“David Letterman is to me what Beyoncé is to everyone else,” Jimmy Kimmel said during his monologue Tuesday night. It was his second in a week of shows from Brooklyn that also features the former Late Show bandleader Paul Shaffer on keys. The lifelong Letterman fanatic was in heaven.
When Letterman and his ever-growing beard finally took the stage and sat next to Kimmel, he could hardly contain his enthusiasm. “I’m so excited to be here, it is so good to see famous people again,” he told Kimmel. “Just to be out of the house, ladies and gentlemen!”
“I’ll tell you something, you’re looking at a man who is laughing on the outside, crying on the inside,” Letterman added. Looking back on the two years since he left late-night television—“I was either fired or I retired, it’s all a blur now”—he said, “for the purpose of this conversation, I have nothing but the highest regard for all the talk-show men and women, even Jimmy Fallon.”
Letterman also ribbed Conan O’Brien, “who is like some sort of god on Mt. Olympus, he runs around telling people he went to Harvard.” O’Brien went on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show this past Friday and told the story about the horse that Letterman sent to him after he retired. Or as Letterman called it, “a bullshit show-business gift.”
He admitted that he was counting on O’Brien returning the horse so he could get his money back. “It was a joke!” Letterman said of the gift, adding, “The point is no good deed goes unpunished.”
“How did I end up without a show?” Letterman asked later. When Kimmel offered him his, Letterman quipped that then we’d be down to only one Jimmy.
As much as Kimmel tried to get something, anything, out of Letterman about the new Netflix show he has in the works, he wasn’t able to get much. “We’re looking for interesting guests,” Letterman said, naming Howard Stern as a potential option. He has also said he would be open to hosting Donald Trump and Pope Francis.
This weekend, Letterman will receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., where Kimmel will be among the presenters. “It’s a fixed fight, they’ve got to have somebody show up and I’m not doing anything, so I said I’ll be there,” Letterman said, modest as ever.
Asked by Kimmel if he misses hosting a show every night, Letterman hesitated before joking, “I miss wearing makeup.”
He agreed that he feels like a “different person” in retirement, telling Kimmel, “Thank God, because the great struggle in life is to be better each and every day. And if you take a look around the horizon of humanity, my God, is there anything we can do big or small to make the life of just one person a little better? And that is no small accomplishment.”