Late night comedians have had their work cut out for them covering the Trump administration, but David Letterman doesn’t have to worry about that.
Letterman spoke with Vulture in a wide-ranging interview about his 2015 retirement from late-night comedy, back when Donald Trump as president seemed like a pipe dream. Fast forward two years, and Letterman, who has known Trump since the ‘80s, would have quite a lot to say if he were still at the “Late Show” desk.
“I’m afraid if I still had a show, it would be a lot of, ‘We’re spending quite a lot of money on editing, Dave. If you could just keep it to an hour, we’d all appreciate that, because we have big stars who’ve flown in from Hollywood to be here,’” he joked.
But Letterman is serious about how useful a social tool comedy can be to “protect ourselves” during such times.
Check out parts of the interview below:
Can you explain that a bit more? How does satire protect us from Donald Trump?
The man has such thin skin that if you keep pressure on him — I remember there was a baseball game in Cleveland, and a swarm of flies came on the field and the batters were doing this [mimes swatting at flies] while the pitcher was throwing 100 miles an hour. 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.
There’s this idea that reducing Trump to a punchline could make him seem harmless or helps to normalize him. Is there any validity to that argument?
I guess it’s a possibility. On the other hand, Donald Trump can be Donald Trump, but if he doesn’t help the people that need help, then he’s just a jerk. That press conference that he held berating the news media? I mean, how do you build a dictatorship? First, you undermine the press: “The only truth you’re going to hear is from me.” And he hires the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Steve Bannon, to be his little buddy. 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? I don’t know. How’s this interview going? Do you think you’re talking to a normal person here? Don’t I seem like I’m full of something?
You’re sure you’re not missing being on the air? It seems like you’ve got a lot to say.
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.
Back in October, Letterman was asked about Jimmy Fallon’s softball interview with Trump during while speaking with the New York Times. He said he wouldn’t have avoided the tough ― and necessary ― questions. (And we believe him. Letterman has been calling out Trump’s racism since 2011.)
“If I had a show, I would have gone right after him. I would have said something like, ‘Hey, nice to see you. Now, let me ask you: What gives you the right to make fun of a human who is less fortunate, physically, than you are?’” he said. “And maybe that’s where it would have ended. Because I don’t know anything about politics.”