‘My Next Guest Needs No Introduction’ shines light on contemporary American issues

Obama joined  Letterman on Jan. 12, 2018 for the launch of the new “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman” on Netflix. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

Obama joined  Letterman on Jan. 12, 2018 for the launch of the new “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman” on Netflix. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

Since his retirement from “The Late Show” in 2015, comedian David Letterman has been pretty off the grid, not doing much other than growing an insanely long beard. He has now made his return to television with a monthly Netflix special, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.” In the first episode, which debuted Jan. 12, Letterman is joined by fellow retiree President Barack Obama. The two have a conversation about America, contemporary issues and family.

I went into the episode with the expectation that this would be a lighthearted comedy-based talk, and while that would have been entertaining, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is a more serious interview in which the two cover some pretty heavy topics, like race. The episode alternates between a stage with two chairs that Obama and Letterman sit in as they talk and segments of Letterman in Selma, Alabama. Obama and Letterman seem like old friends, and somehow manage to have amusing banter and also very sobering conversations about flaws within our government, most of which center on hate.

Letterman’s interview with Obama seems to center on Obama’s life after presidency to reflect on the government and nation we are now left with. While not outrightly addressed, it is clear that neither of them are very happy with the current administration.

The conversation is genuine and heartwarming. Some points are genuinely funny, such as when Obama discusses how he embarrasses his daughters with his “dad moves”, while others are very serious, such as when Letterman joins Congressman John Lewis at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma to talk about the Civil Rights Movement. This segment was particularly interesting, because it’s pretty obvious that under our current administration, many people are feeling just as discriminated against as they did in the 1960s.

What I like about this conversation with Obama is that it manages to discuss politics without just making jokes about Trump. Obama has always had an eloquent way with words, and he shines throughout this episode as he gets to the root of problems with politics in America without having to make overused Trump jokes. This is a fresh take that covers extremely relevant issues that every American should take the time to listen to. The show not only sparks many thoughts about current issues within America, but left me inspired to look for change.

As he always somehow does, Obama has sparked hope. While listening to his assessment of the issues our nation faces, I don’t feel like we are doomed. I feel that with the right administration, and with more conversations like this one, we can fix what is broken instead of making it worse.

It’s clear that Letterman is capable of things far beyond comedy. He is able to cover a variety of important and relevant topics. Most of this episode was much more serious than funny, and that’s okay. The conversation was both thought-provoking and moving.

“My Next Guest Needs No Introduction” will continue with five more hour-long specials released monthly until June. The upcoming guests are George Clooney, Jay Z, Tina Fey, Howard Stern and Malala Yousafzai. Obama’s episode is available currently on Netflix.

Rating: 4/5


Melissa Scrivani is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at melissa.scrivani@uconn.edu.