Updated: Thursday, 07 Feb 2013, 11:04 AM EST
Published : Wednesday, 06 Feb 2013, 11:22 PM EST
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Editor's note: 24-Hour News 8's Karen Hensel traveled to New York City and sat down with David Letterman for a rare and candid interview. He talked about his Hoosier roots, what he does when he returns to Indianapolis and his relationship with his son.
A good portion of the country ends its day watching a man from Indianapolis on the Late Show with David Letterman.
Letterman is known for refusing interviews but recently granted only three requests – Oprah, Charlie Rose and Karen Hensel.
Letterman let loose with Karen about his Indianapolis roots.
So often David Letterman slips into Indianapolis to see his mom or go to the Indy 500 and no one knows. He is quiet, shy and turns away from the media.
But he was open and candid about growing up here, being a father and the key moment at Broad Ripple High School that changed his life.
Karen Hensel: "When you walk out on stage each night, tell us where you are. Are you relaxed? Are you excited?"
David Letterman: "Always excited, always excited. It's always exciting. Yeah, relaxed. I don't know how many shows we've done exactly, but in the thousands. And I'm very comfortable here. I love the theater. I love Paul. I love where the audience is. I love how it feels. I love how I sound in it. So, I'm very comfortable here. Always excited."
LETTERMAN THE HOOSIER
Karen: "Do you still consider yourself a Hoosier?"
Dave: "Yeah (laughs). I don't think there's a thing you can do about that is there? I mean look at me for God sakes. My parents were born in Indiana. I spent a lot of time in Indiana, and I didn't leave until I was 27 years old. My parents, uh, they didn't have a backyard. They had a garden. They tore up the backyard and put in a garden. So I can tell you what Indiana Sweet Corn tastes like. I can tell you what Indiana tomatoes taste like."
Karen: "We have the best don't we?"
Dave: "I think so. I never had any better."
THE CORN INCIDENT
Karen: "What's the favorite meal that David Letterman likes to come home to?"
Dave: "Well, in the summertime we would have the fresh corn on the cob, fresh tomatoes. She would make cucumber salad, and we would just go nuts on that. I ate a bushel of corn one night when I was 12 years old. They had to call St. Vincent's to come take a look at me. They couldn't do anything. ‘This boy's full of corn ma'am!’"
Karen: "That's a belly ache!"
Dave: "It was tremendous."
WHEN HE COMES HOME
Karen: "What do you like to do when you're home?"
Dave: "I like to go down to Shapiro's Delicatessen. Tremendous corned beef! And they carry this brand of mustard that's made in Chicago that I don't see on shelves here called PLLLOOOCHHH-MANS! And, uh, it's tremendous! It's the single finest yellow mustard I've ever. You ever have PLOOOCH-MANS?"
Karen: "I have at Shapiro's!"
Dave: "It's great"
Karen: "I didn't know that's how it's pronounced though!"
Dave: "Absolutely, that's how it's pronounced!"
Karen: "Thank you for the correction.”
Dave: "Sure! Yeah, ask for it by name."
BROAD RIPPLE HIGH SCHOOL: THE MOMENT
Letterman's path to comedy began in the halls of Broad Ripple High School. It's here where one class for the tall, awkward teen made a difference for late night TV.
Karen: "So at an early age, there is something that sparks what you're supposed to do in life. The moment for you was at Broad Ripple High School."
Dave: "That's right! My buddies and I were in high school. And you start out. There were two programs when I was in high school. One was the academic. You could have the academic curriculum, or you could have the general studies curriculum. I was taking a lot of upholstery and shop and riveting classes and my friends were taking chemistry and calculus and I just thought, 'Oh, what'll I do? I can't do any of that. All I can do is sand wood.’ So my sophomore year I signed up for public speaking was the course. That's what changed my mind about everything."
A possibility in a career, but it's fatherhood that has seemingly rounded his life.
Karen: "You talk so fondly of your son. And I know you lost your dad when you were pretty young. Just 26. What would your father tell you about being a father, you think?"
Dave: "Boy, that's an excellent question. I don't know. I think about that all the time, because with the one child as we chatted about earlier you don't know. You know is this a big thing? Or is it a small thing? Is this a big thing, or is it a small thing? It's a fine line. And I don't know. And I don't know what my father would say to me because my father and I had an altogether different relationship than I have with my son."
Karen: "For your son, and perhaps your students at Ball State, what is the one thing about life that you would say to help carry them through?"
Dave: "Well, there's only one thing I know for a fact that will routinely, whether you do it a million times or two million times that makes you feel good about yourself.. That's helping somebody else. And I don't care if it's in a big way. I don't care if it's in a small way. But helping somebody else is the only thing that will make you feel good about yourself over, and over, and over again. And I know that's not insight. I know that's universal, but that's the only thing I can say with any confidence that has any merit."
Karen: "But sometimes it takes us a while to figure that out."
Dave: "Well, I forget, in my own personal life I forget it sometimes. And then when I'm able to facilitate something like that I'm re-reminded of it. It seems the most important lessons in life are the ones we must keep relearning."
You never know what you're going to get when you meet someone you see on TV. Letterman was so different than I expected, very much a Hoosier.
He was charming but when asked his favorite spot in the Ed Sullivan Theater, the comedian returned when he told me "the bathroom.”
Then offered to take us and show us.
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