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The Al Roker Show
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|February 10th & 11th 1996|
|Al Roker Interviewing David Letterman
February 10th 1996
ROKER: Good evening and welcome to another half-hour extravaganza we like to call here at CNBC The Al Roker Program.
In case you hadn't noticed, we are not in our fabulous Fort Lee studios, but in fact we have sashayed across
the river to --
LETTERMAN: When was the last time you sashayed anywhere, for God's sakes?
ROKER: I sashayed. I did sashay.
LETTERMAN: Oh, man. I'd give a week's pay to see you sashay, pal.
ROKER: Would you really?
LETTERMAN: Oh, yeah.
ROKER: I'm not allowed to, actually, by law.
LETTERMAN: I think that's best.
ROKER: Don't you?
LETTERMAN: Because children might be present.
ROKER: That's right. David Letterman, thank you so much for letting us come here to your --
LETTERMAN: Thank you very much, Al. I always considered you to be a friend of ours when we were at NBC, and I'm
happy that you were nice enough to think of inviting us to be on your program and, of course, when I say "us," I mean, of
ROKER: You, the entity that is you.
LETTERMAN: Let me ask you a question about that Bob Berkowitz.
ROKER: He's not on any more.
LETTERMAN: Well, you know, that may be just as well, because every time I would see that, it seemed like stuff was going
on that maybe shouldn't be going on. It was just like on the verge of going over the line.
ROKER: We had to sanitize the studio every night.
LETTERMAN: Thank goodness. It just seemed like, well, who are these people and why don't they just, you know, I mean,
how did they get telephones to call in and behave that way? And you're better off without him.
ROKER: Do you think so?
LETTERMAN: Where is that guy now? I mean, where is he doing time?
ROKER: I don't know.
LETTERMAN: He's gone; is that right?
ROKER: He is gone. He's off the network.
LETTERMAN: Well, God bless him, I thought he was a monster talent. I'm sorry to see him go. I don't mean to be nasty to
the guy. I just had no idea what that show was about. It just always kind of made you feel --
ROKER: You didn't like watching Real Personal?
LETTERMAN: Well, it made you feel uncomfortable about the human condition, it's just like ewwww, and moreover, what
it was was just envy that there are people out there doing that kind of thing.
ROKER: And he wasn't.
LETTERMAN: And I'm not. I'm never close to that.
ROKER: You're not?
LETTERMAN: Oh, no. Look at me.
ROKER: Come on. You're a good-looking guy. I mean, you look so fabulously fit. I mean, I've never seen you look this good. Okay, well, maybe not this good but --
LETTERMAN: There's nothing good-looking about me.
ROKER: You are a good-looking man. Come on.
LETTERMAN: All right. Let's keep rolling.
ROKER: All right. So you've been doing the show now here at CBS two and a half years?
LETTERMAN: Two and a half big years in the Ed Sullivan theater.
ROKER: Do you miss us over at NBC?
LETTERMAN: Well, there are many things I miss about being -- the facility over there was great, as you know, right in the middle of mid town, beautiful building, covered 50 stories of limestone quarried from southern Indiana.
ROKER: Your home.
LETTERMAN: My home, exactly. It was a great place, and, you know, I don't know if they still do that Live at Five. Do they
still do that?
ROKER: Yes, we still do that.
LETTERMAN: That used to be great for us, because when they would have guests over there, and we couldn't get anybody
to be on our show, we'd just go across the hall and kind of strong-arm them And drag them over there, and we always had
kind of a -- there was always a little friction between us and Live at Five.
ROKER: That's right.
LETTERMAN: They sort of kind of liked the idea of having us there, but in fact they hated us.
ROKER: We once tried to lock the doors on you.
LETTERMAN: That's right, because we were constantly disturbing and constantly disrupting, and Sue Simmons, who is
an undeniable force --
LETTERMAN: -- a power unto and of herself and can be mighty when unleashed, I think, just kind of wasn't crazy about
us, and we loved that.
ROKER: You like irritating people.
ROKER: So who do you irritate? You've got the folks along the strip here outside your studios but --
LETTERMAN: We Irritate night in and night out the American viewing public.
ROKER: Do you really set out in the morning meetings, you know, to --
LETTERMAN: Oh, there's no meetings.
ROKER: You don't have any meetings here?
LETTERMAN: No, there's no meetings going on here.
ROKER: You just come out and do it?
ROKER: I don't think that's true.
LETTERMAN: No, it is. There's very little difference between rehearsal -- God forbid we could have a rehearsal once in a
while -- and the show. The only difference is we make the studio colder for the show.
ROKER: Right. Why is it so cold in here?
LETTERMAN: Well, comedy, of course, stays fresher longer when it's cold.
ROKER: Of course.
LETTERMAN: Yeah, And we need all the help we can get.
ROKER: Now, are you -- I mean, You've been doing it now two and a half years here. Are you having a good time?
LETTERMAN: Yeah, more or less. As you probably know, the most fun of it is actually doing it. Everything else up to it is
just a headache. It's a pain in the ass.
ROKER: Do you really believe that? Do you really feel that way?
LETTERMAN: Well, I live it every day of my life, you know, because it's personnel problems, and believe me, personnel is
not my strong suit, and it's not why I left Indianapolis in 1975 was, "oh boy, I want to get into personnel," you know.
ROKER: Well, why did you leave Indianapolis?
LETTERMAN: Well, because I wanted to see if I could get me a show like this.
ROKER: Did you really? I mean, when you left, did you say, "I want to be Johnny Carson? I want to do what Carson does?"
LETTERMAN: No, no, no. Well, maybe I would like my own version of something like that, you know, you kind of fool
yourself, and I've been really very lucky, because I knew early on what I wanted to do, and more or less since I was 19 I've
been in broadcasting, and as you know, it's not real work, broadcasting, a couple of stupes.
ROKER: We're sitting here.
LETTERMAN: Look at us. We're just a couple of stupes, and people at home are being fooled and have to pretend, "I guess
it's entertaining. It's on the TV," and it's not, you know, we're just morons, and without TV, nobody would come to see us
chat, would they?
ROKER: That's true.
LETTERMAN: Yeah, but the show is great. It's great even when it goes to hell. At least you've got a chance. It's like playing
ball. You can't win the game if you're not playing ball. So even if all hell breaks loose, it's fun, it's exciting, it's exhilarating, and
it can be scary, and it's surprising to me that as long as I've been doing this that you still can get that, "Oh, jeez, we're hooked
up. We're still hooked up."
ROKER: Do you get jazzed, I mean, when you get --
ROKER: -- when you get on there, things are working?
LETTERMAN: Sure. Well, you know, the rum.
ROKER: That's right.
LETTERMAN: I have just a little cocktail before the show, but the personnel stuff just drives you -- I don't care who's
stealing staples. I just don't care.
ROKER: Because you're one of the executive producers of the show.
LETTERMAN: Well, I don't know.
ROKER: I mean, you've got Worldwide Pants doing the show. That's your company.
LETTERMAN: yeah, I know, so then, you know, you find out -- you know, I don't want to care about that. I don't want
to care about firing people. I don't want to care about who's crying in the conference room, who's naked in the closet. I
don't want to know about that.
ROKER: So people can steal whatever office supplies they want?
LETTERMAN: Fine with me. I mean, Lord knows we took a couple of truckloads of stuff out of NBC. We really got them,
ROKER: Did you? You stripped that office --
LETTERMAN: We showed them, yeah.
ROKER: -- like The Visigoths coming in. That was great. There's so much that we hear about, you know, we've got the
Leno, the Letterman, the thing. I mean, has it just gotten old at this point?
LETTERMAN: Well, it hasn't gotten old for me, because I never participated in that element of the dynamic or that dynamic of the element. I never participated in it anyway, and, you know, the only thing I really care about is can we do this show in such
a fashion that we have fun and thereby hopefully entertain the studio audience? And that's your best barometer. If you feel that you've entertained the folks in the studio audience, you know, then maybe the folks at home. Beyond that, there's not much we can do. We just try our best and have fun, and if you worry about everything else, it can be debilitating. It can cloud your
focus or your vision. So I don't worry about it. There's nothing I can do about everything else. We're just now trying to
amuse ourselves, and, you know --
ROKER: And We are going to continue to try to do that for the folks at home.
LETTERMAN: Oh, yeah, we're a couple of masters, ain't we? Where the hell is Bob Berkowitz? What'd you do with the dirty linens?
ROKER: Smooth. The Al Roker show will continue from the Late Night studio --
LETTERMAN: Don't call us any more, Bob.
ROKER: -- With David Letterman. Stay with us.
ROKER: Welcome back to the Al Roker program. Dave gave me one of his stogies.
LETTERMAN: Every time I would dial past the Bob Berkowitz Show, there would be someone calling from like West Tipton, Indiana, "You know, it sounds great, Bob, but what about the rash?" And you just think, oh, please, lady, don't, you know,
just call a neighbor.
ROKER: Bob's gone. He's gone.
LETTERMAN: Call a clergyman.
ROKER: You're not gonna see that any more.
LETTERMAN: "There's just a dampness, and what about the rash, Bob?" Oh, Lord.
ROKER: He's gone.
LETTERMAN: All right.
ROKER: So we've got this movie coming up on HBO.
LETTERMAN: The movie.
ROKER: The Late Shift.
LETTERMAN: The Late Shift movie, yeah. Well, as I've -- and I'm proud of this position. I went on record last September, I believe, September of '95, as saying that The Late Shift or Late Shift, The Movie, is the single biggest waste of film since my wedding photos, and I just, you know, I couldn't -- to me it couldn't be a sillier pursuit, honest to God.
ROKER: This is the movie about the book, the book that goes into --
LETTERMAN: The book I have no problems with. I have not read the book. I trust Bill Carter enough to think that it probably
is in the neighborhood of 70 percent accurate, but I'll give you an example of why it is a horribly wasted, futile attempt. There's
a scene that I've seen where something is taking place at my house. The staff has come up to the house. Well, first of all, that ain't gonna happen.
ROKER: They got that wrong.
LETTERMAN: That ain't gonna happen.
ROKER: They don't even have your address.
LETTERMAN: No, no, that's wrong, and to amuse myself on the weekend, I'm out in the yard, and I think they've got me
like in a tennis sweater, and what I'm doing is I'm throwing softballs at a target, at an archery target. What kind of a
mutant does that? It's like a guy who is amused by shiny objects. "You know what we got Dave for Christmas, a big bushel basket full of softballs and a target. The little fella will have endless entertainment and good safe -- he can't hurt nobody."
It's just like, how big a moron am I? Whoomp, I got a blue.
ROKER: How do you feel about the guy who's playing you?
LETTERMAN: God bless him.
ROKER: I've seen the pictures, and this guy's just doing this --
LETTERMAN: I know. It's just like they got me like I'm some kind of circus chimp running around, but God bless the kid.
It's a job, it's a gig, and the other thing is -- and this was even less subtle than throwing softballs at a target. In the history
of man, has anyone done that?
ROKER: I don't think so.
LETTERMAN: No, of course not.
ROKER: No, no.
LETTERMAN: They got me, Dave, with red hair. Al, you're sitting five feet from me.
ROKER: It ain't red.
LETTERMAN: What color is my hair?
ROKER: It's a sandy brownish.
LETTERMAN: Exactly. Now, you know what disturbs me about this is it's not like there's no source material here, you know,
it's not like, "Have there ever been any articles written about Dave and what he does? Have we ever seen -- is there any
videotape available about Dave?" I was on the air for 11 and a half years at NBC, and it's just like this completely justifies my claim that it's a miserable waste of time. Now, that's my own particular perspective. God bless them. God bless the production.
I hope it's wildly successful.
ROKER: I'm guessing you're not going to be watching it.
LETTERMAN: I haven't read the book, so why would I watch it? I tell 'ya, When I talked to Bill Carter when he came up
and we chatted for the book, I found that enjoyable. I really enjoyed that, because chronologically you could kind of
reassemble the events of what happened, because, like everything else -- it's like being in a car wreck, you just -- you have
no idea until you're later talking to the cop, and so it was sort of like that, and it was interesting to me, and once I talked to
him, any curiosity I had about that episode, how the events progressed and how my life changed, was over, and you know,
that's largely how I feel about my career. I just, you know, I have no real curiosity or fondness for things that I've done
ROKER: So you don't look back and think, "Well, maybe if I'd done this" --
LETTERMAN: I'll look back if the show sucks one night, you know, I'll take a look at it and see, okay, is there something
I can learn here? Where's the mistake I made? Okay, there. Don't do that mistake. And then that's it. But, you know, the
NBC shows are now running on, I don't know, some -- what is it?
ROKER: E! or something like that.
LETTERMAN: And I have no curiosity about watching those. I have no interest in them. To me that's -- after all, it's
disposable. What you're doing here is just boom boom. We've done close to 3,000 shows since we've been doing them, and,
you know, many of them are just gonna suck. So there's no point in it, but, again, good luck to them. I hope the show
is -- but from what I've seen of it, it's just laughable.
ROKER: In the last year and a half there's been this reversal of fortunes, if you will. You were number one and now Leno's number one, and the press just -- it seemed like they were waiting for this to happen. One, you could do no wrong, and all a sudden, "Wow, Dave's lost it." I mean, did that bother you?
LETTERMAN: No. I mean, if you've been in broadcasting for any length of time, you recognize that sometimes things are
gonna be great and everybody is gonna love you, and for some reason that always made me feel uneasy, that kind of response.
I just thought, oh, I don't think so, and so when you get the negative comments and articles and reviews -- and Lord knows
I've had a bundle of them.
ROKER: but not as many as Bob Berkowitz.
LETTERMAN: There's somebody out there right now looking at me writing one, "I'll get this right into the old laptop, that squirrly son-of-a-bitch." So then when they start coming in negatively -- and I've said this over and over again -- I think that's really where you learn something about yourself. Okay, are they right? Do I suck? Is this a weakness, whatever? Can I
improve it? And then after a while the residue just starts to drop off of you. You know, you can only fill the glass till it's full,
and then it starts to be -- and then it becomes funny. It's just like great, fine.
ROKER: Pile it on.
LETTERMAN: Toss another grenade. You just don't care after a while.
ROKER: Have you changed the show? Do you think the show has changed?
LETTERMAN: Yeah. All of a sudden there was this big outcry, "The show stinks. He stinks. It's the same old show." Well,
you know, you do a show night after night after night year after year after year, there may be similarities. There may be.
ROKER: Call it a hunch.
LETTERMAN: Yeah. It's not like, wow, they got a new host every night and a new band every night, but, you know,
obviously, again, you're right in the middle of it, and you do sometimes lose focus, so you do what you can. You make
cosmetic changes. I ain't going anywhere. I'm sorry. This is me. You're gonna see me on good nights. You're gonna see me on bad nights. It's just like a marriage. It's just like a friendship. your best friend is probably the person -- or your spouse -- is
the person that can irritate you the most and also bring you the most joy. So think of me as your best friend or your spouse
LETTERMAN: You can call Bob Berkowitz.
ROKER: I knew it. I knew we were coming back there. I could smell it.
LETTERMAN: So, you know, We made changes, and in a couple of weeks we're gonna change -- here's a bulletin. Put this
in TV guide, for God's sakes. We're changing the color of the floor.
ROKER: Are you really?
LETTERMAN: Look out.
ROKER: What color?
LETTERMAN: I don't care.
ROKER: It's a nice blood red now.
LETTERMAN: Yeah, and then, you know, we're changing the desk, but it will be a desk, but we're changing the desk, and
we changed as many things as we can. We've changed the format. we've changed the personnel. So you do what you can, but, you know, honest to God, we had a minor milestone the other day. It was like our 15th anniversary of that's when I started
Late Night at NBC.
ROKER: We've got to take a break here.
LETTERMAN: Sure. Do what the hell you want, Al.
LETTERMAN: You're the big man.
LETTERMAN: Do what you want, Al, for God's sake.
ROKER: More with Al Roker and David Letterman when we come back.
LETTERMAN: Who cares. Sure, what do you care?
ROKER: Stay with us.
ROKER: Welcome back to the Al Roker program. we are chatting with Mr. David Letterman.
LETTERMAN: I can't remember the last time I saw an adult wearing corduroy pants.
ROKER: Really? Do you like these?
LETTERMAN: Slick, Al.
ROKER: Do you like it?
LETTERMAN: It's a good look, buddy.
ROKER: Okie-doke. Wide Whale.
LETTERMAN: Well, I think that goes without saying, doesn't it?
ROKER: I do, too.
LETTERMAN: No point in calling attention to the obvious, Al.
ROKER: Oh, sorry. So you've got the big February sweeps coming up. What's going to be happening on the Late Show? Anything special?
LETTERMAN: Great stuff.
ROKER: Are you guys going anywhere? Are you guys going to be traveling?
LETTERMAN: Not in February. We're doing this prime time show in February. we're going to travel in May. We'd like to go to Chicago. We were in Chicago in 1985 or something, and we had a great time there. What a lovely city. We'd like to go to San Francisco. We're looking into all of these possibilities. We'd like to go to New Orleans for May.
ROKER: Now, are you going to be doing shows or are you just going to these cities?
LETTERMAN: And for February we're doing the prime time show, which is a collection of videotapes that we have produced
for our nightly show, and we are kind of reshowcasing them, and I have nothing to do with this, but they turned out pretty
nicely. I have virtually no input. I just kind of show up and I'm told what to do, and the writers and everybody else make them really, really strong, and that will be our February effort in prime time, and prime time, you know, just scares the hell out of me. It's just like, who needs that pressure, honest to God.
ROKER: Is it true that some of the folks at CBS prime time gave you a call, some of the suits, and said, "Hey, stop knocking us here"?
LETTERMAN: Well, you know, it's an ongoing feature of our lives. I personally have never been contacted by anyone saying, "Don't make fun of CBS." We have had people on the staff -- our producer, I think, has had conversations with people,
"Oh, jeez, well, you know, Dave shouldn't be making" -- and that's true. I'm torn, actually, because we would really rather
not do any more to harm the impression or image of the network than has been done. On the other hand, you know, I make
jokes about screwing up the Academy Awards. I really would rather people hadn't said unpleasant things about me for that,
but it was there, so we made fun of that, and we continue to make fun of that, and so to not make fun of the network and
their present condition seems like, well, okay, but then sometimes what you really need is a joke about how bad CBS sucks.
ROKER: And you just happened to slip that right in, zzzz.
LETTERMAN: And by the way, the new boy at Westinghouse --
LETTERMAN: -- Michael Jordan has still not contacted me, still not called me.
ROKER: Wait a minute. you're one of the biggest stars at CBS.
LETTERMAN: We make more money for this dump than any other single production in television today.
ROKER: And this weasel hasn't called you?
LETTERMAN: No, and I've challenged the guy to a fight. I've called him a drunk on the air. I've talked to associates of his.
I've been interviewed by affiliates where I said, you know, "The guy is a lightweight. He's a pinhead. He's a twit," and he still
has not called me. He went over to -- he said something to the boys at 60 minutes. That was the first stop, because you know why. He said, you know, "We got a little toxic waste disposal problem. Boys, could you look the other way on that?"
And then, you know, he had a couple of drinks, but that was the purpose of going over there, you know, "can you -- do you boys mind looking the other way? thank you very much." But he Didn't think enough to come over and see Mr. Money
ROKER: That's right. You're keeping this place afloat.
LETTERMAN: Exactly. So until I hear from this guy, I'm just going to continue to berate him and say unpleasant things
about him, and like I've said before, okay, fire me. Big deal.
ROKER: Speaking of that, you made the comment a couple of weeks ago, a few weeks ago about, you know, "I think when
this thing is up, I'm out of here. I'm leaving."
ROKER: Were you surprised at just how many people --
LETTERMAN: Yeah, it was stupid.
ROKER: Every time you say something, people go crazy.
LETTERMAN: You know, It was stupid, and it was the only time in my life -- I'm a very insecure person; I'm not blessed
with great self-confidence -- It was the only time in my recent adult professional life that I knew I was right and everybody
else was wrong. What I said to the guy, Eric Mink, who works for the Daily News --
ROKER: Here in New York.
LETTERMAN: Right, and again, as anybody will do when they're talking to you, they'll say -- you know, they look at me and they think, "Jeez, he's much older than I thought." That's the impression. I can just see that going through everybody's mind. "Well, how old is this guy for God's sakes?" and they'll say, "How much longer do you think you can do it?" And I'm telling
you, this question was put to me at the one year anniversary at NBC, and so I always try to respond reasonably, and I think to myself, all right, in this case I'm 48. I've been doing it now for 14 years. How much longer will I like to do this? It's a job, clearly, for a younger man. I don't know. Maybe at the end of my contract. Well, unbeknownst to me, the end of my contract
is the year 2000. So all of a sudden, big huge stupid -- "He's quitting" -- in five years. "He's had enough. He's so fed up
he's leaving after five years. That's it." And I just thought, now, come on, I was jobbed. I really felt -- I think everything else
was fine. Take me apart. Write a daily column. Add a special section to the newspaper. Put a special editor just to take my ass apart, but this time I was right. I am entitled to look down the road and say at the end of the contract, maybe I'll see -- and I'm not saying I could -- but maybe I'll see if there isn't something else in life for me. So I felt like that whole thing was silly.
ROKER: How's your mom doing? I mean, you had her up on the Olympics. She seems to be doing pretty nice.
LETTERMAN: Well, she's all right. She's back there in Indiana, and she just -- you know, she goes nuts. She's got more
energy than I have, she and her husband Hans Mengering.
LETTERMAN: Oh, thanks. That's nice. That's nice. Just laugh at my step-father. Well, very nice, Al.
ROKER: I'm so ashamed.
LETTERMAN: Thank you very much. What they do now -- and I don't remember Mom having this kind of energy when I
was around the house -- but she has gone nuts, and she's, you know, in her mid 70's, but she's gone loopy, and she goes to
like Pacer Games, she's playing one-on-one with Reggie Miller, and she and Hans -- go ahead and get it out of your system.
LETTERMAN: That's very nice.
ROKER: Hey, you know what? We're coming up toward the end of the show. It's going so well.
LETTERMAN: Oh, yeah.
ROKER: Can we do another half hour?
LETTERMAN: Yeah, you can do whatever you want.
ROKER: Can we?
LETTERMAN: Yeah, sure.
ROKER: So I can sign this show off and we'll come back?
LETTERMAN: Give me the name of one of your parents.
ROKER: My parents? Isabel.
LETTERMAN: (Laughing) Oh, my God. Did you hear that?
ROKER: Okay. Well, we're gonna come right back tomorrow.
LETTERMAN: We'll be back tomorrow.
ROKER: Tomorrow on Sunday with the second part of the David Letterman interview.
LETTERMAN: Yeah, great.
ROKER: So stay here. We're not going anywhere. We're smoking cigars. We're gonna make fun of my pants and wonderful
things. So stay there. We'll see you tomorrow same time. I'm Al Roker. Goodnight, everybody.
LETTERMAN: Goodnight, everybody.
February 11, 1996
ROKER: Welcome back to another edition of the Al Roker program. If you were with us yesterday at this time, of course, you know David Letterman was --
LETTERMAN: Thanks for having me back, Al.
ROKER: Thanks so much.
LETTERMAN: I went back to the hotel, had a hot meal and a shower, and I feel great. I'm ready to go.
ROKER: Did you really? You look darn good.
LETTERMAN: Thank you very much.
ROKER: Now, you got started as a weatherman, a TV weatherman.
ROKER: How come you've done as well as you have and I'm still stuck doing the weather?
LETTERMAN: Please, Al, don't be running this poormouth crap by us.
ROKER: Don't go there.
LETTERMAN: You got all the money, and you know it. First of all, you're working 18 hours a damn day.
ROKER: That's true.
LETTERMAN: You're involved in Channel 4, the local thing, you've got this cable deal.
LETTERMAN: You've got The Al Roker Treehouse Club, or whatever you call it. Well, you know, it's really good, because
when I was in college I was studying radio and TV, and radio and TV is a college curriculum. It's certainly no academic hurdle, which is just fine.
ROKER: I did the same thing.
LETTERMAN: Yeah, exactly, and now I think they call it communications.
LETTERMAN: Communications, and like my junior year a friend of mine worked at the ABC affiliate in Indianapolis, a guy by
the name of Dick Norris, and my buddy's name was Jerry Norris, and he was the director there, and he said, "You know,
we're auditioning replacement summer announcers. Just for the hell of it, come on down." So he was nice enough, and it
clearly is a case of somebody doing me a favor, and this was the first important favor that somebody did for me, and many
have been done throughout my life. And he said, "Come down and audition." I had no business even being at the audition. I had no business being in the parking lot, for heaven's sakes, and for some reason -- well, not some reason -- they knew that they could pay me spit -- they hired me as the summer replacement announcer, and as part of those duties, you had to be the weatherman. You know, not only was I a "C" student in college, suddenly I was the weatherman, and it was just great fun, because you got to do everything in television. You get to have the little movie show. You get to have the little kids show.
You get to be the weatherman. You get to do sports. You get to do everything you can do, and there I was getting paid for it, and, you know, since that time I've been really lucky that I get to do, you know, what I want to do.
ROKER: And you said yesterday that you are really insecure. When you're here, you're doing this show, you seem like you are the master of your universe. I mean, does the insecurity go away while you're out here?
LETTERMAN: If it's going well, sure, if it's going well. If it's not going well, of course, it just folds in on itself and you want
to crawl under the desk, which would be awfully tough for a guy like you, but I could get under there.
ROKER: With plenty of room.
LETTERMAN: I'm sorry. But I think for you, for anybody who does this for a living, I think it's in a certain way an
avenue, a venue, a corridor for you to find out if in fact you're okay, is there something I can do that pleases you people, and then that's a temporary anesthetic for the insecurity, and you feel at the end of the evening, I wasn't so bad, they seemed to
like that pretty well, and you feel less insecure. You know, 24 hours later --
ROKER: I was gonna say, it starts again?
LETTERMAN: -- Well, let's give it a try here, it's the same thing, and I think it's clearly the only reason there is a show
business, because if people were well-adjusted, they could entertain themselves, but --
ROKER: That's right.
LETTERMAN: -- but they're not, so we have this overpaid strata of life misfits that, you know, become entertainers.
ROKER: Do you sometimes think that you are so lucky to do this? I mean, I know there are some days I get up, and I cannot believe I'm making a living, a good living, doing this.
LETTERMAN: Well, occasionally -- like I say, when you're doing it, sometimes it just feels like, when can I stop doing it?
But if you allow yourself some perspective -- and somebody asked me the other night if I had any goals that I had not fulfilled
or any regrets, and I thought about it, and any goal that I may have had, not that that was a very long list, you know, I've got, I've attained, and so, you know, if you can do that, well, good heavens, that's a successful life. You ought to be happy with
that. So that to me is very satisfying to know that there really is nothing I want, you know, I've got it. I get to do a TV show, something I love, and everything that comes with that, so, you know, I've just been unbelievably fortunate in a career, in a profession and in life, you know. If I drop over in this chair, you know, don't worry too much for me. Things are pretty good. Although, man, what a miserable way to spend your last few minutes talking to you.
ROKER: I know. Isn't that a scary thought?
LETTERMAN: Yeah. Letterman collapsed and died on the Al Roker Show. That would be horrifying.
ROKER: Personally, do you find that one affects the other, your professional life affects your personal life?
LETTERMAN: Well, I have no personal life.
LETTERMAN: You must know, and maybe you don't know, that it can, if you're involved in something like this, it can throw your life way out of balance, extremely out of balance, and that's how my life has been for the last 15 years, because it's five days a week, we don't get as much vacation as we used to get, certainly not as much as we would like, and Monday through Friday, from like 8:00 o'clock Monday morning until like 10:00 o'clock Friday night, you know, that's it, and your personal
life -- you realize in the beginning it's kind of like, oh, you sort of react to it as a nuisance, and the more you react to it as a nuisance, the farther away it gets, and pretty soon you don't react to it at all. So Monday through Friday it's like this, and then
all hell breaks loose on the weekends. It's too bad, but it's such fun, it's such fun. I mean, it's exciting and it's --
ROKER: So do you ever sometimes regret that, well, maybe I should have put more into my personal life as opposed to my professional life?
LETTERMAN: I think one day that may come to me, yeah. I think that may happen, but then, you know, in giving myself
the benefit of the doubt, which I don't deserve and don't often do, I've got my hands full here, and it's not like somebody's
got a gun to my head. This is a choice I've made. And I've had this conversation with many people who work on our staff.
What a sorry lot that is. Let me tell you something, I do this show with a monkey -- how does that go? -- with a dozen cocker spaniels and a monkey with a whistle. Anyway, they share the same thing. It's like, sure, we would like to have a family. We would like to have a home life. We would like to have a three-week vacation, but we're in TV.
ROKER: At some point would you like to have a family?
LETTERMAN: Yeah, but, you know, I'm fif -- I almost said I'm 50.
ROKER: You're 50?
LETTERMAN: I'm close to 50. I'm 48 now, and so that means if I have a kid, by the time he's in the third grade, I'll be 80, because the kid will be set back several grades, and he won't go right through. So, no, I mean, it is clearly a decision that has come to me. I don't know that I made this choice, but it's just by virtue of what I'm doing that that's where the decision sits
now, and it may be a point of regret at some point, yeah.
ROKER: But you're having a good time now.
LETTERMAN: For the time being, yes.
ROKER: I mean, are you having a good time right now?
LETTERMAN: Oh, talking to you?
LETTERMAN: I think the world of you, Al, I really do.
ROKER: And I do appreciate this, I really do.
LETTERMAN: Well, it was nice of you to ask, and I'd ignore the rumors.
ROKER: We'll talk about those rumors during the commercial break as the Al Roker Program continues from the studios of the Late Show with David Letterman.
LETTERMAN: It's nice here, ain't it?
ROKER: This is fabulous. Let's talk about this when we come back. Stay with us.
ROKER: Welcome back to the Al Roker program. We are chatting with Mr. David Letterman from the Ed Sullivan theater.
LETTERMAN: Al, before we run out of time, just a tip of the hat. Nice job on the blizzard of '96.
ROKER: Thank you.
LETTERMAN: Man, you were there, buddy, you were there, weren't you? You're looking at the Hall of Fame now, aren't you?
ROKER: Oh, boy.
LETTERMAN: Here's Al, "It's still coming down. We'll check back in with you later." "All right. Let's go to Al Roker in Battery Park. Al, what's happening?" "Well, she's still comin' down." I'm so tired of that.
ROKER: You know, I grew up here in New York City, and I went to the Ed Sullivan show a number of times. When you
come to work, is there a bit of an -- there's got to be an ego rush to see your name on that marquee.
LETTERMAN: No, there's no ego involved, but I'll tell you, the first couple of weeks when I would come down Broadway
and make the turn on 53rd Street to see that, it's just like, whoa, what has gone wrong, and will I ever be able to do anything
to live up to this? But, now you know, like everything else, you become inured to that, and it's just like, "Oh, yeah, all right."
The only reaction I have to the marquee with my name on it is sometimes the pinheads here at NB -- Oh, NBC, I almost said NBC.
LETTERMAN: Pinheads are everywhere.
ROKER: Yes, they are.
LETTERMAN: Sometimes they let the damn bulbs go out on the marquee, and that really irritates me.
ROKER: See, that wouldn't happen at NBC because, of course, we get those GE bulbs.
LETTERMAN: You get free bulbs.
ROKER: That's right.
LETTERMAN: I like them soft white three-way bulbs.
ROKER: Yes, siree.
LETTERMAN: Those are slick.
ROKER: Those are nice.
LETTERMAN: Very nice.
ROKER: Those are some sweet bulbs.
LETTERMAN: But that irritates me. You don't see bulbs going out at Miss Saigon, you don't see bulbs going out at Cats, and
hell, Flashdancers, a topless bar, you never see bulbs going out there, but Mr. Big Shot TV, the bulbs go out.
ROKER: Michael Jordan, if he's watching, because I know he probably flips the channel a lot, why don't you just call him out?
LETTERMAN: Come on, let's go, any time, any place. I'll fight you, I'll arm wrestle, I'll leg wrestle, anything. For just like
a day, dry out, come in here. We'll fight. Let's go.
ROKER: That's strong words. That's tough.
LETTERMAN: Yes, sir.
ROKER: In doing the show, you know, Paul's over here, do you sometimes think that things are not going as they should be?
LETTERMAN: Yeah, yeah.
ROKER: And how do you get it back on track?
LETTERMAN: Well, you know, it's tough. There's not much you can do when things start to slide. You can either just keep going and pretend things are going well, or a mechanism and a dynamic that I sometimes implore and prefer is just to -- this
thing stinks, just let everybody in on it, you know, we're in trouble, I'm a little disappointed in how things are going tonight,
and try to create an energy off of that. Sometimes you're successful that way, sometimes you're not, but the good thing about this, we have so many elements that on any given night, if I stink, the comedy will carry the show, or a guest might carry the show, certainly Paul and the music every night is a great asset to us, because it's great music, and it's thrilling, you know, live music, there's nothing more enjoyable than that, and these people are really very good. They could carry the show. A Top Ten List might carry the show. Something unexpected, somebody in the audience might carry the show. So you have many tools at your disposal, but some nights, man, I'm telling you, it just goes south and there's no retrieving it, and you just sit there smiling like a loon, and, of course, people at home are saying, "What? What's he smiling about? This thing stinks. Why is this boy so happy? He ain't won the rodeo." I don't know. Can you win a rodeo?
ROKER: I think you do.
ROKER: But, you know, now growing up, when you watched Carson, I mean, those were some of the moments you lived for.
LETTERMAN: That's right, but, you know, His genius, if you can apply the term "genius" to television, and I'm not sure it
does apply, but when you watched Carson -- and occasionally now you'll see a clip of an old show, and he's been off the air three years or something. It's hard to believe, isn't it? When you watch that, it's just effortless, effortless when it's good, effortless when it's bad, you know, Johnny's barometer don't go up or down much, and I think that was the foundation,
you know, people had confidence. It just don't make any difference. It's always gonna be Johnny, and he was really, really
very good when things were not so good, and when things were great he was just spectacular, but you never saw him break
a sweat, you never saw him start to twitch, and it was just, you know, I think that subliminally, and maybe not
subliminally -- maybe overtly -- it was, you know, I think, reassuring and satisfying.
ROKER: During that whole will David leave, will he not leave, will he stay, there was talk that you had talked with Johnny
Carson about what to do.
ROKER: Do you still talk with him?
LETTERMAN: I haven't talked to him in quite awhile. We exchange notes. I send him birthday gifts, and I'm kind of hoping he will send me a birthday gift, but, you know, it just hasn't happened.
ROKER: In this arena, this whole talk show thing, do you think that almost there is too much attention paid to it?
LETTERMAN: Sure, sure, but it's incestuous. It's Americans interested in television and television interested in television, and there are shows now on the air, television shows now on the air, dedicated and devoted to other shows on the air. I mean,
this is what this is.
LETTERMAN: It's a bigger world and, unfortunately, it seems like our field of focus is narrowing all the time, but, you know, what can you do about it? It's just part of it, and it is kind of amusing. And I can remember, I think it was the first week
we went on the air, it was a Friday night, and Nightline of all shows, of all institutions, was doing the entire show about
talk shows, about me, about the Tonight Show, and I just -- I was watching that, and I just couldn't stop laughing. I said,
oh, come on, you guys gotta be -- you gotta be smarter than that, but, no, they were right in there. Ted was off that
night, so I have to give him that. It was Cokie Roberts or somebody.
ROKER: Which is a great name.
LETTERMAN: Yeah, yeah.
LETTERMAN: And it just seems silly, and the whole thing is silly, and, you know, it's high school with money. Martin Mull
said it years ago, that's what it is, show business is high school with money, and, you know --
ROKER: Now, you tape the show in the afternoon at 5:30, 6:30.
ROKER: Do you watch the show at home?
LETTERMAN: No, no. If the show stinks, I'll go upstairs and watch it, and like I said before, identify, okay, it stinks because I did that wrong or I did that wrong, you know, or there was a poison gas leak, which many nights we pray for, and then that's
it. Then I say, okay, all right, I know what I did, I'll try not to do it again, but being human, you're gonna have good nights and bad nights, but I don't usually watch it at home, no.
ROKER: What do you watch when you're at home? Do you watch television?
LETTERMAN: No, I don't watch as much television as I would like, because, damn, it's entertaining.
ROKER: And it's free.
LETTERMAN: The best part. Every night for like an hour and a half I listen to the BBC on the short wave radio. I mean, there
is innumerable conflict at any given time any given place over the strangest most peculiar issues that I can't pretend to begin to understand.
ROKER: Like having to go to a commercial.
LETTERMAN: Yeah, sure. I'm trying to make a point, I'm trying to work you into tears, Al.
ROKER: I know, and you were doing it.
LETTERMAN: You're supposed to start sobbing, and no, no, no, no, no. We have to do a spot for the Buttmaster or
something, for God's sakes.
ROKER: We'll be back after this.
LETTERMAN: I hurt the little fella's feelings.
ROKER: Welcome back to the Al Roker program. Chatting with David Letterman from the Ed Sullivan theater. You like a good cigar, don't you?
LETTERMAN: Well, that's the only thing I do really that's left in my life that I shouldn't be doing that I enjoy. I don't drink, I stopped drinking like 15 years ago, and I work long hours, and it's not hard. It's Just a lot of work. This is the only thing I do. This is about it.
ROKER: That's it?
ROKER: And the BBC.
LETTERMAN: And the BBC.
ROKER: Sit there with a glass of port, the BBC.
LETTERMAN: Let me tell you something lovely that came into my life, and I have to be kind of secretive about this, because I can't readily identify the source or who was involved with this project, but it's delighted me. I mentioned it once before on
the -- oh, good Lord. Now I can't remember the guy's name. He had a show.
ROKER: Bob Berkowitz?
LETTERMAN: He had a show, a comedian. Oh, God.
ROKER: Dick Cavett?
LETTERMAN: No, no, no. Jon Stewart.
ROKER: Jon Stewart, yes.
LETTERMAN: I talked about this on the Jon Stewart show, and I should not have talked about it on the Jon Stewart show,
so I'll just share this with you, because I'm still very excited about it. Last week on Sunday delivered to my house in my
driveway was a 200-mile-an-hour supercharged Volvo station wagon. Pretty cool.
LETTERMAN: And I can't tell you where it came from. I can't tell you how it came into my life.
LETTERMAN: Because the guy gets a little cranky about this stuff.
LETTERMAN: I want to tell you something. Volvo makes great cars.
ROKER: Yes, they do.
LETTERMAN: The station wagon is just as ugly as homemade shoes, honest to God.
ROKER: That's ugly.
LETTERMAN: I look out there, and I see the thing, and I think, my Lord, I guess the dentist is visiting, you know, my dermatologist is here. It couldn't be an uglier looking car. You get into this thing -- what they've done, they yanked out the six cylinder engine and they dumped in a Ford V-8 racing engine, supercharged it. They knocked the fire wall back. They balanced
it. It handles almost neutrally. The balance is unbelievable. They lowered it. They put in these enormous disk brakes. They got a new rear end and a new transmission, and this thing is a screamer. It's a Volvo station wagon. It goes, honest to God -- I
haven't timed it yet -- but like at least a hundred sixty miles an hour.
ROKER: So do you think this will keep the tickets down, because no cop is gonna think that --
LETTERMAN: Well, that's the idea, although my friend who brought this to my life has already been stopped once, but the
whole premise for my friend was, "They have no damn idea. They'll look and see a Volvo." I said, "Well, that's fine, but you've been stopped already," but it's just a wonder, and these guys that put it together, they did such a nice job, the thing is so
nimble, and it's so quick, it's like driving a go-cart or a jet fighter or something.
ROKER: A go-cart or a jet fighter?
LETTERMAN: Yeah, so whenever I need to run into town to pick up groceries, you know, I've shaved, I don't know, half
an hour off that trip. It used to take me 45 minutes to get into town. I'll be there in two minutes.
ROKER: You like speed.
LETTERMAN: Well, now I'm being flip about this, and I learned my lesson years ago. I did lose my license, because I
was making this commute every day, and I'm proud to say that in making this commute every day twice a day for the last 14
years, not once, not once have I ever missed a toll basket, not once. You know, don't be honking at me. I'm there, bang. So
anyway, in that commute sometimes it can get a little frustrating, and I lost my license for a month, and that was it. No
more for me.
ROKER: You've been good.
LETTERMAN: I've been good. I can't say I've been perfect, but I learned my lesson, and I do know that, as in life, driving,
you just never know what's gonna happen, so there's no point, so I don't, no. I'm being silly about it, but the thing will go,
if I wanted to open it up, it would go a hundred sixty.
ROKER: In a Volvo?
LETTERMAN: In a Volvo station wagon, but I won't be driving it that fast, but just the feel of it, and knowing -- I mean, it's nothing but gas, this thing, and so when I drive it into town, I like to pull up next to a Volvo station wagon -- and a real Volvo station wagon sounds like a Singer sewing machine -- and then I just like to, you know, make the concrete tremble a little bit.
"What the hell? How come our Volvo don't sound like that?"
ROKER: You know, you say you don't plan ahead, that sort of thing. Do you, I mean, do you think about what you're gonna
do when you decide finally to stop doing this?
LETTERMAN: Oh, I think everybody has fantasies about what they're gonna do, and I'm hopeful, like I said before, that I
will be able to rise to the challenge to find a fulfilling rewarding existence without this, because not only do I not want to do
it the rest of my life, I mean, it's impractical, and I could not do it for the rest of my life, and it is a job for a much younger
man. So, you know, you trick yourself, yeah, well, it would be nice, you know, I'll travel a little bit, but I know enough about myself to know, after I've been in London for half an hour, "well, let's see, what can we, where can we --"
LETTERMAN: So I don't know. It would be a challenge to leave something that I've loved and something that I've invested
my entire life in, but you hope you can rise to the challenge, and I think about, well, I'll do this and I'll do that, but, you know, I'm no Martha Stewart, and, you know, I don't even know what that means.
ROKER: I don't think we should.
ROKER: You signed a deal to do some movies, I remember.
LETTERMAN: Yeah, years and years ago, and it was funny, because the Disney people were after me and after me and after
me and after me and after me, "Let's do movies, let's do movies," and I sort of thought, you know, it's never gonna work, it's never gonna happen, but your ego gets the better of you, so I signed this deal to do movies, and I honestly believed for a time
I'd do a couple of really bad films, and then, you know --
ROKER: Because I saw you in Cabin Boy.
LETTERMAN: Well, thank you very much. Thanks, Al. Thank you very much. I appreciate the tip of the hat. And then so I ended up giving the money back, because it just didn't make sense.
ROKER: You gave the money back?
LETTERMAN: Yeah, the weasels. I'm telling you, Disney, I understand they acquired Mars. They got a bid in on Neptune.
Stop it. Stop buying everything. And yet, you know, because I just felt like, well, you know, they got a point. They didn't
really get a movie out of me so --
ROKER: So you --
LETTERMAN: So I gave the money back.
ROKER: You gave it back.
ROKER: I've got to tell you, this has really been very special. We've been very excited that you consented to be here.
LETTERMAN: Yeah, I can tell by the atmosphere here. I mean, it's just tingling here. I want to tell you, it's like watching
open heart surgery. The place is crackling with electricity.
ROKER: You never know what's going to happen. Listen, I really appreciate it.
LETTERMAN: Well, I appreciate it because I consider you a friend, and it's good to see you again, Al.
ROKER: Thank you, David.
LETTERMAN: Thank you very much.
ROKER: All right. That's it for this edition of the Al Roker program. We will see you again next week Saturday and Sunday,
same time, same Bat channel. Thanks for coming.
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