In 2015, David Letterman stepped down as host of The Late Show after 22 years, and Stephen Colbert stepped into some big shoes as he took his place behind the iconic desk.
On Monday, Letterman returned to the Ed Sullivan theater to make his first-ever appearance as a guest on Colbert’s Late Show, and was overwhelmed by love and cheering from an adoring audience.
As Colbert introduced Letterman out onto the stage, the crowd erupted into cheering and chanting the former host’s name, all while Letterman beamed and basked in the adulation.
Letterman’s notable absence from having ever appeared on the show fed rumors of bad blood between the two men — however there seemed to be nothing but camaraderie between the two late night giants as they had a friendly, sprawling conversation that essentially floated around one central point Colbert reiterated several times: hosting a talk show “is strange job a lot of people don’t understand.”
To this point, the pair dished on everything from the meeting they first had when Colbert asked Letterman for advice before taking over the show, to places the Ed Sullivan Theater where they could hide from their producers when they need a moment of peace.
Letterman didn’t seem to come on the show to promote anything specific — other than to give a special birthday shout-out to his wife, Regina Lasko — and ultimately the conversation proved to be simply a delightful insight into the legacy of the late night legend and the impact he’s had on his predecessor.
It’s also clear that there’s a part of Letterman that still longs for the live energy and uniqueness of the job itself. When asked what he misses most about hosting The Late Show, Letterman admitted, “I miss everything.”
“Mostly it’s fun. Very few things in life provide one the opportunity — and I can’t speak for you or to you on this topic — But for me, if you muck one up, 24 hours later you get to try again,” Letterman said. “And that’s a pretty good device.”
“Then when you do something you’re really proud of, you think ‘My god, let’s do that again!’ And six or seven years later you have that experience once more,” Letterman quipped.
The emotional highlight of the night — at least for fans of the former Late Show host — came toward the very end of their interview when Letterman asked Colbert if he’d mind if he took a photo behind the desk for old time’s sake.
Without a word, Colbert immediately sprang up and moved out of the way to let Letterman take his seat.
“This is very generous of you. Thank you, Stephen,” Letterman said, later joking, “By the way, in my day, I never would’ve let this happen. I’m sorry. Thank you.”
“I’ve got a question for you,” Colbert said. “Again, very few people know what it’s like to host. What do you think about my supplies [behind the desk]? Anything like what you had?”
“What, all this weed?” Letterman shot back, as Colbert broke into laughter.
The pair closed out the interview by recreating a selfie Colbert first snapped back in 2014, when he was a guest on Letterman’s Late Show, before he stepped down, bringing the entire saga full-circle.