My Next Guest Needs No Introduction review: David Letterman's talk show is heartfelt and entertaining
The third season of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman features reality TV star and businesswoman Kim Kardashian West, actor Robert Downey Jr, musician Lizzo, and comedian Dave Chappelle.
David Letterman returns to Netflix with the third season of his talk show, My Next Guest Needs to Introduction, of which two episodes were recorded before the COVID-19 pandemic. The first instalment brought him out of his retirement — we saw him speak to former US President Barack Obama, activist Malala Yousafzai, Kanye West, Lewis Hamilton, and even a special with Shah Rukh Khan.
The line-up this time is eclectic — there's reality TV star and businesswoman Kim Kardashian West, actor Robert Downey Jr, musician Lizzo, and comedian Dave Chappelle – and so are the topics that Letterman broaches.
Letterman is a little less intense and sarcastic (or even judgmental) as compared to his late night talk show days, but there still are glimpses of his earlier style.
Unlike his talk show, where a celebrity interaction was a mere touch-and-go,My Next Guest has longer interviews. Every conversation in My Next Guest is intimate, intelligent and insightful. And every potential tense or awkward moment is always punctured with his piercing humour.
Letterman even takes the chat out of the studio. He shops with Kardashian West in a convenience store, he takes a stroll with Chappelle in the comic's hometown as they talk about the significance of community strength. Letterman even edges on silly as chews on grass after feeding Downey Jr's goats and gives Lizzo's flute a spin.
In the Kardashian West episode, he brings up being puzzled with the idea of "being famous for being famous" and how often his jokes were centred around the Kardashian clan. Kardashian West, used to being in the public eye for almost a decade, has no qualms opening up. She speaks about the famous OJ Simpson trial, her first scandal that put her in the tabloids' radar, Caitlyn Jenner's transition, her close-knit family, and the horror of the 2016 robbery in Paris.
Letterman seems mesmerised by the reality star (I don't blame him, I would be too), and subsequently is most at ease with Downey Jr and Chappelle.
For those who only recognise Downey Jr as Iron-Man and Sherlock Holmes, it may come as a revelation that the actor spent time in prison and has had a history of substance addiction. "Back then, when I was a kid, doing that, you could say that it was ‘fun’, but it was pretty stressful too," he tells Letterman, and credits his wife Susan for helping him get back on his feet.
Meanwhile, the Chappelle episode has tidbits of his stand-up woven in as he speaks about the "emotional wear and tear" of being a comedian, on turning to Islam at the age of 17, quitting his hit Chappelle Show at Comedy Central, and the turn his life took after that.
Chappelle candidly explains the moment he decided to walk away from his critically acclaimed show – when a crew member laughed at the wrong moment of a sketch addressing race. "The sketch wasn’t that bad. It’s actually funny. It was a pixie. It was me dressed in blackface who’d pop up anytime a person felt the pains of racism, which is a tough trick to pull off. It’s not a bad sketch, but hearing the wrong laugh, while you’re dressed that way, it makes you feel shame."
With Lizzo there's fun and plenty of banter; Letterman recalls her 2014 appearance on his show, explores growing up years, her protest roots and how she has treated anxiety and depression with psychedelic microdosing.
While Letterman raising the issue of race, bias and protest is important, he only addresses these before the two Black artists in the line-up. Never once does he bring up the multiple accusations of cultural appropriation that Kardashian West has faced, or Downey Jr confessing that he has no regrets over his blackface role in 2008 action-comedy Tropic Thunder.
My Next Guest is not the most inventive of talk shows, we have seen this format before, but it sure is entertaining and heartfelt, another relaxing pandemic watch (Netflix has ensured we never run out of material to binge on).
My Next Guest Needs to Introduction is now streaming on Netflix. Watch the trailer here —
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