Conan O’Brien appeared on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on Friday, where he told a funny story about how David Letterman once sent him a horse. Unprepared for a horse in his life (especially the ornery one Letterman had selected), O’Brien confided to Colbert that the gift (in recompense for a glowing profile Conan wrote of Letterman upon Dave’s retirement from that same Late Show in 2015) has been something of a burden, frankly. Well, emerging from wherever he’s been cultivating his gloriously “I don’t give a shit” Skinny Santa beard for a rare talk show appearance with Jimmy Kimmel on Tuesday, Dave spun a very Letterman-like response to Conan’s televised griping, explaining that the horse was just a goof, intended to “take a dump” on Conan’s stage and then be returned to the ornery horse farm he’d come from.
At least that’s Letterman’s story, and whether the rental horse aspect of the tale is true or not, it was a treat to have some late-night Dave back in our lives, at least for a little while. Kimmel (who received a much more practical box of all Letterman’s old show ties upon Dave’s retirement from TV) did two segments with his idol, complete with old bandleader Paul Shaffer, who’s sitting in with Kimmel’s band all week, wherein the two hosts talked shop. Letterman displayed the signature deadpan that marked his legendary TV comedy career, coupled with that liberating post-heart attack heedlessness that made the last few years of his CBS show an unpredictable outlier in the late-night wars. (Letterman had praise for “all of the talk show men and women, even Jimmy Fallon,” which is the sort of thing we’re talking about there.) Sure, Letterman was also asked about his upcoming Netflix show, but his answers were hardly the stuff of Netflix PR’s dreams, as he remained both vague and inventively silly about the details. (He says he has invites out to both Donald Trump and the Pope, but was most excited about that infomercial pitchman who saws a rowboat in half—Letterman claims to have that guy’s brother confirmed for the first show.)
As for Trump, while Letterman is on record as not being a fan, he and Kimmel reserved their time more for the sort of rambling, anecdotal sit-down fans have come to expect from the late-night pioneer. (Letterman is set to receive the Mark Twain Prize For American Humor on October 22, an honor he humbly referred to as a “fixed fight” in his favor.) Still, Letterman, who recently hosted the National Geographic global warming documentary series Years Of Living Dangerously, offered the Trump-antithetical post-retirement mission statement, “Is there anything we can do big or small to make the life of one person a little bit better?” that makes one wish that Trump would be foolish enough to take Dave up on that offer. Oh, and Kimmel—following up on the “runaway cow in Brooklyn” story of the day—gave Dave a baby bull, which Letterman (unlike that whiny Conan) accepted with crusty gratitude, telling Kimmel, “I’ll be happy to take the goddamned bull.”