« Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations

David Letterman

2020-09-09 | 🔗

In 2013, Oprah Winfrey spoke with legendary late-night talk show host David Letterman at his alma mater, Ball State University, in Muncie, Indiana. No question is off-limits in this rare interview: David is candid about the public sex scandal that rocked his marriage; he speaks frankly about his relationships with "Tonight Show" hosts Johnny Carson and Jay Leno; he discusses his battle with depression; he also opens up about fatherhood. Plus, Oprah shares with David the true reason behind their 20-year feud.

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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Welcome to super soul, conversations the podcast. I believe that one of the most valuable gifts you can give yourself is time taking time to be more fully present your journey to become more inspired and connected to the deeper world around us start right now, four hundred and thirty, There is now five nights a week. The ends of American stay up past their bed time to catch David, Letterman's, Razor, sharp spin on the news of the day, his ground, breaking brand of offbeat humor brought us stupid, Patrick's out. Wages, gags pause however, in the world's most dangerous banned and the huge the popular top ten list tonight, I'm in the MID west. Town a month, Indiana home today, the Letterman's beloved alma mater ball. State University for
twenty years he's provided scholarships here too deserving broadcasting students. I met him on campus at the twenty one million dollars state of the art communications. Building that bears his name. What are you This is good very now given here? Look so thanks for rain to do it here, I think she's perfect place at will. Good good had been well, we get to see another side of you know. You know you could see the United in an era. I know day Z, anything so well
here at your alma mater Ballsy University in the David, let him in communication and media center. We just walked into this, but I know it's crazy is named after you name for me. Yes, this is something that I did for my mother of the President of the university join Goro. This was an idea that I believe she and my mother conspired to accomplish, have a building, they have done and- and I sort of felt like, but just wait till I drop dead and then ignore? What are we want after me, or name nothing after me, but it is now such incredible source of pride for me, and it is one of the great things in my life. So when you came here in nineteen, sixty five radio and television as a major certainly was not a popular career path. No, you chose it because, because I knew that I wanted to somehow be in broadcasting.
And when did you know that when I was a software and high school? David grew up in Indianapolis the only son of Joe a floors and Dorothy a church secretary, the middle? Child between two sisters: ass, a boy that eighteen fifties David than ours watching tv grades like Arthur, Godfrey, Steve, Alan and Johnny Carson. When did you first know you're funny? Well, I'm still waiting for the results, but you had to know somewhere in your conscious world conscious you knew you were funny. Dave will look like. I had a bunch of bodies, they were all funny, so it it didn't. It didn't seem like my father was the funny when he was the lightning rod. He got all the attention he was funny. My grandfather was funny, but I never have the confidence to say to anybody.
Look at this, I'm pretty funny, because an ever felt at what what did you first breakfasting job? Why work right here at the ready, assisting college Station W B S tea, I think, was the name of the colored realization. I, when I worked in television in India ATLAS, they didn't like me, and I had I had to sit there, it's hard to be on tv people, don't like you, as you know, I've done it. For thirty years, David Lee It is first job on tv as a local news anchor other man in Indianapolis. He also hosted a weekly late night movie fast. At eight Twenty eight he quit his job, I've been moved to LOS Angeles, he could. We found a home at the comedy store David to stand up skills next to another up. A calmer J Leno. David had his life altering moment when a tonight show producer booked him too form for his idle Johnny Carson. Do you remember it,
We were everything about it wherever they about, and I did. I did well and I got to go sit with Johnny and and it was, it was crazy, just crazy. You get that that surge of electricity that you think we got if this doesn't dissipate, how I will be asleep to labor, a I mean you it's like now, next to a ruined for then I will sit next to Johnny Carson, and this is this- that we're not kidding around now and I was lucky enough to get invited back and back and back so that was good. You became good Trent. Well, he was very sweet to me. He would invite me to his house. We would go out to dinner, but I was always nervous, I'm just I couldn't relax around it and because I knew that Johnny, head of love, relationship with alcohol and a couple of times we'd be out to dinner, and I saw him go to the vodka and then you get just
little edge kind of appear on. I thought I dont want to be around here. It's hopeless Johnny decides he's had enough Me is always doesn't like me: yeah yeah, I felt like a pretender, because I know wanted to disappoint him, I just If I say something stupid adios, do you think he was a kind of person? Anybody can ever really get to know? Well, I do I dont think that I ever really got to know him. I knew him from being on the show. I knew him from the few. Do you think you're the kind of guy people can get to know? I think, there's a group of people that I have worked with for thirty years, who I'm very, very, very comfortable with and around whom my behavior seems normal
just Dave, you bring an intern in person for what's going on and they get stories for the rest of their life. Really. Are you hard to work when you not harbour just peculiar procurator kill you get any peculiar. Some. Well, I remember of the internet. We have so many of them and in its always high bob I Kenny and We haven't had a barber work for US area, and so now, Bacon garage saw the first day on medium is call me Kenny. In nineteen anyone after thirty years of hosting that tonight show rumours leaked that late night, giant, John Carson was considering retirement. The news The high stakes battle Phil, Johnny's, coveted seat just days before Carson, confer empty was stepping down in BC. O J Leno he had won the late night Fight it led him and went on to strike. A multi million dollar deal would CBS his new show
tape in New York and air opposite jail enough for the past twenty years The two comic legends and rivals have gone head to head in the ratings, with an almost even split. So you see in all those years. Everybody expected you to be the air. Did you also in your somewhere in your subconscious? Think you would be the air not subconscious. I had a meeting and they said we want you to take John his job and were here's, how we're gonna do it? We just want to make sure that you are interested in this and and then we're gonna call the so and so and then, and we think that it would be a combination where you third, filling in and then eventually Johnny Gaza, so there
everywhere to two meetings at, and I finally said this is great, I said: have you told her? You mention this to Johnny Lesser will know him. Well mention this to Johnny, and I said well, you, like, I can't have this conversation until you. I know that it's ok with Johnny and at last I heard so it wasn't just me wanting in hoping there was a conversation had they had reached out to me, but I understand that what they wanted was completely self serving. They wanted to continue to maintain the show so that they can make a lot of money now what NBC wanted turned out to be something different, so I really can't complain about that. You know you can't for somebody to want you did you think you deserve to have that spot deserve no should have had.
Was disappointed that I didn't get, but I, but I never thought I never felt something had been ripped from my hands. That's a fairy enter. Ok, so you know there is an assumption over the years had because you didn't get it and J Leno did that. That's where the rivalry between the two of you started. Is that true, no no j- and I were friends- we're always friends before all of this happened. He has a way he's an unusual fellow. I've never met anyone quite like Jay, and I will say, and I'm happy to say that I think, is the funniest guy I've ever known just flat out. If you go to see him, do his nightclub back to just the funniest, the smartest, wonderful observations it just stand and very appealing as a comic there, for the fact that he is also may be the most insecure person I have ever known. I could never reckoned.
You're the best. Why are you doing things too to support this insecurity? Everything? Why does your insecure to not to the degree this man is this? This is that it has documented as hiding in a closet while they having a business meeting it NBC to decide who would get the tonight churches of time not hidden incline. For that purpose I found myself sadly in clause as if it were not for that purpose, ass for them. So your reason for the rivalries because of his jays insecurity, well, how it manifests itself and that's all I want to say about that, because I just tell you this: when we were all kids- and I do still thing- Our friends, I would he thinks so too, I think so will I think so, because I got too much on him. It's not worth it when he and I were kids and somebody would go like the reference year
you didn't do well. J would come ABC Lariata, my manager. No, I didn't I gotta take back and ask about back, would take a look at it and any would invite you back to watch one of our fellow comics bomb and it was just like OJ stuff Oh that's so. Does that mean that the when we did the Superbowl spot? What two or three years ago you hadn't like communicated years and years and years was that awkward for you now is great because, as he and I discussed, then our way of life at the comedy store guess is exactly the way you would think it would be for a group of comics. It was tinged with them, sarcasm and ugliness an insult, but everybody loved, we thrived yeah. We could call each other names, we could steal each other's jokes. We
make fun of each other's girlfriends and this and that and this, and that you take that out of the comedy store and all of a sudden, oh, my god, it's civil war. We can't believe it, but the truth of it is the way Jay and I have behaved toward each other is the way comics tend to behave toward Got it more of this conversation in just a moment today? episode is supported by better help online counselling if you think you may be depressed or you're feeling anxious stressed or overwhelmed better help, offers online licensed professional councillors, who are trained to listen and help talk with your councillor in a safe and private online environment, or convenience for more ever you're, comfortable, better help. Councillors have expertise in a broad range of areas, such as anxiety, grief, difficulty, sleeping anger, family conflicts and more better. I can give you access to help that may not be available in your area is simple. Fill out a questionnaire to help assess your specific needs and get matched with a councillor in under forty eight hours.
Easily schedules secure video or phone sessions with her therapist plus exchange unlimited messages, everything you share as confidential. You can request a new counselor at any time at no additional charge join the one million plus people seeing an experienced better health professional in back, so many people are using better help that their currently recruiting additional councillors and all fifty states that help is an affordable option and our listeners get ten percent off your first month with a discount code. Super saw gets, already today, at better help, dot com, slashed super, saw better? Eighty lp dot com, Slash super saw talk to it there. Best online and get help. David Letterman met his wife, Regina when she was a production manager for his show. They were together for twenty three, Here's an already had a five year old son
They were married by a justice of the peace in Montana, so have there been times when you would set saying coming into this building, it's a big. It is an ego trip to have your name on the building, but had there been times in, your ego got the best tribute Dave all at all, I think all the time I can remember as a kid showing off having the run pulled out from under undermine numerous times and that stays with you. I have a very low threshold of embarrassment and That's the way I am, and I dont know that, there's a cure for that, but I think that is an interesting. You have a low threshold for embarrass. You might get. You have no problem, embarrassing. Other people do you go.
There you go when is that day? I don't owe you and I and my psychiatrist get together. We'll have a conversation on exactly that point. Yeah. Do you see a psychiatrist? Yes, I do regularly is once a week regulars here. What do you still need to figure out Oh, my goodness Oprah is a lot of stuff. You know a lot of stuff, I still feel like you need to heal or work well I'll tell you something you could share with for a long time. I thought I was a decent guy, but yet thinking that I was a decent guy, I was still capable of behaviour that didn't wasn't coincidental to living a decent life and then that's what I'm working. I I I want. I want to really be the
personally. I believe that I was, I wanna, be a good person. I want you to believe you were. I believed I was a good person, but yet I was capable of behaviour inconsistent with somebody who is a good person, and you can't eradicate the record, but going forward. You can not be that way again. So that's that's what I've been working? Are you talking about having sex or affairs with people in your office? Is that we are talking about non target about stealing cars? Ok,. Of that. The landed David at the centre of a very public sex scandal just six months after He married Regina David came clean to his wife and his. Who revealing on his show that over the years he had sex with women who work for him. Having lived through that sex scandal, I realized wait a minute.
Get your just say, sex scandal Dave you wanna, get through your whole life and not have the word sex scandal attached to your name throat yet, but you didn't make it did not make it have no one to blame, but myself and now I feel I feel better about myself. My relationship with my wife is never better and it's just because I want to be the person. I always thought I was and probably was pretending I was, and so far it's it's great good. Things have been great. I heard a lot of people. I have nobody to blame, but myself I'm not looking to blame anybody, I'm looking to find out why I behave the way I behave. I mean I can only imagine what's going on behind the zones, did you do have? Handlers
Is the result of being handled the heavy hand of there's only do your handlers come in safety, I mean. How does that news come to you? That's quite a bad day. I still think if you're gonna have a flow chart of the responsibility for this circumstance, the sex scandal. Yes, my name's at the top and much of what it means, but I'm taking responsibility for trying to atone for it and in atoning fort you eliminate that behaviour and apologize to the poor. You hurt going forward. There's not much more. You can do. Was that one of the hardest days of your life when you're standing behind the curtain, wherever you stand before you come out when you know you're going to now quote confessed to the country about what has happened there was there was
It was stuff, but I will tell you something that debts in the back of my mind, this give you an idea of the extent the breadth and with what a weasel I could be. I I was thinking. Maybe I can make this. Maybe I can get the little sympathy out of this deal Harry and how will you I think I was probably hoping that, rather than being the actual the one who is guilty, I thought maybe I could generate some service. So that is all too well so data, but tell me how you change. It did inclusion, because you were later people later said that it was remarkable. The way you handled it. But how did you come to the conclusion I'm going to face the music I'm going to tell the truth? How was it without? Was that lot to people in on that discussion, or mostly, was that
conversation led by you. Well, it was you know I had friends when I talk to about it, but I dont know what my choices were. What pretended it's not happening and a lot of people like you know, a lot of people lie and say yes, but the end result. So far, a work in progress was telling Regina the hardest. You well yeah. That's not that's not a good day, but you know here we are think she'd stay with you through the whole thing don't know was was uncertain at the time was inserted. Wasn't certain at the time. Did you have to sleep on the couch ice
I slept of wide variety of place. How did you make it? There are still trying to fix it hasn't got away in a lever, go away. She's been tremendous. She's got great courage, she issue greatly intelligent and how did you read gain her trust eyes? What I'm still doing? I'm still doing it each and every day in big ways and small ways and and get the reward of of the nature of relationship. I never experience and for my life, nor did, I ever think was possible. Did did it bring you closer. Absolutely absolutely. We went through this together. We have that in common and I'm tellin you she it's great light. My life is, is fun and
and full of joy. Now that it, I only pretending that before well. So how about that about exactly do one of these so she's forgiven you she has forgiven me, have you for giving you know. No, I don't. I don't have that luxury. I have to figure out what I did why I did it and live with it, but I can't forgive that behavior. I would like I said, I'm at the top of the flowchart. It's it's my fault. Everything. But any anything that pushes you in the right direction can't be such a bad thing right right, because This happened, you now you're going to therapy once a week you ve opened up in ways. You just said it. That's it Dave, that's our whole life is more joy. That's right! Would you say that as a result of this incident, you are now
to feel more joint working on yourself. All credit. All credit to my wife, though, because you gotta give someday yourself are working on yourself. Ok give it to you. So thank you over her. Mind, Regina the, but all press, sad! Ok, so you know you have you eat you have had. Certainly in the past, you gained a reputation for mocking celebrities during interviews. I don't mean to be mean, but I became very mindful of that and tried to cut back on it, but if its land right there, you gotta take a shot. It though I mean you can't let it go. That's a comedian and you were the. If that constitutes Vienna comedian YO, Yeah, a wise ass, a wise it well like one walking Phoenix comes on yeah and you know I look at him and I know he knows that. I know that it's halloween that none of this is real.
In two thousand nine actor were Keen Phoenix made a bizarre appearance on the Letterman show he appeared to be confused used and on drugs. No one knew The whole thing was a joke of David was in on it or of what came is really having a very public breakdown by keen Later revealed that his odd behavior was all a hoax did, you know before, though they said lookout, Wakeen Phoenix and his buddy Ben Affleck or Ben Affleck's brother who's at brother Larry, Jerry Van Affleck? I don't know if they're doing anything and good luck, and so to that end, and so, when I came out, I just thought well. This is like a light work out on the on the speed bang. It was ass. If what you, what were you? and on the jungle. What everybody wants to know you, and on that I knew there was a joke, but I was not in on it and once I look there then I realized all bets are off. Let's go to work us. It couldn't possibly be that famous line
I just come out everyday waits for not being here line. Just came out of. Nowhere did you have fun, I loved. I just love, and I got such a kick out of him because I thought this is great. You're willing to ruin your career to come out here and and pretend this and I get to be a part of you get to play. We get the player out to play. Sunday have been times when you'd like I should apologies and think you did an apology to Rachel. In an apology to Justin Bieber, not an apology, but you absolutely, I gotta made just a beaver cry and I feel bad about that, but I don't think I did the kid can take a punch. I liked the kid he is really pretty good, but some happened? How do you know what was alive and Hu Jia? Maybe you forget that their only those sixteen you forget that their lives now eighteen, but he was a kid, and so here I am. Why is there not a sixteen year? I now often arrive. I felt awful about it and then we were reassured that he was here. I saw the apology that you made to surveillance daughter. It seems that you were genuinely
Apologetic there after Sarah Palin attended in New York, Yankees game with a fourteen year old daughter, Willow, David cracked, sex joke about it. Baseball player and the young girl Letterman says he
Sarah Palin was with her all this daughter Bristol who made headlines when she became pregnant and aged seventeen. Why did you apologize Ottawa? I apologize. I felt like Sarah Palin was somebody I wanted to continue to be able to make fun of, and I felt like it. I dont apologise. If I dont sincerely express my regret, I will not be able to go forward making fun of her and truly, I feel bad for the fourteen year old. That was just like nice gone. You got the wrong daughter that was just dumb was stupid, joke that fell on the dumb luck and got worse. Does in father, you in general, or specifically, if you have hurt someone feelings with a joke as it bother you as you have heard. Yes and yes, it has an and many times I have called people who apologize. Will
But I did have followed, shows the poor parents home because she says I ll talk about anything but being in jail, and I said well, that's all I want to talk about it, and so we we ran at two or three questions deepened in oh shit. Now she starts to do this God here we go so I call on apologize to her. That's just scratching. The surf. Helpful cake would be all day if we went to the last year, but I do feel bad about it, but it sir it's just a man her self control I wouldn't have this is true. Not did you actually think I was angry with you, or did it make a better job? as far as I know, the genesis of this people still think we have a feud going well. I want them to think
No, I did for a while. You did because it was. It was great for me when we, when I would beg you about come on the show yet, for our big laughed everybody all straight. You did. How did this start actually. You know I think it was? It was one time we were coming to do the shown Chicago. Yes, and I called you never forget this. I got you on the phone and you you you boy get me a new said ah well really should get it done was called me a hard line so that all embarked Ethiopia s eye
I should also have- or I didn't- I Didn'T- get beyond hello and I've pissed off so then I said over we're doing a change in Africa or we would love for you to be on the show. I am totally out of town. I am totally out of town so and so that that's what in my mind, that's where it was. Let me tell you what my memories which like to him. Yes, you had asked me before to do you in Chicago, and I did you in Chicago it's on record. I did you and chicken and it was a terrible experience for me. It was a terrible experience. The guy in the audience started yelling. Dave and you were sort of getting the audience there. A bunch of drunk guys down the front- and I was trying to like you know, mitigate the whole thing and it felt so uncomfortable to me that I didn't want to have that experience again. That's really all it was for me. I just didn't wanna, be well in that
Cable surrendering lily and I apologise because you don't even have to apologize you'd, never registered to me that that would be offensive. Nor do I- Remember the episode you don't take. People have schedule just doing what you do right. But you are using them all men in the guys, we're all going gather it. I didn't I didn't know, but of course it would be helpful, Surprise you here now I got you know it was just Even over the years when you were doing, though, per come on the show. Gale, who you know best friend and was saying you should do it. You should do it ago. You were not in that room. You did not. Well, I'm a more than embarrassed and I'll bet. If I had the courage to look at that videotape, it would sickened me and I'm and I'm sorry, I'm very sorry Don t. Well, I am, I am sorry we had experience
but that's what it was for me. Ok and it wasn't about now all those who make up. Thank you. I hope we can put this beyond the sulphur. Let us do it done far as I am done done. So how did having a sun shift? You. Did achieve something in Tiny- it's my making that I know you don't make it at all and I feel stupid talking about a because how many people are there on the planet. Seven seven billion yes have so so everybody goes through that, but it happens that that switches, throne and the window opens up in your heart and the sun shines in- and I know that's corny, but there's no turn that off Did exist today and little exist till the day I drop dead for light away. I'm haven't chest pain is now I'm laughing. That's actually right.
But you're the first one to check done that before a nobody bothered right cause, we can stop tape. If that is the case, is I've read about your struggle with depression? Yeah, do you still get depressed I never knew what the pressure was. I knew what kind of sad to do. I'm kind of blue today orgies the reds lost. I knew that this I'm tellin you is, Get on an elevator in the bottom drops out and you you'd in you, you can't stand looking at the sunlight. You, you can't wait to get back in bed at night. You eat your shaking your ear shivering, and I went through this for about six months and home, my god. How are you able to work if he D been depressed? I just push through which I had to push through. Could I funny well as financial can when you're depressed, but it's a sink hole and and and people who have gone through it know exactly. What I am talking to.
It's a sinkhole and you think you're not coming out of it. You really think you're not coming out of it. I was amazed by it. I was amazed by the chemical mechanism in your brain that can just drop you. Like that Germany has drawn the abyss. Yes and yet is Somebody tell me, you know what we were given these chemicals, these serotonin and whatever else dopamine and so forth, because
If we didn't have them, the world would scare the crap out of us absolutely saw I I don't know if that's true or not, but it when I was depressed it made sense. Did it also bring to you a sense of compassion for other people into idea of making more compassionate gap, because I always thought, ah, your dress go. Do some push up you'll feel much better, but it's not that it's not that. I have to ask you this. You always remembered for the top ten list. We finish this sentence. The number one reason David Letterman has the extraordinary life that he has is number one reason missing a chromosomes. I dont know if you ve had to Dave. I don't know you ve had these moments, where you ve been introspective for fear where you just say
look at my life. This is this is a really huge, extraordinary life right. I've created for myself and the reason this is all happen to me is well. I don't know, I can't leave council to finish. I don't know what to say, Regina. I have this conversation from time to time and that the thing is what I've taken away from this with Regina. Yes, we'll go down this road and shall say think about this. Thirty years, thirty plus years you ve given jobs to all these people. Yes, and so I think right I'll. Take that that's good, I'm proud of that. I am very proud of that. Yes, that's! As far as it goes, let's get lunch. Scandal
That was fun I'm over Winfrey and you ve been listening to supersede conversations the pod cast. You can follow superficial on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook if you haven't yet go to apple pod, callous and subscribe rate and reviews. This pledge gas join me next week for another supersede conversation. Thank you for listening.
Transcript generated on 2020-09-09.