My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman Netflix
Mostly, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction” is about David Letterman’s beard. The bushy protuberance is a 6-to-8 inch addition to Letterman’s face, and seems to be the threshold between the host of “The Late Show” — who retired in 2015 — and the roving, eccentric interviewer he has since become. Letterman’s CBS persona didn’t have room for the beard, and whatever the beard might represent. His Netflix persona has so much facial hair it’s a topic of conversation. President Barack Obama jokes about it, as does Letterman’s second interviewee, George Clooney; Letterman mocks it himself while at home with Clooney’s parents in Augusta, Ky. (I don’t know yet if Malala Yousafzai, his guest for the third episode airing in March, has the same sense of humor — but I wouldn’t put it past her.) It’s like the beard is a wardrobe change, an icebreaker, and the elephant in the room; to notice the beard is to notice that Letterman, in 2018, has changed.
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction” will debut new hourlong episodes monthly — starting with this morning’s premiere episode, featuring Letterman’s interview with former President Obama. (Future episodes will feature Yousafzai, Tina Fey, Jay Z, and Howard Stern.) It’s a coup for the show, and for Netflix, to have snagged Obama’s first talk show interview since his departure from office. It’s also a high bar to set with the first episode of a new series; Obama is such an unlikely, singular interview subject. But at least a few things are immediately evident. First, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction” is going long: An hourlong episode means a lot of facetime with a guest, even if the interviews are broken up with produced segments. Second, Letterman’s Netflix series is almost entirely about private citizens acting for the public good. His emphasis in speaking to Obama is not about the reach of public office as much as it is about how change of any sort ends up arising from the actions of interested individuals. Clooney’s episode, which would otherwise be a cut-and-dry Hollywood profile, takes a surprising turn when Letterman visits Clooney’s hometown and meets the young, painfully earnest Iraqi refugee they helped resettle.And maybe most importantly, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction” is Letterman’s repudiation of Trumpism — in the form that he is most comfortable in, in a medium that he is, arguably, a master of. To be sure, it’s hard to make anything that is even remotely high-minded that isn’t a repudiation of Trump — that bar is so very low, and getting lower.