David Letterman is back and channeling Rick Rubin with his new Netflix series, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.”
Although Stephen Colbert is currently dominating late night ratings in Dave’s old spot at CBS, Letterman is jumping back into the talk show game with quite a muscular initial flex. Our president, Barack Obama, graced Dave with his swaggering presence for his first interview.
Lately, the Trump administration has been a source of layup jokes for late night comedians, but, by bringing on Barry, Dave is giving us the tempered rhetorical roast that we really needed. This interview is the left side of a presidential Venn diagram filled with dozens of adjectives like “cool,” “classy,” “articulate,” “paternal,” “witty,” and “suave,” while the words occupying the middle are “president” and “bronze.”
Here’s the ten moments that will send you down a wistful Obama nostalgia trip:
The Longest Curve
The episode starts with a clip from Letterman’s old show from May 2015, where Barry waxes poetic about playing dominoes in his eventual time off. Then, we cut to a bearded Dave making a call to Barack to set up an interview after two long years. Dave hangs up the phone, praises Barack’s politeness, and claims it sounds like a “No.” Even though Barack is no longer president, it’s safe to assume he’s still pretty busy running his foundation, throwing out all his ties, and cocoa buttering Michelle’s legs. Obviously, Barack would eventually make it happen, but let’s take solace in the fact that Barry still has to pencil David Letterman in.
The Obama Strut
We haven’t seen much of Barry outside of random footage of him spelunking with Richard Branson and Tom Hanks, but watching him strut across that stage, to the roar of white applause, elicits memories of a less politicized time where at least we could all agree our president could steal your girl. He even threw in some classic Obama, “Thank you’s” that sound like he’s eating Jolly Ranchers. For old times’ sake.
Dave notes that Barack found his glow during the aforementioned vacation in the British Virgin Islands. Barack retorts by asking him how he spent his initial time off from his show and lets the colored vocalism, IOWNO, (“I don’t know”) slip. It’s presumably kin to UEONO and definitely brought about by spending more time at home with Michelle and the Robinson family.
Barack doesn’t discuss Michelle too much, but when he does, he reminds us why she should definitely consider taking Oprah up on that VP offer. He warmly explains how she purposely made an effort to shape American lives for the better as First Lady, despite the fact that “First Ladies don’t get paid.” And later, after Dave chides Barack about returning to the Oval Office, Barack replies, “If not for the Constitution, it would be Michelle.”
Just the fleeting possibility of Michelle Obama being president got the crowd buzzing like Dave said there was a Fenty Beauty pop up after the show. Barack had to shut it down and clarify that he wouldn’t want to be president again, because Michelle would leave him for a Saudi prince.
President Trump being unpopular is not breaking news, but Dave is on a mission to make sure you never ever mistake Trump with Barack Obama. How does he do it? With some beautifully messy leading questions like:
“How big of a setback is the current administration?” and “ What’s the biggest challenge to democracy, the head of the democracy diminishing the press or someone screwing around with the electoral process?”
He even manages to ask Congressman John Lewis if Barack would’ve been at the Selma Bridge crossing. Two points for Dave putting on his Obama cape and soaring high.
“Teach, Don’t Reach”/ Liberal Enrapture
One of the knocks people loved to say about Barack was that he was too “professorial,” and in professorial fashion he dropped gems throughout this interview. When Barack references Senator Patrick Monahan’s quote, ”Sir, you are entitled to your opinion, but not your own facts,” the crowd sits in hushed, Wimbledon-esque silence.
Then, a Fox News crack and the crowd cheers. The applause alley-oops were plentiful and rightfully indulgent.
“Mr. President, get back to the office!”….Raucous applause.
“Work to train the next generation of leaders to bring about change”….Cheers, chants, and hollers.
“It makes me so happy you were the president”….Fervent milly rocking and prostrate white liberals catching the Holy Ghost. (May or may not be true)
Obama’s Single mother story.
A common motif of the urban plight is the single mother railing against the ills of some ain’t shit dude that ditches her. Subsequently, the child suffers. The mother has the child switch schools, or moves from Hawaii to Indonesia with her new man, in Barack’s case. Luckily for him, Anne Dunham managed to place his father in a positive light.
“My mother was very generous in telling stories that put him in the best light and not the bad ones,” he says.
To all the single mothers with strained relationships with their child’s father, a little positivity could make your child president. (Probably not)
The show takes at least 10-minute detour to get the audience very much woke. Dave could’ve easily used this program to stunt on us broke boys like a bearded Jerry Seinfeld, but the production team took a moment to include a segment with John Lewis and Dave walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. They also included plenty of archival footage and photos from the infamous Bloody Sunday and, eventually, ended with Obama’s speech at the bridge, accompanied with a light touch of sermon organ.
Obama’s Dad Face
At one point, parenting becomes a topic. Dave talks about his son’s use of “devices”, and Barack details the sad ritual of building an IKEA lamp with an Alan wrench while seeing Malia offseason. At 43:08, Dave sets up a story by prefacing it with, “I have a story about Malia that I haven’t told anyone.” And he sort of leaves it there. Considering the tone and cordiality of the interview, obviously what Dave has to say will be benign, but apparently referencing his daughter at all puts Barack into Dad mode, and his face becomes imbued with the spirit of the Uncle Phil. It could just be edited that way, but for a moment, Barack’s deep id had to be restrained from hemming Dave up.
“It’s petty. So petty.”
Dave not only gets points for his splendid philly beard but also for how tired he is of the games being playing in the political world. Dave lets out this gem when Barack starts schooling these youths on the history of voter disenfranchisement in America. Dave’s allegiances clearly lie on the right side of history, and he blesses Barack with, “You are the first president I truly and fully respect,” at the end of the show.