My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, season 3

The guests in season three of David Letterman’s long-form interview show are all notable: Kim Kardashian West, Robert Downey Jr., Dave Chappelle, and Lizzo.

Random thoughts on each:

  • Kim Kardashian West’s interview is more nuanced than you’d expect, and her retelling of the robbery in Paris is harrowing. The interstitial segments with Letterman and Kardashian West shopping in a CVS are the best bits of the season.

  • Robert Downey Jr. owns an animal rescue / small farm overlooking the ocean. It’s a beautiful location, and it’s nice that he and his wife have taken in a bunch of different animals to give them (presumably) nice lives. But it’s also clear from the farm-based segments that Downey Jr. doesn’t shovel poop or bale hay, nor does he know much about the animals under his care. The interview portion of this episode isn’t notable; it’s Downey Jr. being Downey Jr.

  • Dave Chappelle’s episode is the best of season three. He’s introspective and smart. Whether he’s talking about his own history or he’s looking at the ills of society, he speaks with depth, humility, and hope. And yes, he’s funny, but that’s a secondary part of this interview. It’s also clear that Chappelle and Letterman have great respect for each other.

  • Lizzo’s interview doesn’t really go anywhere. We get a glimpse into her past, but I learned more about Lizzo from her Wikipedia page.

Letterman’s reputation attracts people who don’t usually sit down for long-form interviews, so this show has a good hook and a built-in advantage. Of course, whether or not an interview clicks is determined by a fickle mix of factors: research, location, audience, etc.

That last item–audience–is part of the reason the Lizzo episode feels disconnected from the other interviews. Lizzo and Letterman met in Lizzo’s house because of COVID-19 concerns. All of the other interviews were on stage in front of audiences: the Kardashian West and Downey Jr. episodes were recorded pre-COVID and Chappelle’s interview was conducted outside with a masked audience.

After burning through season three in two days, I’ve decided that interviews are best watched with a bit of space and time added in. Binging the season revealed the seams in the production: I could sense when Dave was winding up for a joke and I could tell when guests reverted to publicist-approved talking points. These aren’t negatives–they’re the realities of interviewing–but I would have enjoyed the season more if I’d let each discussion breathe.