An impressively bearded David Letterman has given an epic interview to New York magazine’s David Marchese, in which the one-time king of late night casts a self-deprecating eye back over his storied career and weighs in with his trademark irony on the Trump administration.
Letterman, who was the face of late night for 33 years before retiring in 2015 (since when he has kept a low profile), predicts in the interview that “Trumpy,” as he calls the president, will eventually “take a fastball to the sternum” and “have to leave the game.”
He also airs suggestions that the Russians “groomed” Trump or “have something” on him, while admitting that the notion sounds like something that would come out of the mouth of arch-conspiracist Alex Jones.
Here are some of Letterman’s best lines from the piece.
On interviewing Trump before he ran for president: “He was a joke of a wealthy guy. We didn’t take him seriously. He’d sit down, and I would just start making fun of him. He never had any retort. He was big and doughy, and you could beat him up. He seemed to have a good time, and the audience loved it, and that was Donald Trump.”
On Trump’s outrageous statements: “I’m tired of people being bewildered about everything he says: ‘I can’t believe he said that.’ We gotta stop that and instead figure out ways to protect ourselves from him. We know he’s crazy. We gotta take care of ourselves here now.”
On possible Russian interference in the election: “I do like the idea that Putin has something on Don and decided: “Let’s get him in office, and we’ll get things to go our way.” That’s beginning to sound like an Alex Jones theory, but that’d be fun, wouldn’t it?”
On Alec Baldwin and comedy: “Comedy’s one of the ways that we can protect ourselves. Alec Baldwin deserves a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Sadly, he’s not going to get it from this president. In a 2007 playoff game, a swarm of midges from Lake Erie caused Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain to blow the game with a few wild pitches. Well, that’s Alec Baldwin and Saturday Night Live. It’s distracting the batter. Eventually Trump’s going to take a fastball off the sternum and have to leave the game.”
On Steve Bannon: “Bannon looks like a guy who goes to lunch, gets drunk, and comes back to the office: ‘Steve, could you have just one drink?’ ‘Fuck you.’ How is a white supremacist the chief adviser to our president? Did anybody look that up?”
On not being on the air anymore: “This is the way I’d be every night, and the next thing you know, I’d be slumped over in my chair and that would be it.”
On Twitter: “If we get a president sometime soon who does not have a mental disorder, Twitter will be useful.”
On interviewing Paris Hilton: “The poor woman said to me, ‘I don’t want to talk about being in jail.’ I felt like I could circumnavigate that. I said, ‘Well, that’s all I want to talk about.’ If you had a chance to talk to Paris Hilton in those days, you just kind of want to talk about, ‘Well, no, seriously, you were in jail.’ But that upset her and she cried and I called her and apologized. I think I bought her a car, too.”
On no longer watching late-night TV: “It was always me and Leno and me and Leno and me and Leno. I realize, Jesus, what was the matter with me? So, well … the truth is I can’t stay up that late.”
On readjusting to normal life: “It’s still hard. I have trouble operating the phone. That’s the God’s truth. I needed a pair of shoelaces. And I thought, Hell, where do you get shoelaces? And my friend said, there’s a place over off I-84, it’s the Designer Shoe Warehouse. So I go over there, and it’s a building the size of the Pentagon.”
On having nothing to do: Right now, I’m missing The Price Is Right; thanks a lot. A regular day is structured around my wife and son. I am secondary to their schedule. But my days — I was just in California with some people. It was business related. So I do a lot of that, and I do a lot of pro bono work, as they say in the legal industry. But mostly I sit on the edge of the bed and stare at the floor.”