Listen to a David Letterman Interview from 1981


David Letterman’s 20th anniversary hosting CBS’s The Late Show is coming up this week. NPR’s Terry Gross has unearthed an old radio interview she did with Letterman on Fresh Air from 1981, before he was a late night host. Click here to check out the interview, which starts at the 28:00 mark after a preamble by Gross and TV critic David Bianculli. Check out a couple key quotes from the interview, including Letterman assessing his favorite comedians in the early ‘80s and talking about how the late night world was changing:

“[Before late night TV,] people never had the benefit of working toward a media goal. They were working in cheap bars and Greyhound depots … They had no hope of getting on The Merv Griffin Show because The Merv Griffin Show was not around … Now, it’s different. If a guy thinks he’s funny, he drops out of high school, moves to Los Angeles, prepares five minutes, appears on [something like] The Merv Griffin Show and thinks he’ll get a situation comedy. And it’s happened, and it will continue to happen …The best person in a nightclub situation now is Bill Cosby. It’s just unbelievable what this man is capable of doing. [He] doesn’t really tell jokes per se, but he comes on stage and sits down in a chair — and this is interesting because the purpose of your appearance there is that you’re supposed to dominate this group and to dominate and control from a seated position is interesting. And he does it. He’s unbelievable … Then there are the newer guys. Steve Martin is just a phenomenon. Then I have my own peers who I think are great. There’s Jay Leno, who I think is probably the … best at observational material.”