Sarah Jessica Parker on David Letterman: "Super Distinguished, Incredibly Handsome and Sexy"
Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane also offer up their own favorite memories of the 'Late Show' host, whose final show airs May 20.
A version of this story first appeared in the May 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Grab the tissues: Dave is leaving late night.
But that doesn't mean it's all sniffles and tears for his favorite guests. Here three Late Show mainstays — Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane — reflect on their first appearances, Letterman's unique fashion sense and what they'll miss most about his "strange and wonderful humor."
Sarah Jessica Parker (actor/producer)
"For me it's never been about comparing Dave to other late-night hosts. I don't think of him relative to anybody else. I simply admire who he is authentically, how he has truly remained who he is for more than 30 years on television. I've been watching him since 1979! That's a really long time.
From the time I was young, I always thought he was incredibly bright and challenging, terrifically and wonderfully awkward and self‑aware, which is rare. He's disarming because he's so bright and he doesn't make it easy for a guest. But I think it's because he's truly interested in smart conversation. You want to be worthy of sitting opposite him. With Letterman, it's all about: How can I keep up with his brain?
"And there are hits and misses. There are great appearances and bad appearances. He's in a good mood sometimes and not. When you really know somebody, you can recognize that and you can feel it and know it and not be able to fix it. You're with a friend who's in a lousy crap mood and you try your best to sort of bring him out of a funk. And it's not really possible because we are complicated human beings. He's deeply, deeply human to me. I also think he's super distinguished, incredibly handsome and sexy. I love that he wears white socks and those tassled loafers.
"I don't really remember much about my first appearance on the show except that I was really excited and more than nervous. I couldn't believe I was asked to be on. I think I did my own hair and makeup and found my own dress. I probably took a cab there. This was back when he was on NBC.
"Through the years, often I would come offstage and apologize to whatever publicists were there, 'I'm so sorry I didn't even mention the movie!' But I couldn't force it when we were talking. I will genuinely miss having conversations with him even though they're brief and even though they're sort of like they disappear into thin air after it's over because it's so fast.
"I've never seen Dave outside the show. He won't do that. Well, he won't see me anyway! Perhaps others? But maybe now I have a chance since he will longer be like a government employee and can fraternize now, you know?
"Recently in a pre‑interview for the last time I was on, the fellow asked me, 'How many times do you think you've been on?' I tried to underestimate a little because I didn't want to sound like I was bragging. I said, 'Like eight or 10?' He said, '32 times.' I was shocked. Thirty-two times?! I was so frickin' thrilled to hear that."
Matthew Broderick (actor)
"The late-night landscape is what it is today because of Dave. That cerebral style that forces everybody to try and keep up! It's truly an American view of life that we don't see much on TV. It's funny, he and the show are ironically New York, but there's something about him that's very broad. I first did his NBC show in the late 1980's. I was on with Mike Myers when he first started Saturday Night Live. There'd been rumors that Dave could be mean or make you look foolish, but I found him hilarious and remarkably good at helping the guests interview. If the audience didn't like the ending to a story I told, he'd guide everything into a funny anecdote. But usually I threw out every bit of preparation I'd made because Dave would obsess over my pocket square for 10 minutes.
"My wife [Sarah Jessica Parker] went on his show recently and told him that she loved him and he said, 'Take that, Matty!' I felt very flattered to be called Matty by Dave one last time. I will miss his particularly strange and wonderful humor."
Nathan Lane (actor)
"I believe my first Late Show appearance was in 1995, just after I co-hosted the Tony Awards with Glenn Close and Gregory Hines. What I recall is that I was terrified and I didn't want to embarrass myself. And I wanted to do well for Dave because I know how important it is to be amusing and entertaining.
"I'm a different kind of late-night guest. It's not like Bruce Willis coming on to talk about his vacation in Acapulco. So it's not quite like going on to Jack Parr and talking about the party you went to the night before. My interviews have to be more prepared. And Dave likes that! Literally my appearances were written like little one-act plays. I memorize them that morning and Dave will throw something in to see what he can stir up in the moment.
"You can always tell if he really likes someone or if he's just being polite. There's a big difference. I mean he is polite to people, but you know if he's enjoying someone. That's a real thrill. It's like making Carson laugh. And afterward, it's literally like [the feeling you get after] an opening night. Opening and closing. And we're talking about five to seven minutes. And it's always such a relief afterward and especially if it's done well.
"In spite of the fact that he didn't get The Tonight Show all those many years ago, he certainly was the heir to Johnny Carson, and certainly Carson made that very clear after he retired. And the only person Carson appeared with in late night was Dave. That was him saying, 'This is the guy I give my seal of approval to.'
"Like others before him — Steve Allen, Jack Parr and Carson — Dave became the standard. He's the one who shook things up again and took chances. And it was just very fresh and original and now he's the one we've all looked to. And now others are doing the same.
"Jimmy Fallon has done it in his own way, Jimmy Kimmel is terrific and I think Colbert's going to be great, too. It's healthy. It's the circle of life. At a certain point it's time to move on, and others, they've created sort of a younger man's game in a way. I'm just so lucky to have been on Late Show when I was, and I am a jaded personality!
"Dave has always been such a supporter and a great help to me. I will miss him."