From the David Letterman Archives

Crush objects with an 80 ton hydraulic press? Delegate his mother, who is not a sports journalist, to the Olympics? Taking on the drive-through of a burger restaurant? Last February, David Letterman launched a YouTube channel dedicated to his unforgettable follies. The press spoke to Barbara Gaines, executive producer and unwitting star of the most famous host’s shows top 10 of the small screen.

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Dominik Spaet

Dominik Spaet
The press

In February 1982, when he was assigned the 12:30 a.m. timeslot by NBC shortly thereafter Tonight show by Johnny Carson, David Letterman is a young comedian who enjoyed widespread acclaim (but no ratings) with a morning show – imagine him in the same box as Marie-Claude Barrette – that aired for just 18 weeks from October 1980.

Though Carson was Letterman’s mentor, the king of late-night shows places a number of restrictions on the newcomer. In particular, he is prohibited from holding a monologue and drawing from the same pool of Category A guests as the guidelines dictate Late night with David Letterman some of its most subversive qualities.

While Carson’s show had modeled its atmosphere on that of a fancy adult night out, its even later counterpart poked fun at it with an irony that sometimes bordered on the hostility and awe with which her parents treated the medium of television. Thus, the talk show alternates between an interview with a young actress before which the sarcastic Letterman makes no effort to appear interested, a childish section in which the host dons a jumpsuit with Velcro before plunging into a wall, and another , in which he shoves certain members of his staff under the light.

Among those employees: Barbara Gaines, who has worked since Letterman’s inception (she was 23 in 1980, he was 33) and has often been asked to leave her post behind the scenes to come and almost speak against her. , with the man with the eternally youthful smile.


PHOTO PROVIDED BY WALTER KIM

Walter Kim, Barbara Gaines and David Letterman at YouTube’s New York offices

“I never wanted to be on screen, and that’s exactly why Dave wanted to put me on screen. He is attracted to what people don’t want. He loved the discomfort,” said the man who was at the time, during a recent video conference interview Late Show with David Letterman left the air in May 2015, held the position of executive producer (executive producer).

“He never wanted to hire professional actors for the skits. So the crew members were perfect candidates,” Barbara continues of her friend’s disdain for anything that says too much about the show. “But there’s also that in the NBC days, and that says a lot about Dave’s generosity, that we got more money when we were on camera. David knew it. »

The pleasure of mockery

top 10 Anthologies, interviews with regulars like Bill Murray, Jennifer Lawrence or Martin Short, performances by music’s greatest, absurd sketches with Dave and Biff Henderson, his set manager, or Rupert Jee, the owner of the sandwich shop next door to the Ed Sullivan Theater. David Letterman’s YouTube channel, which launched last February, collects iconic clips from his three shows but also tries to keep up with the news.

“It’s important to us to please fans by releasing greatest hits, but we try to think about what’s happening in the world right now and attach old clips to it, which makes that content relevant again,” says Walter Kim , who maintains the channel for Wordwide Pants, Letterman’s production house. In particular, he cites interviews with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Senator John McCain, in which they addressed Vladimir Putin’s malicious ambitions regarding Ukraine.

Having measured himself against the Herculean task of more than 6,000 hours of television viewing, Walter Kim will be able to recognize the freedom his boss usurped but also the timelessness of some of his most memorable ideas while still young.


PHOTO DAMON WINTER, NEW YORK TIMES ARCHIVES

David Letterman before one of his final shows on CBS in April 2015

Today there is this expectation in the world of late night shows: it is absolutely necessary to comment on the news at all times. It’s great in a lot of ways, but it feels like there might be a little less room for more absurd humor that’s in no way political.

Walter Kim

The Sasquatch-bearded veteran launched a fourth season of his series of lengthy interviews on Netflix in May My next guest needs no introductionoccasionally shoot animated capsules with compelling frankness from Barbara Gaines, in which the duo joke about Will Smith’s punch at Chris Rock or Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter.

But it’s once again the less recent vignettes, in which Barbara examines the photos of rocks that look like food (you read that right) on Dave’s tablet, that bring to mind the Letterman big night.

“I think it mostly speaks to how much he enjoys spending time at YouTube headquarters,” laughs Barbara, who retired before being asked to help with the cleanup last fall. “He was in the office with Walter and I one day and he said, ‘Gaines, we’re recording something.’ I said, ‘No, we’re not going to record anything’, but we did it anyway and now he’s hooked. But he really doesn’t need me. »

“He definitely needs you. They have natural chemistry,” replies Walter, who recalls feeling nervous when he met the Barbara Gaines who introduced him to the team on his first day Late Show with David Letterman, in 1993. “Do you know, Barbara, you can’t fully retire until Dave retires? »

“Oh dear God! she calls. And now that he understands, we can use it zoom, I feel like I’m not done yet. »

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