News

Kennedy Center Honors Recipient Letterman Opens Up In Rare Interview

Late Night Talk Show Legend Reflects On Award, Past Behavior, Fatherhood
President Barack Obama and David Letterman (credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages)

President Barack Obama and David Letterman (credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages)

TRI-STATE NEWS HEADLINES

From our newsroom to your inbox weekday mornings at 9AM.
Sign Up

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Late night host David Letterman has kept audiences laughing for 30 years.

But there’s more to the man than stand-up.

The very private comedian and Kennedy Honors recipient recently sat down for a rare interview, CBS 2’s Dana Tyler reported Thursday.

Letterman said since he was 17, he wanted to do stand-up comedy. He was awarded the prestigious Kennedy Center honor last month, revealing to “CBS This Morning” host Charlie Rose the honor came as a shock.

“When I first found out about it I thought something was wrong, so I called people I knew who might be able to tell me how things like this happen because I was very suspicious, feeling completely unworthy,” Letterman said.

Letterman always idolized Johnny Carson, but when “The Tonight Show” job went to Jay Leno, Letterman said he regretted how he handled it.

“When I look at that now I think it also reminds me of some of the worst behavior of my life, my own behavior, and I wish things were like they are now. I wish they were like they are now then,” Letterman said.

With more than three decades on late night television, Letterman hasn’t always felt his own success. He’s battled depression and anxiety. He had quintuple heart bypass surgery in 2000. He admits he’s missed out in the joys of personal life.

“I wish I hadn’t been so gosh darn single-minded. When you have focus that tight you miss a lot of what’s going on around you,” Letterman said, adding when asked if he would have had children earlier, “yes, I think so.”

“I just thought when the topic would come up, I can’t do both. I can’t try to have a successful television show and be a father. And I was wrong about that, because as difficult as being a father is, it’s entirely complimentary with everything else in your life. It’s like when you get your prescription updated. You can see things.”

His son, Harry, is now 9. Letterman and the boy’s mother married in 2009.

I have a little boy. I wish I had a little girl,” Letterman said, adding with a laugh when reminded it’s never too late, “Look at me.”

It was all laughs at the Kennedy Center Honors as the modest 65-year-old host said when his “Late Show” contract is up in two years — just like Carson — he’ll be able to walk away from the best job on TV.

“I know he missed it,” Letterman said of Carson. “I know I would miss it, too, but I would find other things to do,” Letterman said.

In the meantime, Letterman said he is taking more time to enjoy his family and his success. He does admit it’s a big deal to receive a Kennedy Center Honor.

You can see Letterman, along with Dustin Hoffman, and Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, saluted at the Kennedy Center Honors on Dec. 26 at 9 p.m., on CBS 2.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below …