Why David Letterman Fueled The Rivalry With Jay Leno

david letterman cbs

For years, David Letterman had to be on all the time. As the host of The Late Show on CBS, the late night host had to bring the funny even when his guests were decidedly unamused. He had to be funny even when he was feeling under the weather. He had to do a lot of things he didn't really love doing in order to keep his ratings up over the years, and he always did these things with a smile and a wry understanding of comedy. Now, he's retired and he's looking back at his career---with a big beard replacing his clean-shaven look, to boot.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, David Letterman stated that he has been looking back on his time with CBS, noting that he doesn't really miss late night television. Letterman also says that when he looks back, it was his idea to who fuel the rivalry between himself and other late night host Jay Leno. Here's why it happened, according to the former late night host:

I know I succumbed to the pressure of the rivalry that was constructed between Jay and myself. (An essential part of me was fueling it.) I think there's something wrong with me. It's either a character flaw or a personality disorder. It's one or the other. I haven't heard back from the lab.

It must be a little crazy to look back at a career that spanned 33 years in the public eye and not have a few regrets. David Letterman's feud with Jay Leno was one of the defining moments of his career. The feud actually lasted for decades, kicking off when Johnny Carson left The Tonight Show and David Letterman was considered a shoe-in for the job. NBC gave it to Jay Leno, instead. Later, the two took digs at one another live on the air and in interviews, with Letterman recently even calling Leno insecure in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. Leno even famously refused to appear on one of Letterman's final episodes. The rivalry between the two men is legend at this point, even if much of it stemmed from NBC's decision with The Tonight Show. Now, Letterman seems to be trying to reconcile with how and why it happened.

To everyone's credit, the new brand of late night doesn't seem to be going the feud route, unless you count Jimmy Kimmel, who has an adorable and long-standing feud with a-lister Matt Damon. Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon are pals and have appeared on each others' programs on numerous occasions. Kimmel and Stephen Colbert showed chummy rapport for two relative strangers when the former appeared on the latter's program just a few months ago. There is a rivalry in the sense that they are all competing in the ratings, but it doesn't extend into late night barbs.

The Late Show is still thriving without David Letterman. Stephen Colbert took over a year ago, and this season the show revamped quite a bit to try and bring a few more eyeballs in. You can catch new episodes on weeknights at 11:35 p.m. ET. In addition, you can find out which fall shows have yet to premiere with our fall TV premiere schedule.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Jessica Rawden is Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. She’s been kicking out news stories since 2007 and joined the full-time staff in 2014. She oversees news content, hiring and training for the site, and her areas of expertise include theme parks, rom-coms, Hallmark (particularly Christmas movie season), reality TV, celebrity interviews and primetime. She loves a good animated movie. Jessica has a Masters in Library Science degree from Indiana University, and used to be found behind a reference desk most definitely not shushing people. She now uses those skills in researching and tracking down information in very different ways.