David Letterman: 5 things we learned from his Whitefish Review interview
by Oliver Gettell
Since David Letterman retired from television earlier this year, you never know where or when the former Late Show host might pop up. It could be on stage with Martin Short and Steve Martin, at his alma mater Ball State, or at the Indy 500.
Or somewhere in Montana. Letterman, who has a ranch in Big Sky Country, recently opened up about life off the air during a wide-ranging interview with the local arts journal Whitefish Review. Here are five things we learned from him:
1. Why he grew that beard
One of the first things Letterman did after signing off from the Late Show was switch up his grooming regimen.
“I used to say, every day, ‘I am so sick and tired of shaving,'” he said. “I had to shave every day, every day, for 33 years. … And I just thought, the first thing I will do when I am not on TV is stop shaving. And everybody hates it. My wife hates it. My son hates it. But it’s interesting.”
He added, “I know, it’s not a good-looking beard. But I don’t even care.”
2. How he reacted to Stephen Colbert’s first Late Show
According to Letterman, he suprised even himself with his Zen-like reaction to his successor.
“I can remember the first day that Stephen Colbert took over, put his [new] show on the air,” he recalled. “I thought I would have some trouble, some emotional trouble, or some feeling of displacement, but I realized, ‘Hey, that’s not my problem anymore.’ And I have felt much better.”
3. What he’s watching on TV these days
Let’s just say he’s not keeping up with the new late-night wars.
Letterman is watching “mostly news,” he said. “I’m like the idiots who always used to come up to me — and I knew they were lying. … They’d say, ‘Yeah, well, geez, I can’t stay up late enough to watch your show,’ and I’d think, you’re lying, you’re just lying. But I’m like that guy now. I can’t stay up late enough to watch TV. I like to be in bed right around 10. Anything that happens after 10, I’m not there.”
4. His policy on houseguests
Visitors to Letterman’s Montana getaway would be wise to focus on the nature, not the amenities.
“We’ve had a lot of people to the ranch,” he said. “Because you want to share this with people. And a lot of people don’t get invited back. Because for some reason they don’t get it. … When I first saw the Rocky Mountain Front, I had to get out of the car and walk around to calm down. I remember one time, I had a buddy of mine out there, someone I’ve known forever, and he says to me, ‘You have a tennis court out here?’ Well I said, ‘OK, let’s see, you’re not coming back.'”
5. How he discovered his gift of gab
Just like a superhero origin story, Letterman realized his power as a teenager.
“When I got into high school my grades were really, really bad,” he reminisced. “I took a speech class in my second year and the first day in the speech class you had to get up and tell a little something about yourself. And it was that moment that I realized I know exactly what I want to do. I’ve found something I can do. I can’t do algebra. I’m no good at anything else. But I’ve found something that comes naturally to me, which is yack in front of a group of people. Then the rest of my life I stopped worrying about everything.”