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From the David Letterman archive

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Crushing objects with an 80 ton hydraulic press? Delegate your mother, not a sports journalist at all, to the Olympics? Hiring the drive-thru of a burger restaurant? Last February David Letterman inaugurated a YouTube channel dedicated to his unforgettable follies. The print spoke with Barbara Gaines, executive producer and unwitting star of the shows of the most famous presenter of top 10 of the small screen.

Posted at 7:00

Domenico late

Domenico late
The print

In February 1982, when he was assigned the 12:30 hours slot by NBC, soon after Show tonight by Johnny Carson, David Letterman is a young comedian who has enjoyed esteem (but not audience) success with a morning show – imagine it in the same box as Marie-Claude Barrette – airing since October 1980 for just 18 weeks.

Although Carson was Letterman’s mentor, the king of late night shows imposes a number of constraints on the rookie. In particular, he will be forbidden to present a monologue and draw from the same pool of category A guests. These are the guidelines they will provide Late Night with David Letterman some of its most subversive qualities.

Where Carson’s show modeled its vibe on that of a chic night out for adults, his later counterpart also enjoyed himself with an irony that sometimes bordered on the animosity of the reverence with which their elders treated the television medium. The talk show thus alternates an interview with a young actress in front of whom the sarcastic Letterman makes no effort to appear interested, a childish segment during which the host wears a velcro suit before throwing himself on a wall and another during the which pushes some of his staff under the light.

Among these employees: Barbara Gaines, who has worked with Letterman since the beginning (he was 23 in 1980, he was 33) and who was often asked to leave her seat, behind the scenes, to come and speak, almost against her will. , with the man with an eternally youthful smile.


PHOTO SUPPLIED BY WALTER KIM

Walter Kim, Barbara Gaines and David Letterman, in the YouTube offices in New York

“I never wanted to appear on screen, which is why Dave wanted to put me on screen. He is attracted to what people don’t want. He loved the discomfort “, said recently in the course of a videoconference interview the one who, at the time when the Late show with David Letterman left the air in May 2015, held the position of executive producer (executive producer).

“He never wanted to hire professional actors to act in sketches. So the crew members were perfect candidates, ”Barbara continues speaking of her friend’s contempt for everything that came out too much on the show. “But there is also that in NBC days, and that speaks volumes about Dave’s generosity, we got more money when we showed up on camera. Dave knew that.”

The pleasure of ridicule

The top 10 anthologies, interviews with regulars like Bill Murray, Jennifer Lawrence or Martin Short, performances by the greatest musicians, absurd sketches starring Dave, as well as Biff Henderson, his set manager, or Rupert Jee, the owner of the sandwich counter who it is located next to the Ed Sullivan Theater. Launched last February, David Letterman’s YouTube channel collects legendary tracks from his three shows, but also tries to keep up with the news.

“It is important for us to please the fans by releasing the biggest hits, but we try to think about what is happening in the world right now and attach old clips to it, which makes this content relevant again,” says Walter Kim. who oversees the channel for Wordwide Pants, Letterman’s production company. In particular, he refers to interviews with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Senator John McCain, in which they discussed Vladimir Putin’s malicious ambitions towards Ukraine.

By grappling with the Herculean task of watching more than 6,000 hours of television, Walter Kim will have seen the freedom his boss has claimed for himself, but also the timelessness of many of his most memorable, purely youthful ideas.


PHOTO DAMON WINTER, NEW YORK TIMES ARCHIVE

David Letterman, before one of his latest shows at CBS, in April 2015

There is this expectation today in the world of late night shows: it is absolutely necessary to comment on the news, at all times. It’s great in many ways, but there seems to be perhaps a little less room for more absurd humor, which wouldn’t be political in any way.

Walter Kim

Bearded veteran Sasquatch, as well as launching a fourth season of his long interview series on Netflix in May My next guest needs no introductionoccasionally spinning animated capsules with irresistible candor by Barbara Gaines, in which the duo jokes about Will Smith’s fist in Chris Rock or Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter.

But it’s once again the less current cartoons, in which Barbara explores photos of rocks that look like food (you read that right) on Dave’s tablet, which bring to mind the great Letterman night.

“I think it mostly comes down to how much he enjoys spending time at the YouTube venue,” laughs Barbara, who was retired before he was asked to help with the repair job last fall. value of these records. “He was in the office with me and Walter one day and he said, ‘Gaines, we’re recording something.’ I said, ‘No, we’re not going to record anything,’ but we did it anyway and now he’s hooked. But he really doesn’t need me. ”

“He definitely needs you. You have a natural understanding “, retorts Walter, who remembers being nervous about meeting Barbara Gaines who lived there on his first day in the team at Late show with David Letterman, in 1993. “You know, Barbara, that until Dave retires, you can’t fully retire? ”

“My God! He exclaims. And now that he has understood we can use Enlarge, I feel like I’m not done. ”

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