It started exactly the same way it ended for David Letterman.
There he came on stage at the Ed Sullivan Theater on Monday night, received a standing ovation and chanted “Da-vid!” Raised slogans. Da-vid!”
The only difference this time was that Mr. Letterman, in full gray beard, was a guest on “The Late Show,” and Stephen Colbert, its host since 2015, escorted him to a chair that was not behind a desk.
“Stephen,” Mr. Letterman said, sitting down. “Control your people!”
Mr. Letterman’s appearance on “The Late Show” — the series he started for CBS in 1993 and hosted until Mr. Colbert replaced him — is something of one of the strangest mysteries in show business. Brought the solution: Why won’t he accompany his successor?
Mr. Letterman has been in the news since leaving his late-night show. He hosts his own Netflix long-form interview show, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction,” and has appeared on several other shows. He’s done Jimmy Kimmel abc show many Times, Seth Meyers’s late Show, ellen degeneres daytime Talk Show, Howard Stern’s radio show, Dax Shepard’s podcast, Marc Maron’s podcast, Conan O’Brien podcast, Even he did Busy Phillips podcast,
All of those appearances made his absence from Mr. Colbert’s show even more glaring. After all, it’s a late-night television tradition for top luminaries to meet their successors.
jay leno has joined Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show”. john stewart met his successor, Trevor Noah, on “The Daily Show”. Mr. Letterman, then at rival CBS, In, Met Mr. O’Brien On “Late Night,” the 12:30 a.m. NBC show he created a decade ago.
Was it very difficult for Mr. Letterman to return to the Ed Sullivan Theater?
Was it the fact that it took less than two years for Mr. Colbert to become the most-watched host of late night, a designation that eluded Mr. Letterman during most of his run?
Or was something else going on?
In a 2015 interview with The New York Times, Mr. Letterman said he was initially troubled by the fact that he was not consulted about who would replace him. He was also surprised that Mr. Colbert was selected so soon after Mr. Letterman announced his retirement.
“They didn’t have to think too much about it, did they?” “I think it was the very next day,” he said in 2015. (Mr. Colbert was hired a week later.)
During their appearance on Monday, which took more than 20 minutes of broadcast time, Mr. Letterman and Mr. Colbert avoided the topic. Instead, Mr. Letterman discussed, among other things, visiting CVS pharmacies, visiting his son’s college and how he entered the studio on Monday.
“I came on the show this afternoon, and people were saying, ‘Yeah, can I help you?'” Mr. Letterman said. “And I said, ‘I’m Ed Sullivan.’ Took me right in.”
Mr. Colbert asked Mr. Letterman if he had forgotten anything about hosting a late-night show.
“I remember everything,” Mr. Letterman replied. “Mostly, it’s fun. Very few things in life provide one with an opportunity – and I can’t speak for you on this subject – but for me, if you waste one after 24 hours, you get a chance to try again.
The ice may have been broken a few weeks ago when Mr. Letterman was a guest on “Strike Force Five,” a podcast that several current late-night hosts, including Mr. Colbert, started during the Hollywood writers strike. During the interview, Mr. Colbert used the opportunity to explain how he was hired.
Over several minutes, Mr. Colbert explained that CBS executives first contacted him in 2013 to discuss the possibility of replacing Mr. Letterman. At the time, Mr. Colbert said, he wanted assurance from CBS that Mr. Letterman knew about the meeting. He was told that the network had Mr. Letterman’s blessing to meet people.
Six months later, in April 2014, Mr. Letterman announced that he would step down from “The Late Show.” But, Mr. Colbert explained in the podcast, he then got a strange message that made him wonder whether Mr. Letterman actually knew about the outreach.
Mr. Letterman said on the podcast that CBS executives may have thought he was considering retirement — but they never explicitly told him to start looking for his replacement.
“I’m sure that part didn’t happen,” he said.
Mr. Letterman then recalled on the podcast how he found himself in a similar situation years ago when NBC executives wanted him to host “The Tonight Show” part-time with Johnny Carson. When Mr. Letterman learned that Mr. Carson was not aware of the arrangement, he refused to participate.
As Mr. Letterman’s “Late Show” presentation came to a close, he requested Mr. Colbert: Could he sit behind his desk? Mr. Colbert immediately came forward and gave up his chair for Mr. Letterman.
With Mr. Letterman behind the desk, Mr. Colbert had a question.
“Very few people know what it’s like to host one of these things,” he said, pointing to the back of his desk. “What do you think about my supplies? Was there anything like that with you?”
“What?” Mr. Letterman replied. “All this grass?”