On the eve of both his departure and a prime-time special in his honor, David Letterman has given what may be the only exit interview he plans to give -- to The New York Times. Posted online now, and it's a good, thoughtful one.
And, of course, TV writers are scouring it for news. Certainly this tidbit emerges: Letterman was not consulted about the selection of Stephen Colbert as his replacement.
Further, he was bothered by that.
Further still, he indicates here that he might have suggested CBS explore the idea of installing an African-American or a woman as host.
Here's the outtake:
" ... I thought, well, maybe this will be a good opportunity to put a black person on, and it would be a good opportunity to put a woman on. Because there are certainly a lot of very funny women that have television shows everywhere. So that would have made sense to me as well."
Letterman certainly doesn't sound ungracious about Colbert -- whom he praises rather lightly -- but just Lettermanesque, which is to say he's clearly not in the mood in this particular context to get in CBS's corner to beat a drum loudly and willingly on behalf of the man who will replace him.
But let the outtake do the talking for him.
Asked whether he thought he should have been consulted, he responded, "Yeah, I guess so. Just as a courtesy, maybe somebody would say: 'You know, we’re kicking around some names. Do you have any thoughts here?' But it doesn’t bother me now. At the time, I had made the decision [to leave] and I thought, OK, this is what comes when you make this decision."
Asked that the Colbert selection seemed to have come quickly, he responded -- dryly, one assumes:
"They didn’t have to put much thought to it, did they? I think it was the very next day. [laughs] But if you’re running the show with Jimmy Fallon, that’s a certain dynamic. Jimmy Kimmel, a completely different dynamic. And now Stephen Colbert will add a third, different dynamic to it. I think it will be very interesting to see what he will do."
What's surprising with this exchange is that CBS, in fact, did put a lot of thought into this -- so did Colbert who had structured his last contract with Comedy Central to sync up with the end of Letterman's current deal. It was an open secret in the industry that Colbert was the next choice.
Nevertheless, one wonders whom Letterman would have suggested other than Colbert -- Chris Rock? Amy Schumer? Tina Fey?
We may never know.