To Netflix: David Letterman brings low-key chat -- and Obama

Obama discusses racism avoids Trump talk on Letterman's new show


In the photo above, the fun-loving ex-president is evidently enjoying a lighthearted chuckle with the bearded one over an office-building fire hose (or possibly a fire extinguisher).

But it's Letterman's interest in Lewis and his admiration for Obama that give you a glimmer of why he wanted to do this Netflix show. It had been coming out even before that - not outright boredom with talking about movies or TV series, or even a moving away from amusing or silly bits, but a definite push toward something a little less rote or mechanical in the responses he wanted from his guests.

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman (one hour) now streaming on Netflix.

Around 40 minutes of the 56-minute-long episode are dedicated to an intimate and meandering conversation with the former president in a stripped-down, studio audience setting.

"No, that's me", Letterman interjects. Why wasn't I in Alabama?

I see some of you are, but not all of you.

"John Lewis is absolutely right", Obama said, "That he and all those other folks that marched carried me across that bridge, they carried America across that bridge".

"The vote", he answers.

Former President Barack Obama appeared on the inaugural episode of David Letterman's Netflix show, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, in his first talk show appearance since leaving office. Letterman's new show is something deeper, more valuable.

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"Many, many years from now in a nursing home, or a nice retirement community, Barack Obama will be still living in a fantasy life", Gingrich told Fox News' Sean Hannity Friday night. "The interview doesn't produce any surprising or newsworthy statements from Obama".

They're two very different men, coming off two very different gigs - both, though, with evolving rules for a post-peak future. "They're off their game". "The only thing I have left to do for the last time on a television program - thank you and good night".

Wilstein writes on TV and entertainment for The Daily Beast.

Letterman, whose snow-white achievement beard has grown to Biblical proportions, shapes the episode as a love letter to the former President and his family, each member of whom he speaks of with admiration and delight.

Most presidents refrain from criticizing their successors. "Without a question of a doubt, you are the first president I truly and fully respect". He feels that if Letterman had applied more pressure, there could have been different results.

"At a certain point", he continued, "You just live in a bubble and I think that's why our politics are so polarized right now". "I was proud that I did not cry in front of her", he said. Lewis believes if there's no march, if there's no movement, there's no Obama presidency.

"It kind of took me out of the interview with Obama", says Wilstein. You know I've got this lamp in this box.

The Boston Globe's Matthew Gilbert described Letterman's talk with Obama as " a frustrating exercise in talking a lot but, ultimately, saying very little". "Not just African-Americans, but all Americans, because I think what has happened in America today is a threat not just to the country but the planet". But they relied on the same basic format and trappings introduced by the Tonight Show hosts who invented and honed the form: Steve Allen, Jack Paar and Johnny Carson.

But Wilstein says it's a mistake to view the conversation between Obama and Letterman in the context of the chaos of the Trump White House. And I think that's the appeal in this case, for both Obama and Letterman, to do an interview like this. Malia's response? "Yeah, you look like a guy who really knows how to party". "She was just being really quiet about it, but in a way that was really moving and touching". Just interesting, unpredictable talk.

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