After a well-received first season, the second batch of David Letterman’s Netflix talk show conversations began to show signs that the legendary late-night host was softening in his old age.
He was less barbed, less sarcastic and (dare we say it) more fawning than the acerbic agitator who had been a mainstay of US talk shows for more than 30 years.
And while the third season of “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction” undoubtedly sees the 73-year-old comedian taking a slower-paced approach to his interviews (episodes are, after all, nearly an hour, rather than the quick-fire exchanges of his earlier career) there are glimmers of that pointed stare, that quick-witted retort, that unbalancing question that make him such a great interviewer. The guests – Kim Kardashian West, Robert Downey Jr, Dave Chappelle and Lizzo – give Letterman different things to play off.
His familiarity with Downey Jr and Chappelle contrasts with his (slightly contrived) old-man schtick in the face of Kardashian West’s social media clout, but with more than a few minutes to play with, there’s time enough for him to ramp up from pleasantries to more serious lines of questioning.
And he does, for the most part, take those chances, whether it’s exploring issues of addiction with Downey Jr, comedic excess with Chappelle, or Kardashian West’s relationship with the White House.
It’s interesting to note that Letterman remains quick to play to the crowd. It’s what makes the interviews with Chappelle and Lizzo stand out, filmed as they are at the star’s homes instead of with a studio audience.
In the series opener interview with Kardashian West, for example, Letterman appears almost cowed by the star power of his guest, and his questioning turns more grandfatherly than genuinely inquisitive. But every now and again, he throws his guests a curveball, probing with questions that deserve not to be spoiled here.
They’re welcome reminders that, when he’s on song, Letterman still has few equals.
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