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|February 28th 1994|
|Conan O'Brien Interviewing David Letterman
O'BRIEN: I'm gonna move this show along, Andy. I think we've got things on a bit of a roll right now, and I think it's time to proceed with -- what's going on? People, would you please -- Oh, no, it's a streaker. It's a streaker, everybody.
(A pretend naked fat guy runs through Conan's show)
O'BRIEN: No, no. Why? Why? Why a streaker tonight of all nights, when David Letterman is here?
RICHTER: We left specific instructions, no streakers.
O'BRIEN: I gave orders that there be no streakers tonight. I apologize to everyone. There will be no more nude 50-year-old
men running through the audience throughout the show. Please accept my apology. All right. The streaker is gone. We can all relax. My first guest tonight called this studio home for 11 years, and it is a real pleasure to welcome him back. Ladies and gentlemen, David Letterman.
(The Late Show theme plays)
(Huge applause and standing ovation that just won't stop!)
LETTERMAN: Get down. Get down. Thank you very much.
O'BRIEN: Wow. That's very nice.
LETTERMAN: You know, I was really excited and thrilled and very much looking forward to the occasion until I see a guy
pretending to be fat and naked running through the --
O'BRIEN: We can't get anyone to really do it.
LETTERMAN: And then I said to myself, well, the executive talent at GE really hasn't changed much at all since -- a naked
O'BRIEN: I've been fired now. Thank you very much.
LETTERMAN: I love what you've done with the place, by the way. It's very, very nice.
O'BRIEN: Come on. I chose these colors myself.
LETTERMAN: It's very strange for me to be here. I was actually here a couple of -- about six weeks ago. We were shooting some silly videotape outside of the building, and it was about 9:00 o'clock in the evening, and people said, "Well, let's go on upstairs to the sixth floor where you used to work and take a look around," and so we came up in here, and it was just like
it was now, except you folks weren't here -- well, most of you weren't here -- and then we looked around, looked at the commissary, looked at the nightly news set, and then we left, and then two days later in the newspaper was an article that we
had broken in, pushed our way past the guard, and I had gone up to Bryant Gumbel's office and taken a nap.
What more heinous a stunt could a man pull? "I don't care who sees me. I'm sleeping on this couch, boys. Cover me. I'm
taking a nap."
O'BRIEN: You like it though? You really like what we've done here? Does it look good?
LETTERMAN: Yeah, it does look good, and the thing that I liked about it when I came in here -- I was in this studio since
1981. We did a morning show.
O'BRIEN: You did the morning show here?
LETTERMAN: Right here, exactly.
O'BRIEN: I didn't know that.
LETTERMAN: And it was comforting to me to see that you guys have carved out a completely new identity for yourselves,
and when I watched the show, it was funny. When I first watched the show, it was a little difficult for me, because
they'd say "Late Night," and I'd think, hey keen.
O'BRIEN: "I'll be on."
LETTERMAN: Yeah, and then it would be Conan O'Brien, Late Night with Conan, and I'd say to myself -- and this is how
stupid I am -- I would say to myself, "Oh, jeez, I wish I had a show."
It was very odd. You know, I know that's pathetic, but that's my life, and then as I would watch it -- and the truth of it is,
when I first started watching the show, it always kind of make me wince a little bit, because I'd think, well, I don't know,
you know, it's not really me, it's not my show, but the more I watched the show, I realized you guys do an incredible amount
of comedy and stuff that is produced that is very high level, and the volume and the quality of the stuff just knocks me out,
and I think you've really done a great job to carve out a wonderful identity for yourselves, and there's nothing like this
show anywhere on television, and I really, really appreciate that. I think you did a nice job.
O'BRIEN: Well, thank you. Thank you very much.
O'BRIEN: Thank you very much.
LETTERMAN: You realize, of course, that was before I saw the naked guy in the audience.
O'BRIEN: I know, I know. I'm sorry. I really am. The biggest drawback we've had so far is that you had a very funny
window on your show.
LETTERMAN: Yeah, we had a great window. We had a great set.
O'BRIEN: It was a very funny window, and my window, it isn't very funny. Really, look at this.
(O'Brien throws a pencil out the window and all you hear is the sound of crickets chirping)
O'BRIEN: Just please do me a favor.
LETTERMAN: I just came from a show like that where there were crickets and wind blowing. On tonight's show I spent the first -- you know, you talk about screwing things up. I'm 46. I've been in television since 1969. You would think that the
simple things would be under control. Tonight for the first ten minutes of my show we went down to Times Square with a
live camera, and there's a guy in a patrol booth, a little safety booth the size of a phone booth, and so we were gonna talk to
this guy, and he comes out of the booth, and he introduces himself to me, and for the first ten minutes of the show I called
the guy "Lou." That's fine. The guy's name is "Ray."
O'BRIEN: "Lou" is funnier than "Ray." I commend that choice.
LETTERMAN: If he had been naked, that would have been good.
O'BRIEN: Come on. Show me how it's done.
LETTERMAN: Any one?
O'BRIEN: Right there.
(There is complete silence from the audience, Letterman takes a long look at the pencil as if all the years at Late Night are
running through his mind, then he throws the pencil through the window, there is the familiar sound of breaking glass, and
the audience cheers wildly)
LETTERMAN: And when we're done here tonight, I'm gonna take a nap on your couch, buddy, and nobody can stop me.
O'BRIEN: Completely unstoppable. I want to ask you something. This is a question that people wouldn't expect, but when I
first got this job, I came here to 30 Rock --
LETTERMAN: How did you get this job, by the way? Was it a theme writing contest or what?
O'BRIEN: Yes, yes. It was "What Would I Do With A Talk Show," and I was fourth.
But I went up and we shot a remote in one of your offices. It was actually in your office.
LETTERMAN: Up on the 14th floor.
O'BRIEN: Yes. You had moved out, and I noticed on the windows of your office thick sheets of plexiglass were covering
all the windows.
LETTERMAN: That's right.
O'BRIEN: Protective covering, and I thought, what a sick man.
What was that all about?
LETTERMAN: Well, first of all, let me correct you. It's not plexiglass. It's a product made by GE, and it's half inch Lexan.
It's bullet-proof glass. It's what they use around hockey arenas so guys can't bust through and shatter glass, and it's funny.
When that was put up there, the guys who did the work, I know they thought I was nuts, like, you know, "Snipers, oh, yeah, snipers are after Letterman. Yeah, gotta get the bullet-proof glass in place. Letterman thinks there's snipers."
But we had been in that office for 10 or 11 years, and many of the staff members at the time and people who are still with us would come up there and we would do stuff. We would heave stuff around, and we would take batting practice, we would
play soccer, we would play football, we would play baseball, and one day during batting practice -- that's why the show used
to be as good at it was, ladies and gentlemen -- I was taking, you know, full cuts, and I swung around and lost control of the
bat, and it shot right through one of the windows. Now, we were on the 14th floor above the intersection of 51st and 6th avenues there, and so the bat just wedges in the glass and is teetering on the ledge, and so I thought, now, this is a sign maybe you kids better quit screwing around in the office.
But I didn't learn anything from that, and a couple years later a woman who works with us now by the name of Mary Connelly and I, we would come in and we would play baseball. We would heave the baseball back and forth, just loosen up, and she
and I would kind of heat 'em in there, you know, kind of duck 'em under your chin and see who would flinch. I'm pretty tough when it comes to playing ball with the gals, ya know what I mean?
Hey, I'll come to your house and take a nap on your house. That's just the kind of guts I got.
O'BRIEN: Now, when is this? Is this minutes before a show? Shouldn't you really be doing something more productive?
LETTERMAN: Of course, that can be said of any time of my day, but this was in the afternoon, it was like in July, early in
July, and it was about 2:00 o'clock, and 6th avenue was just crowded, it was just a mass of people, you know, going up and down the street there at the intersection, and she and I are winging balls back and forth, and one gets away from me, and I
had wound up pretty good, and it goes into the venetian blinds of the window, shatters the glass and drops 14 floors to the sidewalk below. So you think to yourself, well, you know, folks are dead,
and it was the single worst moment of my life in this building, but I summoned up the courage and I got the guts up and I
said to myself, you know, it's situations like this where a person has to be responsible for their own actions; you have to
answer for your behavior; you have to know what is the right thing and you have to do it; and it was then that I sent an intern down to see who was dead.
O'BRIEN: Very nice. Very nice. Well, listen, we are going to take a quick commercial break. Will you tolerate that?
LETTERMAN: Absolutely, whatever you want.
O'BRIEN: Okay, we are going to step away for one second, make a lot of money for NBC, and then we're gonna come back
with David Letterman.
O'BRIEN: We are back. I am here with David Letterman. Sir, a lot of people were watching the Olympics this weekend. They were watching your show. You sent your Mom to the Olympics,
which got a lot of publicity. I was wondering, does she have the bug now? Does she want to keep going?
LETTERMAN: Well, you know, first of all, that was an actress. That wasn't my Mom. The woman's name is Sylvia
Henderson, and she's great. Mom did audition, but wasn't right.
O'BRIEN: She wasn't quite there.
LETTERMAN: Yeah, yeah. It's very strange, because Mom may be the least demonstrative person I've ever been around. She
is very shy, very soft-spoken -- when she speaks very soft-spoken -- and we just decided to send her over there, and
we didn't really understand what was going to happen, and it turned out to be fairly nice, but as far as continuing this
sort of thing, I don't think she's going to Bosnia to cover the trouble there
O'BRIEN: Are there other networks vying for her time, for her attention? Is there any chance she'll be in the 12:30 slot?
LETTERMAN: Well, I guess anybody can get a show at 12:30, Conan.
O'BRIEN: If I had a cap, I would doff it to you, I really would.
LETTERMAN: Well, you know, my fears -- here's a woman who is my mother, so you figure she's got to be older than I am, you know, it would be odd if we were roughly the same age.
O'BRIEN: Just a little, yeah, a little strange.
LETTERMAN: She's 73 years old, and I thought, oh, my goodness -- and people are over there falling down and busting
their legs and stuff, and I just thought, the worst thing that could happen -- you know, forget the press -- if she gets
killed over there, that would just be ugly, you know, that would put an end to the whole thing right there, and I just had visions
of like a bobsled going haywire. Oh, Dave's Mom was standing a little too close. Because of the credentials Dave got for his Mom, she was able to look right over the bobsled rail and caught one in the head
But she had a great time, and the last couple of days, I don't know, maybe the last week, she was rooming with the Italian Bobsled Team. So I thought, thattagirl, Mom.
O'BRIEN: Did you ever think all those years, those 11 years, did you ever think of using her on the Late Night show here?
LETTERMAN: Occasionally Mom would call on the phone and we would chat with her about various things. We had her
one night call up -- as a kid she used to make these fried baloney sandwiches, and because we were in about our second or
third year, and completely out of ideas,
we decided it would be fun to have Mom call in, and on the phone she would talk me through making a fried baloney
sandwich. So it was one of those deals, I was so excited, because as a kid I remembered nothing being quite so flavorful
as this fried baloney sandwich, and I remembered it as being a lot more elaborate than the sandwich Mom did for us on the air
that night. I thought it was like fry the baloney in a little butter, and then you put like mayonnaise, and then you put lettuce,
and then you put tomato, and then you put mustard, and I thought this is --
O'BRIEN: You ate like Elvis.
LETTERMAN: And so Mom gets on the phone, and she kind of takes us through it, and she says, "All right, David, now
fry the baloney. Okay, now put it on a slice of bread. All right. Now put on another slice of bread." And I said, "Okay, yeah, yeah, now what, Mom?" And then she says, "Enjoy." That's not the fried baloney sandwich --
O'BRIEN: My only regret was that you didn't use her on that old show, because then your mother would be the intellectual property of this show.
We could use her for all kinds of things.
LETTERMAN: Oh, my good heavens.
O'BRIEN: A thought just occurred to me. I remember a couple years ago -- I don't remember how many years ago it
was but --
LETTERMAN: Well, pick a number. Nobody cares.
O'BRIEN: All right.
LETTERMAN: That's what I do. I just make stuff up all the time.
O'BRIEN: It was 1952.
LETTERMAN: The guy's name is "Ray." I called him "Lou." Nobody cares.
O'BRIEN: No one's keeping track. That's what you're saying, right?
O'BRIEN: I remember that you did something with Carson where Carson stole your car.
LETTERMAN: Yeah, that's right.
O'BRIEN: This is something that at the time I couldn't tell how much of this is fact, how much of it is fiction. Can you
straighten it out for us?
LETTERMAN: Well, from what you said so far, it's all true. Johnny Carson and I -- I used to live in a part of Malibu. It's
called Point Doom, and it's just this beautiful little neighborhood, and it kind of juts out into the Pacific. Now, Johnny Carson lived in the eight million dollar side of town, and I lived in about the hundred thousand dollar side of town, and I had in those
days -- and still do -- a 1973 Chevy pickup truck, and the thing that I loved about this truck was it was just beat to hell.
There's like a thousand dents, and because of the sea air, all of these dents would rust, and it really got to be quite an eye sore, but the uglier it got the more pride I had in having this pickup truck parked outside of my house. So one day I was a guest on Johnny's show -- you remember Johnny--
O'BRIEN: It's all so vague. I'm 14 years old. This is a clip-on tie.
LETTERMAN: And so, you know, I'm on the Tonight Show telling my little stories and trying to get laughs and dropping
my pants and whatever you got to do to get laughs, and so Johnny, I can tell, doesn't really -- he's not paying attention to anything I say. I can see in his eyes that he's waiting to pull the pin on a grenade. He can hardly wait to get to this moment.
So finally I wrap up my little skits, my little song and dance, and I'm looking around, and Johnny says, "Why don't you tell me about that piece of junk you've got parked out in front of your house." I said, "Well, I don't know," and you play along
with Carson, especially in those days -- not so much now -- but in those days.
Between you and me, Conan, I can pretty much write my own ticket, but in those days --
(Audience cheers and applauds)
LETTERMAN: So Carson is whining about my truck being an eye sore, and he says, "I have to run by there every day and
it's making me sick." And I said, "I don't know what you're getting to." He turns around, they have like a drum roll or
something, they open up the curtains, and there in the studio is my pickup truck, and he has swiped it and brought it into Burbank, and it's sitting there, and it's just then serving as a huge embarrassment to me in front of the entire world. So finally
he returns the truck, and I get to looking it over, and I realize that the left front headlight is busted out. So I think to myself,
"Oh, man." Oh, I'm salivating, lawsuit.
(Letterman rubs his fingers together in a money-grubbing gesture)
So about six weeks later, Johnny and I, with the aid of Judge Wapner --
I kind of filed suit against Carson for the damage suffered to my pickup truck -- and Judge Wapner comes on, and Johnny
and I --
O'BRIEN: Did you do this on the show?
LETTERMAN: Yeah, on the show. No, we did it in his back yard.
O'BRIEN: Well, I don't know.
LETTERMAN: So Judge Wapner is sitting there, and Carson and I are behind podiums, and it's just like the People's Court,
and at the beginning of it, I walked over to Wapner and gave him a box of steaks. I thought that was pretty slick.
O'BRIEN: Smooth move, yeah.
LETTERMAN: And finally I was able to prove, and I felt very proud of this, that my truck had been damaged when Carson
swiped it, and I won a $30 settlement from Johnny Carson. I'm telling ya, I felt a little bit like one of his ex-wives.
I was in heaven. Get in on that gravy train
(Letterman rubs his fingers together in a money-grubbing gesture)
O'BRIEN: All those years when you were doing the show, when you were doing the show here at Late Night, and then you
have since gone on to CBS, did you think that this was all going to get this much attention?
O'BRIEN: Did you think the whole thing was going to get this kind of -- we don't have a lot of time left, and I was just
curious, did you think this was going to happen, that late night would turn into -- because I'm relatively new to it. I had no
idea that it was that important to the media or to people in general.
LETTERMAN: Yeah. I had no idea that it was that important, and NBC had no idea that it was that important.
(Loud, loud, loud applause, derisive laughter, shouts, cheers, hoots, jeers, taunts aimed at NBC)
O'BRIEN: I'm going to be squeegeeing car windows tomorrow.
LETTERMAN: No, no, no, no, but, you know, it's easy to be flip about it, but the truth of it is, I loved being here, and I still
have nothing but really strong positive memories, and the people that I dealt with and the executives and the programmers
and the folks that we saw on a daily basis, I felt like we had nice good strong relationships, and I don't hold any grudges,
and I don't regret anything that has happened, but I am surprised that it did get to be as silly as it was, you know, I mean,
just, but I don't know. That's just the way things go.
O'BRIEN: Well, listen, you're supposed to end on a big laugh. I thought what I would do is just thank you very much
for coming. We are out of time, but this meant a lot to us to have you stop by. It was a very nice of you to come by and do
This is it. It goes on for about nine more minutes. Thanks very much.
LETTERMAN: You know, I was thinking about this, Conan, all weekend and this, by the way, was my worst fear about the
show, and it's happened.
(Letterman pulls his pants leg up and his beautiful but scrawny leg is showing)
LETTERMAN: I should have brought the long socks. See, look. See, look at that.
O'BRIEN: I find it attractive. It's a good look.
LETTERMAN: But, you know, when we did our last show here, and I was kind of wrapping things up, it was really a quiet
hope of mine that I would be invited to come back on your show, and I didn't know if you would do it or not. I didn't know
what the format would be. I didn't know if you would have any place for me.
O'BRIEN: It was all country music for a while.
And then we got into this, which seems to work a little better.
LETTERMAN: I used to be able to go and see Carson on The Tonight Show two or three times a year, and I loved it, and I realized that for one reason or another I probably wasn't going back to The Tonight Show.
O'BRIEN: I'm sure Jay would have you on.
LETTERMAN: So to be able to come here -- and I hope you will be nice enough to invite me back -- it's just been great fun,
and I think you guys do a terrific job.
O'BRIEN: Well, thank you. I know you have to go to the MSG for the ESPY's, which is a tongue-twister now. You have to
LETTERMAN: Oh, it's a big night for me, folks.
O'BRIEN: A big night for you.
LETTERMAN: A big night for me and my socks
O'BRIEN: But listen, thanks again. Do come back and visit us. And best of luck with your show. David Letterman.
LETTERMAN: Thank you.
(Loud, loud, loud applause)
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