There are two kinds of people in the world: Letterman people and Leno people.
Jay Leno is a funny guy, and he has bits that make me chuckle, but I mourn where he’s taken The Tonight Show from what it once was. This television tradition now feels like a bowl of bland jello, and it remains to be seen if Conan O’Brien will be able to restore any of its former glory.
David Letterman, to me, is the heir to the great lineage of talk show tradition. It’s ironic, because in his NBC days he was seen as the reckless young agitator, but today he is the elder statesman. Though he’s taken on a more conventional role in some ways, he’s now in a position where he doesn’t have to care what other people say or do.
If you need any evidence that Letterman is at the top of his game, witness the train wreck that was last night’s interview with Joaquin Phoenix. In one of the most bizarre and uncomfortable moments ever seen on television, you can observe Letterman at the beginning of the interview almost debating whether or not to swoop in for the kill on this actor who is obviously just completely gone. It doesn’t take Dave long to decide, what the hell, I’m going for it.
Check out the full interview below, and this page has other great moments from Letterman’s past that have him serving as ringmaster for some mind-bogglingly odd television moments.