Howard Stern and David Letterman engaged in a conversation Friday night that covered their long history together, Stern’s friendship with Jimmy Kimmel and other Hollywood titans, and, of course, the subject of Jay Leno.
Leno is a particular obsession of Stern’s, especially when he comes on Letterman’s “Late Show,” where he loves to pick apart and analyze the late-night wars.
“I know I always bring up Jay Leno every time I come on here,” Stern said to Letterman, “but this is blowing my mind: Jay Leno recently said that now you two guys are exchanging phone calls with one another, that you’re actually talking on the phone. Is this true?”
“We have spoken on the phone, yes,” answered Dave, confirming what Leno told one of his own guests, Bravo’s Andy Cohen, on “The Tonight Show” Nov. 1 — that he, Jay, last spoke with Letterman on the phone a month earlier.
“Well, I’m outta here!” declared Stern (who didn’t leave, of course). “I mean, I give up! You know, Dave, I gotta tell you something: I feel like a guy — I never served in the military — but I feel like a Vietnam veteran. You know, I feel like I’m still in the jungles fighting your war. And you’ve made up with Vietnam!”
Stern told Letterman he’s still mad at Leno for outmaneuvering Letterman in the battle to replace Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show” back in 1992. And he made fun of Dave for having agreeable phone conversations with Jay today. Stern even impersonated the two having a phone conversation — complete with Jay’s high-pitched voice.
The conversation they had about Leno was only part of a free-wheeling discussion that was like a session in a therapist’s office, except that the therapist wasn’t there. Instead, there were only these two patients.
The two entertainment giants have known each other since they worked together in the same building, NBC headquarters in New York, in the early 1980s. That was when Letterman was the young host of NBC’s “Late Night” and Stern was in the first years of his “shock jock” notoriety as an air personality on NBC-owned WNBC-AM (where he would eventually be fired for a recurring bit called “Bestiality Dial-a-Date”).
On “Late Show” Friday night, Stern went over the history of their relationship and revealed his regret that they never became close friends — for which he blamed himself. The two then had a discussion about the nature of friendship and their efforts over the years to form lasting relationships with people. They also talked about their relationships with their mothers — a staple of the therapist’s office.
On other topics, Stern said he accompanied his friend Jimmy Kimmel to a party in Los Angeles at the home of Hollywood mogul Brad Grey, and Letterman called Stern a “suck-up” for associating with an entertainment honcho like Grey, who Letterman apparently dislikes for reasons he did not reveal.
They also talked about their relationships with Don Rickles and Steve Martin, who Stern criticized for his banjo obsession, complaining that no one likes banjo music and accusing Dave of turning over his whole show to Martin and his banjo buddies when they appeared on “Late Show” a few weeks ago.
The whole thing amounted to one of the most entertaining guest appearances on a late-night show in years. It was going so well that it seemed as if the show delayed, or might even have done away with, one or more commercial breaks in order to avoid interrupting the conversation.