Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
Culture | By Stewart Greene

David Letterman tells Obama about his Fogo Island vacation

David Letterman tells Obama about his Fogo Island vacation

At the time he left The Late Show on CBS in May 2015, that's not how either he or the network described it. Between the dense birch woodland covering his face and his despondent mumbling, Letterman looks and sounds like a fugitive mall Santa in dire need of a Prozac milkshake.

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction has the fashionable, minimalist structure of a televised stand-up comedy or tour documentary, the host stepping over wires and past crew to take to the stage in the intro, the emphasis being placed entirely on who or what is on it.

Former President Barack Obama says the same innovations in technology that helped make his historic election possible have now evolved to exacerbate the nation's political divides, keeping many Americans inside partisan "bubbles" of their own making. Obama's not shocked by her sassy response, actually.

Which would be fine if they were chitchatting privately in a restaurant. Get the popcorn! Except, uh, maybe not all of it, as Obama doesn't talk about Donald Trump at any point. Not only was he not fired from either show, Letterman actually holds the record for longest-running late-night talk-show host in TV history. He needs a security blanket. 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.

"Both men seem rusty at the art of banter", Stuever wrote.

As Obama so astutely noted during their long interview, "It's a whole new ballgame now, man". When Letterman asked which hypothetical was worse for the U.S., the "diminishment ... of [the] press" by the president or "somebody screwing around with the actual voting process", Obama pointed to a lack of shared basic facts as "one of the biggest challenges".

And that's fine. He's still a good interviewer.

David Letterman is back with a new Netflix chat-show that is, well, not much like a chat-show. There was a lengthy discussion about Obama's Dreams from My Father, a book published in 1995.

"Hypothetically", agrees Letterman. "What is more damaging to that democracy, would it be the diminishment by the head of the democracy of the press..." - at which point Obama laughs - "Or would it be somebody screwing around with the actual voting process?"

"(Sasha) pulls me up, which surprises me because she always mocks my dancing, " Obama said. "Let's talk about something else".

Appropriately for a politician who was so closely associated with hope, Obama also offered some optimism: "I think it is a solvable problem, but I think it's one that we have to spend a lot of time thinking about". Did you take a deliberate break with the wife and son?

It's a sweet moment that serves as a reminder why it's nice but not vital to have Letterman back on our screens. But those days are over, at least based on the first episode of this six-part odyssey into the painfully lame.

While USA Today's Kelly Lawler called Letterman's premiere "a bit lackluster" and "halfhearted", others saw potential in the show's structure.

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