In 2007, at a time when conventional wisdom held that there was a feud between Oprah Winfrey and David Letterman, this promo aired during the Super Bowl. Winfrey, of course, was based in Chicago, while Letterman is a native of Indianapolis, so that year’s Bears-Colts matchup made this appropos:
In 2010, the next time CBS telecast the Super Bowl, Letterman was faced with the prospect of having to once more compete with the man for whom he’d been passed over as host of “The Tonight Show” in the early 1990s. That made this promo absolutely unexpected:
Bill Carter of the New York Times reported the story of how the promo was put together. I remember reading it on the Times web site, and then of course Carter re-told it in his book “The War For Late Night” about the Jay Leno-Conan O’Brien debacle. Rob Burnett, who heads Letterman’s production company, Worldwide Pants, called Leno’s executive producer Debbie Vickers to describe what they had in mind and ask Leno to participate. When she stopped laughing ten minutes later, Vickers pitched the idea to Leno, who was in need of a little image rehabilitation, having been perceived (rightly or wrongly) as the villain in what happened to O’Brien. Leno flew to New York and, wearing a disguise, was hustled into the front entrance of the Ed Sullivan Theater while Letterman’s nightly show was being taped. (During that time, sightseers and paparazzi tend to congregate at the side entrance, from which guest stars come and go.) After the talk show taping was over, Leno, Dave and Oprah taped the promo there in the theater.
Later, after Leno had returned to California, one of his staffers who wasn’t in on the secret dashed into his office with rumors that Dave had filmed a Super Bowl promo featuring a surprise guest – maybe even the President. Leno, amused, told the staffer to keep him updated if any new information turned up.
I wonder whether there will be a “Late Show” promo tonight, and if so who will be on it. Letterman recently received the Kennedy Center Honors, of course, and in the weeks surrounding the ceremony he hobnobbed with all sorts of luminaries.
Craig Ferguson, whose show follows Dave’s, will do a special post-Super Bowl edition of “The Late Late Show,” but I think he did the same thing in 2010, so that doesn’t necessarily have any relevance to the Letterman promo.