David Letterman’s return to TV will feature Barack Obama on new Netflix show

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NEW YORK, NY – MAY 21: David Letterman speaks onstage at The 75th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street on May 21, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Peabody)

Netflix announced Friday the official title, guest list and release date of their new original show that will serve as David Letterman’s first television series since stepping down as host of CBS’s “Late Show” in May of 2015.

“My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman” will debut on the streaming service this January 12.  The Letterman-hosted show will release only one episode this month, with five more episodes being released each subsequent month of 2018.  This is rare for Netflix, which usually releases a full season of a show at once to cater to the binge-watch culture that it helped to popularize.

Netflix wrote in a press release that each episode will focus on an hour-long conversation between Letterman and “one extraordinary figure whom Dave finds fascinating.”  The interviews will take place in different locations and contexts, “both inside and outside a studio setting.”  Each interview will be accompanied by field segments where Letterman will explore different locations to express “his curiosity and desire to dig deeper on a specific topic related to the iconic guest featured in the episode.”

The first guest to appear on the show will be none other than President Barack Obama.  The interview will “serve as Obama’s first television talk show appearance since leaving office.”

Barack Obama was a frequenter of the late-night talk show circuit throughout his presidency and presidential candidacy.  He became the first sitting president to be a guest on a late-night show when he appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in March of 2009.  Media outlets found President Obama’s appearances on late-night shows to be politically valuable.  His several effective late-night appearances resulted in him becoming a tastemaker, as several of the 2016 presidential candidates followed suit and appeared on various late-night shows during the campaign.

President Obama appeared on the “Late Show with David Letterman” eight times throughout Letterman’s tenure on CBS and was the first sitting president to appear on the show.  On his last appearance in May of 2015, which followed the news that Letterman would soon be leaving the show, President Obama told Letterman, “I am so honored to be one of your last guests.”

Netflix also announced that the show, which was produced by the New York City based production company, RadicalMedia, and Letterman’s production company, Worldwide Pants, will also include episodes that feature guests George Clooney, Malala Yousafzai, Jay-Z, Tina Fey and Howard Stern.

Since Letterman ended his 33-year-long run in late-night — the longest tenure ever for a late-night host — he has mainly stayed out of the spotlight.  He was occasionally spotted in public after departing the “Late Show,” each time sporting a long, white beard.  Many speculated that his beard was an indicator that he had found a comfort and happiness with retirement.  However, a few months after leaving his show, he delighted audience members of Steve Martin and Martin Short’s stage show A Very Stupid Conversation” when making a surprise appearance in July of 2015.

While on stage, Letterman said “I retired, and…I have no regrets. I was happy. I’ll make actual friends. I was complacent. I was satisfied. I was content, and then a couple of days ago Donald Trump said he was running for president. I have made the biggest mistake of my life, ladies and gentlemen.”  Letterman then went on to deliver a “Top Ten List,” a bit that was a daily staple of his late-night show, titled “Interesting Facts about Donald Trump,” that mocked the then presidential candidate.  Prior to the guest list of Letterman’s new Netflix show being released Friday, the talk-show host had said that he wanted to have President Donald Trump as a guest, as well as Kim-Jung Un.

Letterman made a few other public appearances after departing from his late-night show.  He performed at the 75th anniversary of the United Service Organizations (USO) party at Joint Base Andrews with other comedians Jon Stewart, Judd Apatow, John Mulaney, Mike Birbiglia, Kristen Schaal, Hasan Minhaj and Jeff Ross in May of 2016.  The comedians performed for members of the military, President Barack Obama and First-Lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, in a show that focused on thanking the military for their service.

He also served as a celebrity correspondent on the climate change documentary show “Years of Living Dangerously” in October of 2016.  He also was interviewed in December of 2016 by future “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman” guest, Tina Fey, for The Hollywood Reporter.  The two comedians discussed parenting, performing and television.

The Kennedy Center also gave Letterman the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor where he was honored by Jimmy Kimmel, Steve Martin, Martin Short, Norm McDonald, Eddie Vedder, Jimmie Walker, Amy Schumer, Bill Murray, Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, John Mulaney and Paul Shaffer in October of 2017.  The ceremony was later televised on PBS in November of 2017.

Letterman also made a brief return to late-night television in October of 2017; however, instead of sitting behind the desk as a host, he was a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live.  He talked to Kimmel about giving Conan O’Brien a horse as a gift, revealed some of the things he misses most about being a late-night host, and shared some stories about life after his show.

Netflix first announced that they would be collaborating with David Letterman for a future show in August of 2017, with a vague description that the show would feature guests and various segments.  The first time Letterman talked about his plans for the show in more detail was weeks after Netflix’s announcement on “The Howard Stern Show.”  It was then that he asked Stern to be a guest on his then untitled show, which Stern agreed to.  Letterman revealed that Jerry Seinfeld’s show “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” was a significant inspiration in making him decide to do the Netflix show.  He even stated, “God forbid Jerry can’t do his show… just give it to me.”

During the interview, it appeared that Letterman was still incubating plans for what the Netflix show would be.  “One of my big advantages in life is ignorance,” Letterman told Stern. “If you’re ignorant, there’s nothing you can’t ask a person.”

It appears that this confessed ignorance was the kernel for the show that will focus on Letterman putting himself in different contexts that he is unfamiliar with and wants to learn more about.

Letterman also expressed his excitement to work with Netflix and RadicalMedia during the interview with Stern and said, “I think it’s gonna be great and it’ll probably be the last thing I do, so I want it to be great.”