According to Letterman, the change only came when his son was born in 2003, a decade into his tenure hosting CBS’ “Late Show.” Until then, he said, his priorities were skewed toward “concentrating on this stupid television show.”
Despite their years as public figures, both men also express discomfort with that status, while Stern admits that he mastered hosting his show but at the same time didn’t really know “how to function in the real world.”
For those who harbor certain images of celebrities, the interview ties into the whole “Tears of a clown” theme. It’s a small but illuminating window into the darker side of celebrity — the nagging doubts and internal turmoil experienced by so many of the people whose job is to amuse and entertainment us.
Of course, Letterman’s decision to return to work — even in this low-key format — speaks to a desire to continue to do what he does so well, unlike his mentor Johnny Carson, who basically abandoned the public eye after departing “The Tonight Show.” Stern’s installment is the last of the six episodes initially shot for this Netflix series, which kicked off in January with Barack Obama.
For his part, Stern says he’s uncertain what he’ll do when his SiriusXM contract — which he agreed to in 2015 — expires in a few years. Yet his fans should derive some comfort from the greater serenity he exhibits, the product of age and, he says, lots of therapy. Whatever the cause, listening to them reminisce, the self-proclaimed King of All Media and former talk titan sound better equipped to face the “real world” than they were, apparently, during the height of their reigns.
“My Next Guest Needs No Introduction — Howard Stern” premieres May 31 on Netflix.