Letterman Tells Charlie Rose He Could ‘Walk Away’ from ‘Late Show’

by | December 20, 2012 at 1:12 PM | CBS This Morning, Late Show with David Letterman, TV News

David Letterman (Photo: CBS)

David Letterman says he could just “walk away” from his CBS “Late Show” with no regrets.

The statement, which was made in an answer to a question posed by Charlie Rose on “CBS This Morning” on Thursday, was not tantamount to Dave saying he’s poised to quit anytime soon. (Letterman’s current contract reportedly keeps him on “Late Show” at least through 2014.)

Nevertheless, if we’re to take Letterman at his word, he would not feel pangs of regret after walking out the door for the last time — whenever he chooses to do so.

“He walked away from it,” Rose said, referring to Dave’s idol and mentor, Johnny Carson.

“Can you walk away from it?” he asked Letterman.

“Yeah, yeah,” said Letterman, who then told an anecdote about Carson that indicated to Letterman that Johnny may have regretted calling it quits in 1992. “I know he missed it,” said Letterman, who knew Carson well. “I’d miss it, but I’d find other things to do.”

The wide-ranging interview, conducted on stage at the Ed Sullivan Theater, amounted to more than 15 minutes in length on the CBS morning show. In it, Letterman and Rose covered Dave’s history on TV, his relationship with Carson, his heart bypass operation in 2000, and, of course, “The Kennedy Center Honors,” which took place Dec. 2 in Washington. Letterman was one of the honorees at the event, which will air on CBS Dec. 26.

You can watch the interview on the CBS News Website in two parts — here and here.

Wanna watch a Letterman clip? Here’s a holiday-oriented “Top Ten” list:

One of the things we found most interesting was the part in the Charlie Rose interview where Dave talked about Jimmy Kimmel, who has made no secret — especially in recent months — of his lifelong admiration for Letterman. Kimmel even had Letterman on his show, “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” when the show visited Brooklyn in October, and Jimmy couldn’t stop gushing over Dave.

On “CBS This Morning,” Rose asked Letterman how he feels about the way younger late-night hosts idolize him — in much the say way he felt about Carson. And far from welcoming Jimmy Kimmel as a friend, Dave’s answer indicated he’s not interested in pursuing a friendship with Kimmel. In fact, when he referred to Kimmel, 45, as a “nice kid,” it came across as wholly dismissive of the ABC late-night star who’s about to start competing directly with Letterman when “JKL” moves to 11:35 p.m. eastern on Jan. 8.

“You know, Jimmy Kimmel is a case,” said Letterman, 65, “and he’s just been very nice to me. He’s a nice kid and been very gracious to me to the point where it’s made me self-conscious and I start thinking about what this is and the comparison that [Kimmel] had made [to Letterman] that ‘you are to me what Carson was to you,’ and the difference is all I really have is tenure,” Letterman said. “I’ve put in my time.”

Our take on that: Dave might also have pointed out that Carson had a direct role in furthering Letterman’s career, while Letterman has had no role in Kimmel’s rise over the years.

One more interesting thing about the “CBS This Morning” interview: It undermines Oprah Winfrey’s upcoming interview with Letterman — taped earlier but due to air on OWN Jan. 6. Up until Dave showed up on the CBS morning show, we were under the impression Oprah had engineered an exclusive with Letterman, who doesn’t do that many interviews. While her interview will be longer than the one seen on CBS, it’s no longer exclusive. Of course, Oprah’s pal Gayle King is a co-host of “CBS This Morning,” but she didn’t seem to be involved in the Letterman interview Thursday morning.