David Letterman is softening in his old age. Letterman, who helped develop Jay Leno's career by repeatedly hosting the comedian on his old NBC show "Late Night with David Letterman" but became bitter rivals with Leno over the "Tonight Show" succession following Johnny Carson, now feels sympathy toward his competitor.
Leno is being forced out as "Tonight Show" host after fifteen years. Despite still earning top ratings in the post-local-news slot, Leno will be replaced by Conan O'Brien on June 1st, 2009. NBC sees in O'Brien a chance to get younger and lock in a potential host for another decade or more.
Letterman told Rolling Stone magazine he relates Leno's troubles to his before leaving NBC for CBS and his current gig on the "Late Show". Letterman says he feels empathy for Leno, and notes of the arranged departure, "I have to believe he was not happy about it."
Letterman acknowledges that Leno seems over the years to have a broader appeal, pulling in consistently higher ratings, although critics feel that Letterman changed the genre far more than Leno, opening the door for O'Brien and other risk-taking comedians. Letterman also extended an offer to Leno, asking that he consider appearing on the 'Late Show" the first day after he ends his "Tonight Show" career.
It is certainly a notable moment to see such fierce rivals perhaps mending fences. If Leno goes on Letterman's show, maybe he will perform a stupid human trick: making himself disappear before his time.