Richard Zoglin knows TV. For more than a decade he was Time magazine’s TV critic. Yesterday, May 14, 2015, he wrote a must-read appreciation of David Letterman in The New York Times.
Wrote Zoglin: “[I]t’s easy to overlook the most important thing Mr. Letterman has nurtured in his three-plus decades as a nightly talk-show host: talk.”
He added, “He never shirked his publicity duties (‘let’s show the clip’), and he valued guests like Martin Short and Steve Martin, who came primed with fresh material. But he took the interviews seriously. He asked real questions and actually listened to the answers. He rarely fawned, or let his guests off the hook. He poked their sensitive spots and cut through the phoniness.
“When he talked to politicians and other newsmakers, he was informed, even passionate. (As the years went on, he did less and less to hide his liberal political views.) When he baited guests like Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly, his quips couldn’t totally hide the disdain. When he talked to ordinary civilians — dog owners with their stupid pet tricks, kids showing off their science projects — he was naturally curious, engaged and winning. Whenever a star came on and tried to play him — Joaquin Phoenix in his sullen faux-rap-star phase, for example — Mr. Letterman showed no patience. He didn’t want a performance; he wanted people.”
The late-night shows done by the two Jimmys are filled with almost everything but scintillating talk.
To read Zoglin’s complete op-ed column, please click here.