, he sucks deviled egg filling straight from a plastic bag. He glugs vodka straight from the bottle. Stewart takes it in stride, laughing right through the whole segment.
More late night food moments:
What are your favorite David Letterman food moments? Tell us below!