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tv   Charlie Rose  PBS  May 22, 2015 12:00am-1:01am PDT

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>> rose: funding for "charlie rose" has been provided by: >> rose: additional funding provided by: >> and by bloomberg, a provider of multimedia news and information services worldwide. captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: david letterman's last show aired wednesday night, may 20th. it was an extraordinary final performance, with a bit of everything. they started with a cold open from gerald ford followed by four living presidents.
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>> my fellow americans, our long national nightmare is over. >> our long national nightmare is over. our long national night mayor is over. >> our long national nightmare is over. >> our long national nightmare is over. letterman is retiring. >> you're just kidding right? >> rose: an here was his final top ten. >> ladies and gentlemen here's tonight's top ten. (cheers and applause) >> thank you paul. this is a-- i think this is
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a pretty good list considering it's our last list. and the category top ten things i have always wanted to say to dave joo. >> ah. >> now listen to this presenting tonight's top ten list ten frequent late show guests and good friends of ours. once again top ten things and let me just thank them in advance. i appreciate their time their talents an their generosity. top ten things i've always wanted to say to dave. number ten alec baldwin. >> of all the talk shows, your is most geographically convenient to my home. >> thank you alec. thank you. >> number nine barbara
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walters. >> okay. dave did you know that you wear the same cologne as moammar qaddafi. >> yes, yes barbara i do know that. number eight steve martin. >> your extensive plastic surgery was a necessity, and a mistake. >> well. >> number seven, jerry
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seinfeld. >> dave, i have no idea what i will do when you go off the air. you know i just thought of something. i'll be fine. >> thank you, jerry that's very nice of you. i think jerry may have a benefit later. number six jim carrey. >> honestly, dave i've always found you to be a bit of an overactor.
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number five chris rock. >> i'm just glad your show is being given to another white guy. >> you know i had nothing to do with that. number four julia louis-dreyfus. >> thanks for letting me take part in another hugely disappointing series finale.
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>> i had nothing to do with that either. number three peyton manning. >> dave, you are to comedy what i am to comedy. >> that doesn't make any sense. payton. oh my god. number two tina fey. >> thanks for finally proving men can be funny.
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>> i like that. things i've always wanted to say to dave, number one bill murray ladies and gentlemen. >> dave, i'll never have the money i owe you. >> oh no. >> thank you, alec good to see you. barbara. god bless you. steve, thank you very much that is wonderful. nice job jerry you look great, thank you. thank you very much. i appreciate that. chris, how are you doing. oh my god tremendous this year. that was so funny. mr. manning, oh my god. look who it is. that's unbelievable. tina again, thank you for
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everything. and bill i saw you on tv last night. are you all right? there you are, ladies and gentlemen. it's our friends hear at the late show. thank you, everybody. >> rose: and some classic letterman moments. >> ou how many friend does you have? >> oh about none. >> no, you have friends. >> no. >> you must have friends a guy like you. >> nope. i used to have friends. >> what did you do? >> i accidentally pushed somebody down-- down the shares and they got a bloody nose. >> do you think maybe there's a lesson to be learned here. >> yeah. >> and what is that? >> accidents happen. >> do you have brothers and sisters. >> yes, sir, a sister. >> what is her name. >> ramp el. >> rachel, do you want to say i had to rachel. okay, go ahead say i had to
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rachel. hear we g say i had to rachel there we go rit there, say -- >> hi rachel. >> yeah, i know that. >> all right i'll accompanying you you sing ready. >> jingle bells jingle -- >> dashing through the snow ♪ ♪ oh jingle bells -- >> you got to be quiet. >> are you not are you not you are not funny. you give me that. >> yeah, we'll get you one of those. it's my lunch break and i haven't had a chance to get anything to eat can. i ask you to get me a little something to eat. >> no. >> here's how this will
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work. >> you order for me a burrito supreme, okay? >> for you. >> yes. >> we're not allowed to order our own food. >> okay, what would you like ma'am. >> i told you a three -- >> and anything else. >> and your stupid-- but i'm not paying -- >> no, you misunderstood. i'll pay for it but you have to order it a burrito supreme with no meat, okay. try it again. what else, ma'am. >> burrito supreme with no meat. >> all right fine, thank you very much. >> what is the total. >> that's 26.80. >> how much is the real total. >> the real total is 26.80. the burrito supreme is a little pricey. >> it is one of our most expensive items. >> let me see if i repeat that you ordered something, a couple of tacos or something, chicken something and a burrito supreme with no meat; is that correct?
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>> she's gone already chief. >> a recognition of his respect for the audience. >> i want to thank the folks at home. you know, people come up to me all the time and they say dave i've been watching you since your morning show. and i always say have you thought about a complete psychological workup? the people without watch this show there's nothing i can do to ever repay you. thank you for everything. you've given me everything. and thank you again. >> and then with a loving bow to his wife and son dave was off. >> i want to thank my own family, my wife regina and my son harry. (applause) thank you.
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look at that kid. >> just seriously, just thank you for being my family. i love you both. and really nothing else matters, does it. (applause) >> rose: we take a moment this evening for a snapshot of his genius from those who appeared on his show. >> he brought a brand of comedy and humor to our culture that only he did and only he could do. >> you just felt like he was running his own situation.
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>> i would like a gaur pounder. >> a quarter pounder. >> a half pounder. >> and a half pounder. >> a three quarter pounder. >> he was the one guy who seemed to be you know hearing a different beat. >> something about it spoke to me. >> yes, ma'am, i got a big john's moving truck in front of me and i'm calling to comment on his driving. >> that show was very smart and very stupid at the same time. >> okay, we're going through an intersection, that's all right. so far it's okay, all right. >> here's tonight he top ten list. >> because of him the whole culture has its own top ten list. >> glaciers are receding faster than letterman's hairline. >> hey, wait a minute. >> because of him we all do stupid pet tricks with our own pets. >> that's fantastic. >> he could be wickedly funny but he could also be very warm and heartfelt. >> he was 57 when he was born. >> no. >> yes, i was 57. >> that is exactly what i
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am. >> and i thought people must think i'm the biggest fool alive. but i don't care i have loved every second. >> yeah, i'm excited. >> it really was a crap shoot if you would click with him or if he would fillet you like the daily special. >> what are you saying? >> no i'm just teasing. >> are you being insulting. >> sweet would in the be a word anyone would use to describe you. >> sometimes he could be a jerk. but in spite of that everybody wanted to flirt with him. >> hit me now. >> i don't think it's possible, really to emulate him. but i think that you see the guys that you do now only because there is a david letterman. >> by the way my breasts are all natural. >> everything we do at least everything i do is heavily influenced by him and what he did. >> whatever he does, there is just no one without does
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what he does. >> hi, who are you? >> yeah dominic. >> what do you have there? >> pizza. >> can you take the pep rone off the pizza and leave it on the sidewalk? >> fearless original always himself. >> just relax the doctor will be in in a minute. >> and i think that is the absolute secret to connecting with an audience. >> what you can tell us about your day's with the unibomber? >> whatever it is, you are bringing 100% of yourself. >> good-bye. >> what you are are going to miss is his sense of honesty to humor. >> more and more you see like the murr will and like the sistine chapel on a-- you know it's too much. >> i'm to the going for the sistine chapel. >> he was always pretty honest. >> canadian high school. >> i will just miss his face i will miss his smichl i
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will miss his goofy laugh. and i will miss the opening every night hearing what he has to say about the world and what's going on in it. because it's really part of my cultural compass. >> i got you a bag of-- of very cheap inexpensive alarm clock. i got you a week's worth. just throw them against the wall and sparb them because you don't need to go to work any more. >> letterman is truly in show business. there is no one like him. there is no one like him. and it's doubtful that there will ever be anyone like him again. >> that's what i'm talking about. >> ladies and gentlemen the great alec baldwin. >> rose: and finally two interviews i did with david letterman, one in 1996 and the other at the time of his kennedy center honors. >> congratulations. this is as joe biden would say, a big deal. >> well, i -- yes it is a big deal. when i first found out about it i thought something was wrong. so i called people i knew
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who might be able to tell me how things like this happened. because i was very suspicious feeling completely unworthy and we tracked down the process by which a person is selected and considered. and so it took me about two weeks to become satisfied that there was an and excuse the word legitimacy to this. i still don't feel that way. but at least i know to my great satisfaction that money didn't change hands. my family is thrilled and delighted. and based on my family's enthusiasm then i can live with this. >> this includes harry. >> harry doesn't know doesn't care. he the idea of going to the white house i think will really get his attention. but the rest of the family couldn't be more thrilled so
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to me that is reason enough and couldn't be more happier and grateful to the folks who made this mistake. >> it's a really classy group to be associated with. as you mentioned, johnny carson, you were there for that. >> i was there for that night. and i remember, i was to follow ted koppel. and it was the first of many times i had to follow ted koppel. and that's no not where you want to be. because he's very very funny. and as i said that night it may be a little too funny for a newsman. >> there's also this. you get this award and there have been others. but for 30 plus years of doing something you love. >> right. >> that's a nice way to go. >> well it is. and i think how fortunate that people are when you know what you want to do and then you find a way to do it, and then you continue to do it for as long as you want, that's great good luck. that's great good luck. because i think and i know a lot of people never really
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quite sure what they want to do. not really quite sure what path they want to follow. and maybe they make themselves happy with whatever path they end up on. but there was no question in my mind from the time i was 17 what i wanted to do. and i pretty much have done it every day of my life everything i have ever wanted to do. and i was on television when i was in 1968. so i have been doing this a long time. and it is still just fun. i mean all it is, is just showing off. you bring in a bunch of people who really don't want to be here. and watch me i'm going to show you have. >> and talk to some of your friends and hope they would be entertained. >> we've been very lucky with people would come to see us. >> there is a story that you really didn't know what you wanted to do didn't particularly like college that much. and then you took a public speaking course. and you said, this is it. >> that was it. >> it was in actually in high school.
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my sophomore year in high school. and my peer group was following an academic course of study. i was having trouble with the academic course of study. and as they continued successfully on the academic course, and i was taking more and more shop classes i was being pulled away from my peer group. and i started to panic because these are the guys that i liked and spent time with and emulated. and they were going away while i was learning how to solder. nothing wrong with that, but i could just see that i was going to be in some trouble. and then i took this speech class in high school. my sophomore year and the first project the first day of school was we had to give up and give an extemporaneous five minute talk about ourselves. and i did that and everything else changed. and i said, well jeez, this is really what i want to do. now the trick will be to find out if you can make
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money with five minute extemporaneous speeches. >> rose: but what was it about that that made you say wow? >> i don't know. it was-- i-- well i do know. it-- nothing in my life ever went well. this went surprisingly well. and couldn't have been easier. so the combination of getting rewarded for something that's easy to do i mean, there you go. you're right writing your own paycheck, aren't you? >> at some point you get in a pickup truck and you drive out to los angeles. >> right. >> you look around and you see the comedy store. and three years later you are sitting next to johnny carson. >> yeah, that was cool. that was really cool. it was 1975 and it's like the jods we're heading west. and but as i have said before, it was so easy because if you owned a television set and you watched the tonight show once a week, twice a week you would see comics. and before or after each
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comic, johnny would say you can see so-and-so and so-and-so telecom dee store. and you would have to be stupid to overlook that connection. so i told everybody that i wanted to be a writer but i didn't really want to be a writer. >> because you didn't want to admit that you wanted to be in front of the camera. >> i didn't want to make too big a fool of myself. and the first week we got out there, i went to the comedy store. >> rose: and then how was that first performance? >> scary. really scary. but the woman missy shore, to whom i owe a great debt and a lot of other men and women owe a great debt, was kind enough to ask me if i wanted to come back and then she had me emceeing. which was perfect. because i had no material. and you could just-- . >> rose: introduce the other act. >> and make fun of drunks in the audience. >> rose: but you got to hang out with people doing what you wanted to do. >> oh, yeah it was tremendous. it was so great because every night you would get to try out your material.
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but the best part was then seeing people that became your friends and watching them work. and it was my good friend george miller my friend tom dreesen and jeff altman and then robin williams and jay leno johnny dark and on and on and on. guys men and women that maybe you have heard of some that you haven't. but they were all really funny. funnier than i am almost. and to go to work knowing you were going to spend the night laughing. and then the camaraderie was always ent takening too. >> rose: carson meant what to you? >> well, for a person in that situation, he meant everything. i mean it was-- it wasn't like it is now. the door to being a stand up comedy or television success was the tonight show the curtain through which you passed to be on the tonight show. and he meant everything to me. he meant everything to everybody else who was out there doing stand-up.
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it was the time when you could be on that show do well on the tonight show the next day you would get calls about having your own show. you would get calls about auditioning, william morris wanted you and they're going to put you on a show and then there is a movie and a this and in those days people would go out on tour for likes six, eight months and they would have an opening act. so it was really the employment placement office. and more often than not if johnny liked you you were going to trend upward on a pretty steep incline. >> the most powerful influence on your life do you think. first for that reason an second because he was the gold standard. >> yes, the most powerful influence, certainly professionally. and i used to think as a kid watching him in the midwest in end yap lis and you know, my dad would be there in his underware and i would be there in my pajamas. and we would be watching johnny carson. and johnnie was like oh
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jeez, you know i love my dad but johnny is a little hipper than my dad. and so johnny kind of became a guy, an this is what you do if you are a guy. >> when is the last time you saw him alive. >> it was years ago. he and his wife were in town on their boat. and they invited me and my wife to have dinner with them. and we sailed up and down the hudson. we went under the george washington bridge turned around and came up and back past the lower-- looked right at the statue of liberty and then up the east river, turned around and came back. and it was all at sunset. it was magical. >> rose: he walked a which from it. could you walk away from it? >> yeah yeah. >> rose: you think so? >> yeah, i think you would always, i know johnny missed it. because like six months after he retired somebody had a big party for him in new york. and he had won some sort of an award.
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and people got up and did material and i had to get up and do material. and that damn ted koppel was there. and then johnny got up. and johnnie who had not been on television for six months or a year bang bang, bang bang bang. right down like he had had not missed a beat stuff out of the newspaper, bang bang bang bang. and at some point during that, he says i'm so glad this is going well. he says i sure do miss it. so i know he missed it. and i know i would miss it. but i would find other things to do. >> rose: but other dramatic events in your life one is you go to the hospital and they tell you you're going to be in the operating room. >> uh-huh. >> rose: you go in the same doctor i had. does it change your attitude about work? does it change your attitude about mortality? does it change -- >> it didn't change my attitude about mortality but it did change my attitude about work. because from the minute they pulled the tube out the
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infew baiter whatever they call it. >> rose: oh yeah, i remember that. >> i thought jeez i wonder if i can still work again. so it-- it-- in a movie, it would be where the prize fighter who gets knocked down, it would be the montage where he then tries to get back in shape to get another shot at the title. so i was worried that i wouldn't be able to work again. so it kind of relit the fuse well, let me see if i can do this. and that's why you leave indianapolis in a pickup truck because you want to see if you can do it. so now jeez i want to see if i can still do it. >> rose: and you did but there are stories that you became mellow more charming-- (laughter) >> rose: that you weren't quite, you know as you had been i mean a guy whose life entire life was this show.
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>> right. >> rose: because it had design-- defined it, what you loved doing you wanted to do it betterment and you didn't know what there would be if it wasn't there. >> irrespective of what i just said, one of the things of regret i have i don't know if it could have been any other way, but a regret i have was not being so single minded about this show. an i think what it is in my case, the two great motivators in my life and i mate it when people start talking about two great motivators in my life. one is the guilt. really haunted by guilt. actual guilt made up guilt you know and the other would be the fear of failure. because if i don't succeed, me loading the pickup truck in indianapolis in 1975 looks pretty silly. >> rose: yes. >> so success defined that as the right thing to do. >> but i wish i had, i think it came at a price.
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i mean the heart surgery being one of them. but i wish i hadn't been so gosh darn single minded. because it when are you focus is that tight, you miss a lot of what is going on around you. >> rose: cbs came to you and howard stringer after they decided to go with jay for the tonight show. can you look at that now and say that was for the best? bnses yes absolutely for the best. and when i look at that now i think it also reminded me of some of the worst behavior of my life my own behavior. and i wish things were like they are now. i wish they were like they are now, then. >> rose: what was its worst behavior. >> well, there was a lot of pressure, a lot of self-imposed pressure, a lot of actual pressure. they came in and remodeled this place, which i have grown to love dearly. huge amounts of money. we had to fly around the
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country, talk to skeptical a fill-- affiliates. and i didn't handle it well. and i wish i were able to handle it the way i handle things now. >> rose: but it was insecurity, anger. >> insecurity, anger fear of failure everything. >> rose: all that gone now. >> i would say its-- i wouldn't say it's all gone but it's in a manageable dose. i just feel like this is the way humans really ought to be. i mean i still lose my temper. and you're this close charlie i'm telling you you are this close. >> rose: let me know when i get even closer. >> i will mop the floor with you. >> rose: that will make this one of the more interesting interviews i've ever done right there. so what is it you think that you brought? you created this show which followed a previous show where you had sort of in the eyes of many redefined comedy. because it couldn't be what john was doing.
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>> right. >> rose: it had to be something else. >> yeah. >> rose: you didn't want to have his guest on your show. >> well, we couldn't. we were told there is a prohibition you can't do there you can't have the same guests, you can't have an organize stra and on and on and on. but i had very little to do with that. it was-- the people that on the staff they were resourceful enough and figured out ways. you know they kind of said good, that's not the show we want to do anyway. and i always felt like i was lucky enough to do somebody else's show. you know they built the show and i did it. and you know we started out the producer and the head writer and was merrill markel. so we kind of did her show. then after that we did steve o'donnell's show who was another head writer and then rob person et was our head writer for a long time. we did his show. and i liked the fact that these people were all smarter and funnier than i was. because you know i don't know what i'm doing. >> rose: is this self deprecation or dow actually believe that? >> i think it is true.
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>> rose: you were doing their show rather than your show. >> yeah, and it is a great relief. because you then learn from them while they're doing it. and you can complement what they are doing or personalize it to make yourself fit in. >> rose: but here's the interesting thing. this whole notion of the kennedy honors is recognizing something about your contribution. what johnny carson meant to you, you mean to jimmy kimmel. and others. and do you have any sense of that? i mean dow appreciate that. >> jimmy kimmel is a case he's been very nice to me. he's a nice kid and been very gracious to me. and to the point where it's made me self-conscious. and i start thinking about what this is. and the comparison that he had made that you are to me what carson is to you. and the difference is all i really have is tenure. carson was-- head and shoulders beyond anybody doing it now anybody who
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will ever do it. you may see flashes of what he could do. but if you look at his show, it was always effortless. even shows that were awful you just wanted to see what johnny was doing. i don't have that. like i said, all i have is time. i put in my time. >> it's more than that dave. >> i don't know. >> i'm not one to argue about this because i don't understand comedy. but at the same time it's self-evident that after you people looked at these shows differently. and therefore fallon and kimmel. >> i believe that may be true. >> rose: more than tenure though. there was something about-- the excentricity or whatever it was. >> i think it was the vision of people i had around me more than me. i mean we all knew that the charge was to be a different show. and in the beginning i will admit that i thought i had all the answers for television. and i-- you had that attitude. >> rose: watch out world,
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i'm coming. >> if you can wait just a little longer, we'll take care of television. >> rose: we'll do it. we know the answer. we have the secret. >> pretty soon you realize you don't have it. >> rose: it is not there every night. >> so i don't know if i can rightly-- you know, i was in the room. ity's give you that. i was in the room. >> rose: you cannot understand unless you sit in that chair how you feel the necessity of getting a laugh every minute. >> right. well that's interesting. i remember when we said that. see, i don't feel that way any more. i always felt like the show-- i was the central nervous system of the show. we have while my name is in the title of the show i don't feel that need now. i feel like the presence of the guests can handle that just fine. somebody else can get a laugh, or we can go without a laugh. now i would prefer a laugh
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comes from someplace. but i don't feel that ultimately that weight is on my shoulders any more. >> rose: is what makes you laugh different today? >> that's a good question. no. i think what makes me laugh today is the same things that's always made me laugh. something silly really silly but yet still within the range of plaus ability. something that yeah that may be could happen. we don't think so but maybe it could happen but it's so very silly. and that's all it takes. >> rose: you love when somebody pushes back though. these smart people come in here, they push back. >> that's right, that's right. that is pretty good yeah. >> rose: but it's also the fact if they come prepared. i mean you like-- i flew back across the country with tom hanks one day. and he was going to be on the show. he was thinking about appear -- appearing with you for five minutes. >> uh-huh. >> rose: preoccupied with it. >> yeah. >> rose: because he wanted it to be per effect. >> right.
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well he's a tremendous guy. and for him to take my show that seriously that's high praise. you know. >> rose: finally, there is a sense that for a while you were a loner. >> a loneer. a drifter. a man wanted in several states. >> rose: that's right. >> a man-- a man who would get in his porsche and drive up there at speeds beyond light. >> yeah. >> rose: but also -- >> a psycho path. >> rose: a man who -- >> multiple personalities. >> rose: a man who had an obsession of owning lots of land in montana, st. bards. >> collecting jars of his own urine. (laughter) >> rose: thank you. well, thank you honestly i'm so grateful. and i just want to say in the beginning when we came here i was really difficult for the network. i regret that behavior. and over the years people like yourself and the management have been nothing
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but kind to me. and i appreciate that. >> rose: cuz we love you. >> oh. >> let me just go back to leaving indianapolis though and going to l.a. were you set on being the talk show host. or were you just going out there to get into television and to do comedy. >> well when i left indianapolis i had worked at a television station. i actually started working in tv like in 1969 when i was 19 or 20. and i had worked at the station for five years worked as a radio station. and just, i knew something else was going on. i had the sense that there is something else out there. and i didn't think i was going to be satisfied or fulfilled doing a four h half hour kid's show once a week. and i would see these guys come on the tonight show these comedians and think oh man, i wonder if i could do that a little bit. so i told my family i was going out to be a writer you know because they the
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idea of me actually being in show business would have horrified and sickened everyone. and now come to think of it the fact of being in show business actually horrifies and sickens even millions. >> rose: then you brought your mother into show business. >> oh, lord. i said i'm going to go out and be a writing. i felt like that is my calling. i'm a goofy looking guy. nobody is really going to want me on the screen. but i knew in the back of my mind what i would try is to get into comedy to do stand-up comedy. and in those days you knew how to do that and that was go right to the comedy store and start doing it. before that, i wouldn't have known how to get into comedy. >> rose: did it come natural for you? >> more or less yeah. like anything else, there are some you have an affinity for something. but there's still many, many things to learn. you know, i can remember the first night i was on stage telecom dee store and my first reaction was this bright white light. and i thought it was one of those near death tales. i thought oh, there is the white light i'm coming home, uncle eddie. and i can just remember you
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can kind of just, there is something visceral, you can sort of smell the people out there because they are all just lowed up on watered down drinks. and all of a sudden it was an out of body experience. because i just couldn't see myself standing there saying words that i had mem or identified to the sigh lenses. but still smelling the people. and it was anix il rating experience. but also a complete failure. >> rose: and then when you got the laughs. >> well, that night i got no laughs. got no laughs. but i was happy that i had done it i was happy that okay i've tried it and now maybe i will try it again. and like anything else, you just make a little progress here and slip back and continue to make progress. and i knew pretty soon that i was not cut out to be a stand-up comedian the kind of guy that will take 250 gigs a year he's on the road all the time. he goes to las vegas and to jupiter, then to neptune and then to buffalo and just there are guys like that and god bless them because these are the guys that can do it they have an iron constitution jz. >> rose: jerry seinfeld was that.
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>> jerry seinfeld absolutely. i think there are fewer younger guys doing it now. at one time, i think it was more the domain of an earlier generation. i knew i didn't have that. so i felt like i'm just going to use this to kind of get into television. >> rose: and then did you johnny. >> did the johnny carson show a couple of times yeah yeah. >> rose: and he instantly liked you. >> well, it went pretty well. but it was no real surprise because i had about four or five years and i had 20 minutes of material. 20 minutes of material. and i had it divided up roughly into four tonight show shots. and you've mem orized t every comma every semi colon rez every inflection. >> so it's rout so, i knew the first one would go pretty well and it did go pretty well. and to me that was and i think is still the biggest thrill i've had since i have been doing television. >> rose: that night. >> that night yeah. >> rose: what did he say to you when you sat down. >> i have no idea. i have no idea. i can remember at the time i was sitting there and this happened. i left indianapolis in '75. and i think like '78 three
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years later i'm sitting next to johnny carson you know. it wasn't the rich little johnry was there that night t wasn't hugh downs filling in for johnny. it was johnny. and i can remember and this is a forgive me if it is clumsily articulated. but my reaction to it was like all your life, you see a $5. all your life you see a $5. and then suddenly you see lincoln. and it's like oh my god it's honest abe. the guy on the $5 and that was the reaction. i just-- and it was you know, i was just completely wired for days and days and days after that. an still and all that was, i think, for me the single most important but also the single most thrilling experience of my life. >> rose: and how long was it before they asked you to come in and guest host. >> it was this i think was november of 78y. and i think in march or april of 79y i did my first guest host there. >> rose: when you made the decision to go to cbs what
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went through your mind in terms of what you would have to do at 11:30 that would be different than what you were doing at 12:30. >> well, at the time, that was a big, big issue. because, and i don't know why, but people view 12:30 and 11:30 as being two completely different almost polarized spots on the clock. and they're not really. the people that are watching the 12:30 are people that have been up at 11:30 and continue to watch. the people that watch at 11:30, it is not that different, you know it's the same deal. but we imposed on ourselves kind of a strict scrutiny and we decided okay it's got to look like more money. i remember talking to howard make the opening make new york city look like a postcard. make everybody salivate when they see new york city. an as you know many of the citizens here, that's all they do is salivate. >> rose: yeah. >> make it look like las vegas. make people want to get on the first damn bus and come to new york. and i think that was the first kind of thing we discussed. and then the rest of it was
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minor, you know like we added some guys to the band. we looked at the wardrobe. we had a bigger theater. beyond that it wasn't much different. >> rose: what makes a good show? >> for me, my personal criteria, we were discussing earlier, we have an audience of about 500 people. they come from wherever they come from. they write in for tickets six months three months a year in advance. they get plane tickets they get baby-sitters rental cars, they go to hotel they have to park their car, they have to you can what, wait in line. so we get these people in there. and at the end of the evening i get the sense that these people are disappoint i realize i've failed. and what makes a good show for me is any single element or any combination of elements by design or accident that pleases these people and makes them satisfied with the difficulty they've had to endure to get there. i feel like great that's it. stop the clock. no more calls this show will be fine. because i think that that sense of enjoyment you know breaks through the glasses. >> rose: do you think you're the best judge of that? >> yes. >> rose: dow really.
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>> yes i do. >> rose: i know people have said to me, they come to you and say great show. >> they are suck up weasles you got to i a lobby full up. >> rose: but you are convinced you know what say good show. >> yes yes. i do know. because i'm sitting right there. i feel it. >> rose: and how many times a week do you have a good show on the average. >> not as many as we would like. i think this-- . >> rose: three out of five. >> three out of five would be great, man i'm telling you. i would sell my soul for three out of five. and sometimes we get there. sometimes we get five out of five. some nights it's you know you get a good show one out of five and you think okay. >> rose: how different is the show you're doing and the show that carson did for all those years? >> well you know, we're doing circus time you know. we got people swinging on things. we're setting fire to stuff. we've got folks running around naked. and johnny come out and does his monologue. the favorite part of everyone's evening. and then maybe he would do
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aunt blabby. and-- wnd so i mean i don't mean to suggest that he was loafing he was doing a lot of work. but it was not this barrage of stuff where okay let's see what party boy is doing tonight. come on, let's go do something, light something up scare somebody. but my point is do you think you've got to do that? because that's where the audience is in 1996 or do you think it is simply a reflection of your sense of humor. of your dom comedy. >> i wish i could say it was my sense of humor and comedy. mostly at the core it is i don't know whether we have to do that to attract and keep an audience. i just don't know. >> rose: then why do you do it? >> because of the competitive nature of the current marketplace of television, which is now seems like infin tilt-- infinite.
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you feel, you feel that that is required. and lord knows i don't know if it is required. but that's the feeling. that's the sense. it's got to be lively. >> rose: is it the feeling of you or your staff. >> everybody. and i think, i think we have contributed to this sadly. i think we've bit on our own bathe here. because when we first came on the air i mean every night we had, you know, hot air balloons going up in the audience. we had people jumping out of blimps. we had you know it was just nuts. but we thought you know, this was our one chance. we've got to load it up and go here. and i think that then the tonight show from that experience, i think they also decided, well look what these guys are doing. you know. >> rose: we have to do that plus. >> yeah, it reminds me a little bit of what happened in daytime television. donahue started doing this and everybody took it a little further until it collapsed. >> that's right. i think it's the same dynamic. and i wish i could tell you i was confident that that is the right way to do it and i don't know. i watch every friday night i get a chance to watch tom
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snyder who is on just after us. and when i see tom and when i see shows like this and some other shows i'm reminded, you know, that maybe what you really need here maybe all you really need is legitimate communication between two people chatting and people watching. and i don't know. >> rose: but you don't trust that for -- >> no, no i don't i don't. because i have read too many things about our show, you know, it is dull. it's old it's tired and you think well, well, yeah that's me. i'm here. >> yes present i'm dull i'm old i'm tired. tonight at 11:30. >> rose: what do all those writers do on your-- you've got what 15 years. >> i guess i don't know. good heavens. >> rose: do you know them. >> i have met most of them i met at the christmas part a lot of them come up and introduce themselves. >> oh, yeah i have been stealing supplies. >> rose: what is it they do? do they write the skits the monologue, do they write what? >> well yes yes in answer to your question. >> rose: and what do you do?
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>> i actually do very little. i actually do very little. >> rose: is that true. >> and it's just as well. >> rose: no, come on. you come in there this show is your life. >> yes. >> rose: as this is for me. i mean it is-- there is nothing you what would rather do. >> that's right. >> rose: and you are driven, obsessed to make it as good as you think it can be. >> that's right. and my influence on this production is as it has been for a long long time now the ultimate yes or no. and when you have really good people, are you going to get more yeses than noes. so that is my only contribution to this. is you know hopefully saying yes more often than i say no. >> rose: what dow enjoy the most about it? is it the monologue, is it the skit, is the interview? >> for me if something goes crazy, an one of two things can happen. if something breaks down something is not planned something untoward occurs t can go one of two ways it can go up or down. and when something happens something tiny something from the audience something from paul something for my
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guests, something just a spec on somebody's coat and when that turns into something huge, and then it will that little tiny thing dominates the rest of the show, for me that's the best. that's like cold fusion. it's like, you know come in here, what's the guy alexander, come in here you know that kind of thing. what's the guy's name. >> rose: for me, i don't know, the guy who discovered. >> the guy who invented the atomic telephone phone. >> rose: a all bert einstein. >> no, no alex ander gram bell you feel like look what we have created. >> rose: what time do you come into the office. >> my day gins i get up at dawn every day. and then i leave the house. >> rose: dow get up at dawn. >> an run to bridgeport, i go right up i-95. that is about a 60 mile round trip run. i come back have a breakfast, the pancakes the eggs. the bacon the toast medley, the jams the jelly. >> rose: of course you do. >> and then i shower off and drive to work. i try to get to work around 10 and then from 10:00 on
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it's a fistfight. and we get-- . >> rose: what do dow all day? ness. >> yes and no, yes and no no with that -- pretty much. >> rose: someone said to me just for the top ten list you've got 15-- and each of them make up a top ten list when you decide what the subject is going to be. and then you select the top ten. >> right. >> rose: yes? >> right. >> rose: no, no, no. >> yes, yes yes. >> right. >> rose: the top ten that ought to be brilliant every night. >> well, well it certainly is not. and-- but sometimes jeez, i just give you $1now if i could light this cigar charlie. look at this. it is like smokey the bear is coming in to show us how to build a camp fire. >> rose: i remember when sean penn was here. >> yeah, but sometimes unfortunately, like television you're always late. you're always late in television. by the time i get to work you know, i'm an hour late and that's just the way it goes. and sometimes things every day is the best compromise we can make. and sometimes the things,
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chips fall your way sometimes they don't. but the plane is taking off at 5:30 one way or the other. >> rose: celebrity doesn't mean an end to you. and in fact it is a distraction. >> the first thing that kind of got my attention years and years ago when i was first on the tonight show i recognized almost immediately the people, strangers in all walks of life that i would come in contact with were friendlier to me. friendly, nice considerate and behaved kind of the way you think people behave to people. but it was a dramatic change. and it was literally overnight. and it has been that way ever since. that part of it i just think is wonderful. because instead of being part of just a faceless group of people struggling with and against one another it invokes again some humanity. people are nice to me i'm nice to them. and sadly i don't think real life is like that. and this is to me the great benefit and luxury of being
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well-known. so i-- i enjoy it. i try not to abuse it. and i i do my best to be nice to people who are always nice to me. and i count myself really being lucky for that. because i can remember and i think everybody who is not fortunate enough to be well-known understands what this struggle is. you know people for no good reason sometimes just go out of their way to make your life unpleasant. but that all changed about 20 years ago. and i just think man if this was really the world, that would just be keen wouldn't it. >> rose: if we were all sell enrits. >> everybody happy everybody nice nice to see you nice to see you. it's contagious when they are nice to you you are nice back to them. >> rose: one of the things about being a broadcaster is you get to see your work product every night. think of the people who work every day and they don't get a chance. you build every day to 5:306789 i build every day to 6:00 i tape or even later than you do. and you get to see that night what you have crafted that day. >> but there are many other
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pursuits in the world that are like that. i always kind of liken our operation to a small restaurant. you know, you come in. you go to the market see what is available fresh put it together, get a menu and see if people like it and then the next day you look through the cash receipts and you know how you did. so it's not unique but it is satisfying, very satisfying. >> rose: they also say about you that you are enormously self-critical. that when things don't go right, you don't blame anybody but dave. >> well, that's being generous. you know sometimes i can-- . >> rose: you're impossible to live with. >> ultimately i accept the responsibility for everything that goes wrong. and it is like a guy driving a race car you know, they build the car, they put the engine in t they tune it fine-tune t adjust the heir dynamics, fuel flow, whatever. i go out and put it in a wall. every day i'm given the elements of a great car. and some stay-- some days because i'm human i just stack it up. and there's nothing more decision couraging. >> rose: stack it up against the wall. >> exactly.
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and knowing that the staff of 50 or 60 people have done their best every day and then they put me in the damn car and oh my gosh he's tapped the wall in turn four. so i feel like i'm you know i'm responsible. and i should be responsible. my name is on the credits. i get the big paycheck. it's me. >> rose: and so there it is a remarkable television journey, into the hearts of american television viewers ends after 33 years. david letterman will be remembered and missed and probably have a great life. for more about this program and earlier episodes visit us on-line at and charlie captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh
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this is "nightly business " with tyler mathisen an. >> battling back. two companies that faced big challenges show investors they have what it takes to top earnings expectations. >> hot market. weetl take you to one city in the u.s. where it's getting really hard to find a house. >> and wealth gap widens to a record between the rich and poor and now one group says it's holding back gr all that and more tonight on "nightly busines". >> good evening, everyone and welcome. the s&p 500 notched another record. the nasdaq just shy of one, but we begin tonight with earnings. expectations wer quarr profits, but the results as it turned out weren't as bad as expect


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