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To read more about Episode 238, visit the main episode page.
[ Audio excerpt from the February 8, 1982 episode of Late Night with David Letterman ]
Announcer for Late Night with David Letterman [00:00:14] From New York, one of the most exciting cities in the tri-state area, it’s Late Night with David Letterman. Tonight, Francis Ford Coppola, humorist Henry Morgan, champion dogs from the Westminster Kennel Club, professor of anthropology, Walter Fairservis, and a special late night report on the fabulous February 8th Day Parade. And now, a man who thinks the earth has broken out of its orbit and is hurtling around the sun, David Letterman.
David Letterman [00:00:57] Thank you very much and good morning. Welcome to Late Night. My name is David Letterman. I hope you folks had a nice weekend. Anybody here whose mother attended Ball State University? I know that’s meaningless to you folks at home, but we enjoyed it, didn’t we, ladies and gentlemen?
[ end of excerpt ]
Michael Moore [00:01:23] Yes. That was David Letterman. And you’re probably wondering why am I beginning this episode with a clip from an old Letterman show? This is Michael Moore, by the way. And you’re listening to Rumble With Michael Moore. This is my podcast. Thank you very much for tuning in to this. This is a special episode I’ve been wanting to do for some time because I get asked a lot like, who are your influences — whether it’s in filmmaking or politics or whatever. And you know, I have the answers that are correct for me. You know, if it’s filmmaking, it’s Stanley Kubrick, for documentaries, it’s Peter Davis, Barbara Kopple, you know, others. I’m sorry if you’re listening and I have left you out of this, but you get the gist of this. And politically, you know, whether it was all the people I grew up with, Ramparts magazine, the old Village Voice and the old Rolling Stone back when they were great, great publications. Noam Chomsky. Lots of influences in terms of, you know, the Berrigan brothers played a significant role in my life and the two Catholic priests that were anti-war protesters. A lot of the people that led the anti-Vietnam War protests were, you know, probably instrumental when I was growing up and as a teenager. But when it comes to my work that many of you know — my films, my documentaries — I would say one of my greatest influences was David Letterman. And some of you may find that strange or whatever, but in this episode, I’m going to show you why he was a mentor of mine, even though he did know he was a mentor. But I was such an early fan of his. He had a morning show on NBC. He was a standup comedian for many years, but they gave him a morning show like at, you know, 10:30 in the morning. And it was not on very long, I’m going to say maybe a couple of months in 1981. And they had to shut the show down, I guess, you know, for whatever reason. He’s not a morning show kind of guy. But his satire was so sharp and his wit, and his total dislike of authority and, you know, all the poobahs that run our society — he had no respect for it. And I mean that as the highest praise. And so, in 1982, NBC came back and said, We decided that we’re going to give David Letterman another show and this is going to be a late night show that’s going to be on at 12:30 at night after Johnny Carson who was on at 11:30 — if you’re on the East Coast or the West Coast. If you’re in Chicago, first of all I don’t know why you’re in Chicago but, you know, it was an hour earlier. Just kidding. You know, Chicago’s our neighbor if you’re from Michigan. Anyway, so when they announced that he was going to come on every night at 12:30, I just thought, “Ohh!”… And you have to understand, if you didn’t watch the old Late Night with David Letterman on NBC, he, yes, it was a late night talk show but he had decided that he was going to do the anti-talk show, not the typical Johnny Carson kind of show, but rather something that sort of took the piss out of this, you know, look, I don’t want to say people who came before him, they were very entertaining and funny and all that, but there was kind of a… It’s an idea that came out of the ’50s. And by the time of 1982, a lot of people were just weren’t you know, weren’t really into that kind of show as he wasn’t.
Michael Moore [00:05:01] So now he’s going start this new show, and the first show is going to be in the first week of February, 1982. I’m in Flint, Michigan, and I decide that I have to be there. I have to be in the first audience or two or whatever, but I have to get myself to New York. I had no tickets to this show or anything. I just decided I needed to sit in that audience because I so admired his form of humor. Especially as it went after the elites in our society. And so I made my way to New York City. No guarantee that I’d ever get in. I found out that the tickets were all gone first of all, that’s the first thing I find out. But at 6 a.m. every morning, Rockefeller Center, there was a line and you could get in the standby line at 6 a.m. and, I can’t remember, somewhere between then and 10 a.m.. They would know how many seats they would have empty. And so I went there for a few days and I could not get tickets, I was too far back in the standby line or whatever. But by the time of his fifth show, the fifth show of Letterman, fifth show ever — this is his first week in late night — I get there super early. And I get a ticket. I get to go in that afternoon when they tape it around, it’s about probably 5:30 in the afternoon. I was so excited for the whole rest of the day. I couldn’t believe it that I was going to actually be sitting in the same room with David Letterman. And as you heard, that, what I just played here at the beginning, that was the opening of that night’s show where I’m sitting there in the audience, and they announce that Dave’s guest tonight is the great Francis Ford Coppola. Godfather II, The Conversation, and Apocalypse Now — those three films are in my top 20 films of all time. I cannot believe I’m here with one of the great directors, one of my favorites, and he’s the guest on the show. Wow.
Michael Moore [00:07:11] And you’ve got to understand this is five years before I start to make Roger & Me, my first film. And what happened that night, what happened there with Letterman and what happened with Francis Ford Coppola altered my life and became the first blip on my internal radar that this was something I had to do… To make a movie. And to do it in the style that was not the typical, traditional documentary. And when we come back. I’m going to play you this epiphany part of the conversation between Letterman and Francis Ford Coppola. The time came here in February when it was the 40th anniversary of the beginning of Dave’s late night show, that first week. And that means it was 40 years ago here, a couple months ago in February, where I got to sit in the audience of one of his first five shows. And then a couple of weeks ago, Dave celebrated his 75th birthday and so I thought, you know… We let this go. We were going to do this back in February. But man, so much has been going on with the war, and COVID, Trump still around, etc. — all the stuff we’re having to deal with. And I just kept putting this off and putting it off, and then finally, I wanted to do this just because I want to talk to you, the people who listen to this podcast, and just let you know a little bit about myself and how I got here. So if you don’t mind participating in this, I think you’ll enjoy it.
Michael Moore [00:08:53] But first, I want to thank our underwriters here tonight. And first up, I want to thank Stamps.com. A huge thank you to Stamps.com for supporting this podcast and supporting my voice. So, folks, as I just said, you know, we’re all living in difficult times between COVID, rising inflation, the Ukrainian war. We’re all looking for ways to just kind of maintain, right? Get through it, save money because we’re getting hammered. Well, Stamps.com is a great place to start. Stamps.com gives you access to not only great rates, but exclusive discounts on shipping, because it’s not just the United States Postal Service that they work with, but also UPS. Now, I’m talking about a 30% off the Postal Service rates, and up to 86% off if you use UPS through Stamps.com. You will not find these discounts anywhere else. And the best part about Stamps.com is that you can do it right from home. You don’t need to go to the post office. All you need is a regular computer and a printer, and within minutes you’ll be up and running and printing official postage for any letter, any package, anywhere you want to send it. Myself and my crew here, we’ve been using Stamps.com during our film productions, we’ve been doing it for years. It’s an easy way to be mobile, to travel and to be able to send whenever we need, wherever we’re at, and especially during COVID, it’s actually been a good thing to not have to go stand in line at the post office because it’s helped keep us safe and we still get our packages going to wherever we need them to go. So, my friends, start mailing and shipping with Stamps.com and keep more money in your pocket by using them every day. Sign up with a promo code “Moore,” my last name, for a special offer that includes a 4-week trial plus free postage and a free digital scale. And here’s the best part — there’s no long term commitment you have to make, there’s no contracts. You just go to Stamps.com, click the microphone at the top of the page and enter the code “Moore.” That’s it. Thank you to Stamps.com for being an underwriter of my podcast Rumble, and for supporting all of us and the work that we do.
Michael Moore [00:11:02] I’d also like to thank our other underwriter tonight, and that is Shopify. I want to thank them, first of all, for not just supporting my voice here on Rumble, but Shopify has also been a long-time supporter of this podcast, and it was instrumental in the launch of The Moore Store that we started up last year. Now, if you’ve ever seen me on TV, or out on the street, or maybe in my films, you know that I am, let’s just say quite fond of baseball hats. That’s just me. I’ve been that way since, you know, I was a teenager. For years, people would stop me on the street and ask about my hats, where could they get one? And for a number of years, I would frequently find myself giving them, a person on the street, just giving the one I had on my head, take it off, sign it and hand it over. But then, of course, COVID happened, and I found myself alone with a lot of time to think, surrounded by all these hats in my apartment, and the mugs and the t shirts and all the other stuff here that we have for the show. And I, in turn, I thought, “Wow, if I just sold these, I could take a portion of these proceeds and support some of the causes that I’m passionate about — like getting civics classes back in our public schools and ending voter suppression.” So when we set up The Moore Store working with Shopify, that made the idea a reality. Shopify is an all-in-one commerce platform that you can use to start, run, and grow your own business. Shopify gives you access to resources once reserved only for big businesses, but now you and anybody listening to this can set up your own thing, to sell your own thing through Shopify. Shopify is more than a store, it grows with you. So if you have an idea or an existing business, join with me and millions of others who use Shopify, and go to Shopify.com/rumble. Go there for a free 14-day trial, get full access to Shopify’s entire suite of features. So my friends grow your small business with Shopify today. Go to Shopify.com/rumble right now. And thank you, Shopify, for supporting this podcast.
Michael Moore [00:13:15] So now back to my very first encounter with David Letterman and Francis Ford Coppola. Francis Ford Coppola, again, one of our greatest directors. And the reason Ford is his middle name is he was born in Detroit. His immigrant father, they asked him the baby’s name when he was born at Henry Ford Hospital. And he said, “well, it’s Francis Coppola.” “What’s the middle name?” And he didn’t understand what they meant by a middle name. And then he said he’s just looked up and he saw the word Ford because it was Ford Hospital and he just said Ford. And that’s how Francis got his middle name there in Detroit. So, you know, as Michiganders, of course, we’re proud of the fact that he is from Detroit, from state of Michigan. But of course, later, you know, they moved to New York and grew up in New York. But I was very excited that he was going to be the guest on the show. And for such a long time… I mean, this is probably the best way to explain just how big of a fan I was of Francis Ford Coppola — when it was announced that his film, Apocalypse Now, had been completed and that it was going to debut in only three theaters in North America, and in fact, the film that’s going to be out in these three theaters, in these three cities for just a couple of weeks, is going to be essentially the way he wanted to end the film. A couple of weeks after that, it then is open across the country with a different ending — probably an ending that was more suitable to the studio. But I wanted to see the Coppola ending. And so here I am in Flint, we’re about 250, 270 miles from Toronto. And Toronto is one of the cities. Apocalypse Now is going to open in New York, L.A. and Toronto. And I decided to drive to Toronto. Now, I know, before it sounds like I’m too crazy, I know, right? Who drives 270 miles to see a movie? To be honest, me. I would drive to Chicago. I drove often a very long way to see a movie, sometimes in its first week, because I wanted to see it when it was fresh, before everybody was yakking about it. I loved film so much. I loved the purpose of it. I loved feeling, you know, again, I had no film school, but I would watch a film over and over and over again, and study it. And I would go to the films that weren’t very good because I wanted to figure out if I ever got to do this, what would I not do? What would I have to make sure I didn’t do? And the fact that I was going to… you know I’m sitting in the audience, the band’s playing, Paul Shaffer and the group there, and it’s all the warm up time and I’m so excited. I’m so nervous. I’ve had to wait for a number of days before I could get a ticket. And all of a sudden, the announcer starts. And that’s what I played at the beginning of the episode, here. And now, after a brief monologue, Letterman brings out Coppola, Francis Ford Coppola. And I’m not going to play you the whole interview, but I want to play you a segment of it, because — remember, now I’m sitting there and we are what did I say, five? Five years away from me starting my first film. So this is only a dream right now. It’s only a thought in my head. And I have no film school. But if you’re sitting in the same room with Francis Ford Coppola, you’re in film school. Class is in session. And Dave brings him out and starts to ask him a number of questions. And I’m just going to play a little bit of that for you right now. From February 8th, 1982, Rockefeller Center, NBC, Late Night with David Letterman.
[ Audio excerpt from the February 8, 1982 episode of Late Night with David Letterman ]
David Letterman [00:17:10] Francis Ford Coppola is perhaps the finest filmmaker working today with credits that include The Godfather, The Godfather II, The Conversation, and Apocalypse Now. He is a showman in the finest of Hollywood traditions. Not only are his films thrilling, but the events surrounding the release of those motion pictures equally thrilling. And that’s certainly the case with his most recent film, One From the Heart. Please welcome Francis Ford Coppola. Very nice for you to be on the television show here with us this evening. We mentioned in your introduction there that very often the release around your films, or the release of your films is as exciting as the films themselves. Why is that, do you suppose?
Francis Ford Coppola [00:17:51] Well, it’s exciting for me, too. I don’t think we really do it intentionally. I think it comes from the fact that, well, for example, I’m starting a film now in three weeks and we don’t really have the money for it altogether, but we’re in a position where we have all the people and we’re working on it and we want to continue working on it. So each week you say, “Well, let’s go another week,” and you’re sort of financing it yourself, hoping that next week someone will come in with the money. And what happens then is you get so far deeply into the production that you sort of have to go all the way. And then suddenly someone says, “Well, you owe $14 million.”
David Letterman [00:18:24] Now, you raise an interesting point there that people who fancy themselves artists probably could understand, but people who fancy themselves businessmen are probably going, “Francis, that’s how you get into trouble. Get the money first, then go to work.”
Francis Ford Coppola [00:18:38] Well, you know, I mean, it’s it’s my feeling when you want to get a movie going, it’s so easy for someone to come in and say, well, we don’t like that idea, or we don’t think that’s like anything that’s done well. So so really, if you want to start, my feeling is just start, and follow your heart and really… Godfather II, I remember, we had spent $1,000,000 building the sets before Paramount ever told us we could make it.
David Letterman [00:19:02] Now, see, now, what would have happened if Paramount said, Oh, we’ve decided against it? I mean…
Francis Ford Coppola [00:19:08] That’s sort of what has happened to me at certain times, and this notion of me being a risk taker isn’t really so true. It’s not that I’m a risk taker. It’s just that once we’re making the film, we don’t want to stop and we sort of maybe in a naive way think that, Oh, it’ll all work out. The risk part is the least important. We’re not thinking about that. We’re thinking about the film.
David Letterman [00:19:28] We have been led to believe, maybe we shouldn’t be believing this, but it looks like if this one doesn’t work, there goes your house. There goes the speedboat. There goes the vacation. There goes the studio.
Francis Ford Coppola [00:19:40] The speedboat went on Apocalypse Now.
[ end of excerpt ]
Michael Moore [00:19:43] Well, that interview, that just blew my mind, because here he’s saying that if he wanted to make a movie, something was so important to him, he wasn’t going to wait around for a studio to give the green light. He wasn’t going to wait around for some rich millionaires to give him the money to do it. He was just going to do it. He was just gonna start it. So he would start his films without having the money. Which sounds crazy. It is crazy because a lot of first-time filmmakers have gone into some serious debt. And by this time, you know, when he made Apocalypse Now and certainly when he made the first two Godfather films, you know, he’d already made a few films before that, and he’d helped produce films with George Lucas. So he wasn’t completely new to this. He knew the routine. And yet he’s saying, if you’ve got this in your heart, in your head, this movie, the story you want to tell, you just go do it. To hell with the money. And of course, this isn’t the way we’re trained, right? And we would be, all of us, too afraid to even think of doing that, and going into that kind of debt, going bankrupt before you’re even a filmmaker. But his fearlessness, his fierceness, his not being afraid. And we all know this feeling, right, especially when we don’t know if we’re ever going to be able to do this — “could I do it?” And I was just sitting there mesmerized, “yes, of course this is the way to do it. Just do it.” Before there was even a slogan at Nike, that’s what he was saying. Do it. And that stuck with me. And by the time I started Roger & Me, five years later, I had lost my job — which I’ll explain here in a few more minutes on another clip. But I’d lost my job and I was broke. I was on Michigan unemployment, $98 a week. That’s what I was living on. And how could I ever have the idea of, “Oh yeah, let’s just start a movie now?” Yet… What he said, what you just heard him say and the way he said it, and just the insanity of it, sometimes you need to embrace your insanity. I learned that that night and I thought about it for a number of years. And when I found myself in that position where I did not have the money, I was able to start the film. And as I’ve told you on a previous episode, I had a person that I met who was a filmmaker in New York City, and he offered to come out and shoot the first 60 rolls of Roger & Me. No charge. Did it for free. But it was the inspiration of that night in February of ’82, sitting there listening to Coppola and Letterman. And if you’re listening to this now and you’ve been thinking about — whether it’s a movie or whatever you want to do in your life — you want to write that novel, you want to, you know, paint a mural on the side of some building in your town, whatever that is that your heart is telling you to do… I don’t want to be responsible for you trying to go do something crazy and then you are in bankruptcy court, but I will say that there are enough examples of people who have just gone ahead and done it because it had to be done. And I know that that thinking applies to some of you. And I want you to think about it. And play this back again. Share it with some friends. Play what Coppola said. See what they think.
Michael Moore [00:23:31] Well, anyways, 1987 came around and I decided to just go for it and start this film with little or no money in my pocket. And of course, by this time now, I’ve been watching Letterman for these past five years. And again, if you were fans of that early show, that late night show on NBC, Dave went out on the street, he went across the country, he would do all these things that were just so, like, crazy and outrageous and scary. Oh, my God, he’s going to get arrested. But he didn’t care. He too, was fearless. He went after the big shots, the politicians, the celebrities who were just full of themselves. Episode after episode, night after night Letterman did this, and he did it with such wit and grace and satire. It was inspirational. And for years, I watched the show every night. And it helped me sort of refine how to reach people through humor. Because I think if you’re going to do something, especially something political, if you just beat people over the head with the politics, they’re not going to watch the movie and they’re not going to tell other people to watch it. But if you put your politics inside a vehicle that’s essentially a vehicle of humor and satire, it goes a long way to reaching a lot more people with the things that you want to say politically. I learned that. I learned that through Letterman and I learned that watching Monty Python, I learned that through a lot of people, George Carlin and Richard Pryor, Marx Brothers, Lenny Bruce. So all of those were, of course, influences, but Letterman in that moment was vital to me. He gave breath to what was inside me of something I wanted to do. And I want to play you one clip that shows one of the great examples. And when you listen to this, this is an audio show so we’re not showing the picture, but you can figure out what’s going on pretty much. So I want you to listen to this because — I don’t want to give too much of it away — just know that as you listen to this, I won’t have to explain to you anymore because you’ll think, “Oh, my God. Michael was taking notes from David Letterman.’ I’m sure a lot of people are wondering, “How does Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 — how do you trace that back to David Letterman?” Well, I’m going to give you one example right now. NBC used to be owned by RCA, and General Electric bought RCA, which means they also bought NBC, which means they bought David Letterman. So one night, right after the sale was announced and that GE was about to become the new owner of his show, he decides to pay a visit to General Electric headquarters in New York City to meet his new bosses. And this is David Letterman wanting to meet the CEO of one of America’s largest corporations, one of our largest weapons manufacturers. And so he went there. It sounds like when you listen to this, they did send a letter. They were trying to get permission to meet the new boss at GE, but obviously they didn’t respond to him, so he just thought he’d go over there anyways. This is something you never see on TV. If you see it, it’s been planned, writers have written it, they’ve warned the corporate headquarters that the star is coming over — you know this right? On any of these shows, it’s all fake. It’s all scripted. Not Letterman. Not Letterman. He just went over there and in his hands, you can’t see it, but in his hands is a large fruit basket that he wants to give as a welcoming present to the CEO of General Electric, the new owners of his network, NBC. Give a listen to this and I’ll come back and tell you about it on the other side. Okay. Here we go. Let’s run this.
[ Audio excerpt from the April 18, 1986 episode of Late Night with David Letterman ]
David Letterman (in the studio) [00:27:47] You never know what you’re in for when you get a brand new boss. So when General Electric bought this company, RCA and NBC, I thought I would drop by the General Electric building here in midtown Manhattan, meet my new employers and kind of, you know, get things off on the right foot. Watch what happened, won’t you?
David Letterman (outside the GE building in NYC) [00:28:04] Sometime last summer, it was announced that General Electric was going to be buying out and taking over the RCA Corporation. And of course, RCA is the company that owns NBC and as you know, NBC is the company that I work for and the company that brings you all your favorite television programs. Well, sometime in August, I guess the takeover will be complete. And we’re all now getting a little curious as to what kind of effect it’s going to have on, you know, NBC as we know it today — the programing and I guess specifically, how is it going to influence me? And what I’m really trying to get at here is, am I going to have a job? So this is the General Electric building. And, you know, I have a little gift. And we thought, what the heck, let’s just drop in and, you know, say hello to see how it’s going. And, you know, they can’t object to that, can they? Let me ring the bell here first before we go in. It’s a pretty big building. It was built in 1931 and I believe it was originally the RCA building and then later became the General Electric Building. Let me hit that bell again. Can we go in there?
Voice over Intercom [00:29:10] This is not a place to film in.
David Letterman [00:29:11] Yes, sir. We just wanted to drop off a little fruit basket and say hello to the the folks on the board of directors. Can you. Can you hear me? Oh. Yes, ma’am. Hi. How are you?
GE employee [00:29:28] I’m not sure you’re able to do this.
David Letterman [00:29:30] Well, why not?
GE employee [00:29:31] Because we haven’t gotten to the authorization.
David Letterman [00:29:33] Do you work for General Electric?
GE employee [00:29:35] Yes, I do.
David Letterman [00:29:35] Are you. Are you on the board of directors?
GE employee [00:29:37] No, I’m not.
David Letterman [00:29:38] What is your name?
GE employee [00:29:41] I’d rather not say.
David Letterman [00:29:41] Oh, no. Come on. You know, we just wanted to come over and say hello. We’re going to be working together and we want to get everything off on the right foot. We have this lovely basket of fruit. So do you mind if we come in?
GE employee [00:29:53] Well, we received the letter.
David Letterman [00:29:54] Okay.
GE employee [00:29:54] But we didn’t get authorization.
David Letterman [00:29:58] You mean we need authorization to drop off a fruit basket?
GE Security [00:30:00] Yes.
David Letterman [00:30:01] To drop off a fruit basket?
GE Security [00:30:03] Yes, you need authorization.
David Letterman [00:30:04] Oh, this is going to be fun to work with these people, isn’t it? To drop off a fruit basket, you need paperwork.
GE employee [00:30:10] Excuse me, give me a minute and I’ll be right back.
David Letterman [00:30:11] Okay. All right, just a minute here then. What is your name?
GE Security [00:30:17] Ramos. Orlando Ramos.
David Letterman [00:30:19] And, you know, we’re working together now.
GE Security (Orlando Ramos) [00:30:20] Oh, that’s nice.
David Letterman [00:30:21] Do you like working here?
GE Security (Orlando Ramos) [00:30:23] It’s good.
David Letterman [00:30:23] Are they nice people?
GE Security (Orlando Ramos) [00:30:24] Good people. Good people.
David Letterman [00:30:25] Are they mean to you at all?
GE Security (Orlando Ramos) [00:30:26] Excuse me?
David Letterman [00:30:27] Are they ever mean to you?
GE Security (Orlando Ramos) [00:30:28] No. No. Good people.
David Letterman [00:30:29] Christmas bonuses?
GE Security (Orlando Ramos) [00:30:31] … Good people.
David Letterman [00:30:33] Just let us come in and we’ll drop off the basket for…
GE Security (Orlando Ramos) [00:30:34] You gotta wait. You gotta wait for authorization.
David Letterman [00:30:35] Okay. These are the people that we’re going to be working with. I’ll just go on in and see what happens. [Dave enters the building] Hi, how are you? I’m Dave Letterman. Nice to meet you. What is your name?
GE Head Security [00:30:45] I’m going to ask you to turn the cameras off, please.
David Letterman [00:30:47] Okay. We just wanted to drop out of this basket of fruit —
GE Head Security [00:30:50] Cut the cameras please.
David Letterman [00:30:51] — as a gesture of goodwill.
GE Head Security [00:30:53] Cut the cameras, please.
David Letterman (back outside the GE building) [00:31:05] And well, what do we know no of the takeover? How’s it going to work out for us? I think you could say it’s, you know, still too early to tell for sure, but —.
Voice over Intercom [00:31:16] We warned you once, keep moving.
David Letterman [00:31:17] — but we we’re kind of optimistic, you know? And…
Voice over Intercom [00:31:20] Keep moving!
David Letterman [00:31:21] Right. They did seem to enjoy that fruit basket. So we’ll just have to wait and see.
[ end of excerpt ]
Michael Moore [00:31:32] “Keep moving. Keep moving!” Oh, my God. I don’t know what happened after that, but I’m sure heads were rolling. GE we later learned was very pissed at Letterman, and he just took the piss out of them constantly once they did take over NBC. He was always after them, always on them — talk about biting the hand that feeds you. I mean, it was just an amazing thing to witness and the absolute audacity. Because at some point, I mean, the network will fire you if they’ve had enough of you. After 9/11, when Bill Maher spoke the truth, ABC fired him. That was the end of him. So it can happen. It didn’t happen to Letterman, and he just kept at it and kept doing more and more and more of this. And you, at some point listening to that just now, you must have seen now, you know, like you’re probably thinking, “Mike, you know, you might owe Dave some money because you cribbed him. You’ve done this in all your movies, heading after these corporate masters and going after presidents and politicians and whatever.” But as a young person, as a young adult, it was inspirational to me. And I thought to myself, “Well, if Dave can do this. I can do this.” And going after General Motors and the CEO and Roger Smith of Roger & Me, I was able to draw from what I saw Letterman getting away with. Even though I was not a known person and, you know, how was I going to get away with this? But I just went to my inner Dave whenever I had to confront the people that were causing so much harm to this country and to the world, to their employees and whatever.
Michael Moore [00:33:39] And I eventually got to thank Dave for his mentoring, for his inspiration, because in the Christmas week of 1989, just a couple of days after Roger & Me, my first film, had its New York premiere, he had me on his show. And I’m going to play you my appearance on his show here right after, I think, our final underwriter for tonight. And that is Truebill. Let me tell you something about Truebill — you’ve probably heard me talk about them here on Rumble before. In the last few years, let’s just admit we all went a little bit subscription-happy with streamers, with publications, whatever. We just click the thing and boom, you know, maybe we get three months for free or whatever. But even though it was useful, especially during the quarantining that we did during COVID, the problem with all that is that we’re still being charged for things that we forgot that we subscribe to, for things that we’re not watching or reading anymore. They’re dinging our credit card month after month after month. And all of that adds up to a lot of money, and that’s where Truebill comes in. Truebill is the new app that helps you identify and stop paying for subscriptions you don’t need, want, or you’ve simply forgotten about. Listen to this to statistic, on average, the over 2 million Truebill members, they’re saving thousands of dollars a year that they were just throwing away because, you know, we all signed up for too many things and then some of us just would forget about them. It’s so easy to use Truebill. And you can see all of your subscriptions now in one place and you can then decide, as you look at the lists, you keep the ones you want and you cancel the ones you don’t want, right from the app. Truebill even gives you what they call a Truebill concierge to cancel all the ones that make you call in person, that won’t cancel unless you call them. Well, you don’t have to call with Truebill. So I’m encouraging you to take back control. Start canceling your unused subscriptions at Truebil.com/rumble. Go right now to Truebill.com/rumble and it could save you thousands of dollars each year. You do not need to be throwing this money away. Truebill.com/rumble.
Michael Moore [00:36:01] Okay. Now, as I promised. It’s now, let’s see, seven years after I sat in the studio there at 30 Rock to watch Letterman in his very first week on late night TV. And now I have, in that time, made my first film, Roger & Me, it’s had its New York premiere, and they’ve asked me to come on Dave’s show. In the days leading up to that, Roger & Me had won a number of awards. I was in New York. We had won the best documentary award from the New York Film Critics Society. We won the same award, best documentary, from the L.A. Film Critics Society, the National Board of Review, the National Society of Film Critics — oh, my God it was just one after the other — and our heads were spinning. And of course, we’d never planned on any of this happening. And it did. And I felt very grateful and very blessed. And now I’m backstage in the wings at 30 Rock, waiting to walk out onto Late Night with David Letterman as his guest. I’m so nervous. I am so nervous. I had only been on national TV once, and that was, I think, the day before. Jane Pauley asked me to be on The Today Show. And so she interviewed me on the Today Show at seven in the morning. So this is only my second time on national TV, my first time at night. And I’m wearing the hat that I wore in Roger & Me that says “I’m out for trout.” One of the ball caps. “I’m out for trout.” And he well, I’m just going to play it. And then I’ll tell you a couple of things as it closes. This is the final clip I’m going to play in my salute to David Letterman — my gratitude toward him for all those years that he inspired me to do what I ended up doing, and the importance of using humor to get across what we need to do for this country, for the world, whatever, and to build that audience so we get those things done. Now, here I was, with this chance to speak to Letterman’s audience about my first film. This is December 27th, 1989. Let’s roll it.
[ Audio excerpt from the December 27, 1989 episode of Late Night with David Letterman ]
David Letterman [00:38:28] Now. Listen to this. Our next guest held bingo games to help finance a documentary film that he was making about his hometown of Flint, Michigan. The film, called Roger & Me, has opened to lavish critical praise. And there’s even talk about Oscar nominations. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the man behind it all, Michael Moore. Michael. Well, you know, this is a very interesting and entertaining and informative piece of work you’ve done here.
Michael Moore [00:39:05] Well, thank you.
David Letterman [00:39:06] Yeah. Had you done any film making prior to this?
Michael Moore [00:39:09] No, I’ve never made a movie before. I found myself unemployed and sitting around.
David Letterman [00:39:15] What did you do before you lost your job?
Michael Moore [00:39:17] I was the magazine editor and ah…
David Letterman [00:39:20] Publication we would know of do you think?
Michael Moore [00:39:22] Yeah, but one I don’t want to mention because they fired me.
David Letterman [00:39:24] Oh, okay. Well, I know the feeling. Sure.
Michael Moore [00:39:26] So I sued them and I won $58,000.
David Letterman [00:39:29] Sued them on what grounds?
Michael Moore [00:39:30] For firing me. And and I won $58,000 from them. And I started going to a lot of movies just to relieve the boredom. And I was going to everything. I mean,.
David Letterman [00:39:40] Let me interrupt you for a second. Did the dismissal have anything to do with the hat?
Michael Moore [00:39:45] Ah, no. It’s just a nice hat.
David Letterman [00:39:50] It’s a beautiful hat.
Michael Moore [00:39:51] Yeah.
David Letterman [00:39:51] Okay. So you had plenty of free time on your hands and you started going to, sorry, I just—
Michael Moore [00:39:57] It’s okay.
David Letterman [00:39:57] Yeah, you’re going to movies —
Michael Moore [00:39:58] Maybe it did.
David Letterman [00:40:01] You’re going to a lot of movies.
Michael Moore [00:40:03] For $58,000, they should have got the hat.
David Letterman [00:40:04] Yeah.
Michael Moore [00:40:04] Yeah.
David Letterman [00:40:05] Anyway, you’re attending a lot of films…
Michael Moore [00:40:07] Everything. Well, I mean, everything but ninja or Neil Simon. Those are the two genres I just —.
David Letterman [00:40:16] Couldn’t sit through those.
Michael Moore [00:40:17] I can’t handle those.
David Letterman [00:40:18] Yeah, but everything in between —.
Michael Moore [00:40:21] Anything else I would go to and then I thought, well, maybe I should just make a movie.
David Letterman [00:40:24] Really?
Michael Moore [00:40:24] Yeah.
David Letterman [00:40:26] Now when you… A lot of people may have thought that, you know, maybe I could be an actor or a singer or a dancer. Whatever you said, maybe I should make a film. Well, fine. But then what do you do?
Michael Moore [00:40:35] I get a camera and just start shooting, and that’s it.
David Letterman [00:40:39] I know, but you make it sound so simple. Where did you get the camera and where did you get the film? And how did you know what to do? And.
Michael Moore [00:40:44] Well, well, I can’t really say where we got some of it, you know.
David Letterman [00:40:53] Anyway, it seemed to work out.
Michael Moore [00:40:55] Anyways, yeah, and three years later Warner Brothers is distributing my movie all across the country.
David Letterman [00:41:01] Now, see, this is just amazing to me. This is really another version of the American dream.
Michael Moore [00:41:06] Well, yeah, except this one is a reality, you know. Well, I mean, for most people, the American dream is just a dream. As most people can attest to.
David Letterman [00:41:24] Now, the the topic of the film is about your hometown, Flint, Michigan.
Michael Moore [00:41:31] Yeah. And Roger Smith, the chairman of General Motors, lays off 30,000 people. So I decided to dog him all across the country, trying to bring him to my hometown so he could see what he did to it.
David Letterman [00:41:41] Right, now was this the first idea for a film?
Michael Moore [00:41:43] Yeah, yeah, that’s my first.
David Letterman [00:41:44] So you would document this and it’s you trying to get him to come back to Flint?
Michael Moore [00:41:47] Trying to find him and get him to come to Flint and see what had happened to the town.
David Letterman [00:41:50] Economically and spiritually it devastated the community.
Michael Moore [00:41:53] Yeah, it’s very devastated. And so. But I went everywhere, followed him all over the country. Why don’t we one of our people got arrested here at the Waldorf trying to get an interview with them. And we you know, so the film builds to this point where we finally reach him.
David Letterman [00:42:06] Yeah. Oh, you do you actually get Roger Smith?
Michael Moore [00:42:08] Well, kind of, yeah. Kind of.
David Letterman [00:42:11] Is it a it’s a documentary. Is it this cinema verité? Does that term apply here?
Michael Moore [00:42:16] It’s just a movie. I don’t know what any of those things mean because I didn’t —
David Letterman [00:42:19] Yeah it’s your first movie, isn’t it?
Michael Moore [00:42:20] I didn’t go to film school.
David Letterman [00:42:27] Now we have a couple of seconds of the film, is that correct? Yes, we do? Okay. Do you know what we’re going to see here?
Michael Moore [00:42:33] Yeah, well, the town is devastated and so decides to become the tourist mecca of the Midwest and and try and bring a million people a year to Flint for a vacation.
David Letterman [00:42:41] So to kind of pick up the spirits of the community —
Michael Moore [00:42:44] So to pick up the spirits, they decide to become a big tourism destination.
David Letterman [00:42:47] Okay. Here are some scenes from Roger and me. Watch closely.
(Clip from Roger & Me)
Flint Tourism video host [00:42:52] You don’t usually think of tourist attraction when you think of Flint. But people here in Flint would like to change that. And they’re willing to go to some pretty extreme lengths. Flint officials would like to see the local tourist economy explode.
Flint Tourisn video — man interviewed [00:43:07] We’ve got some some great facilities as far as places to stay, interesting places to see museums. And it’s just a nice community to visit.
Flint Tourism video host [00:43:20] This is our visitors log book. I see West Germany here, Australia. Jackie, what are some of the things that visitors ask us here?
Woman employee [00:43:28] First off, “where is the bathroom?” That’s the question I get asked most. Then, “what is there to do in Flint basically.”
(end of clip)
David Letterman [00:43:35] Are you going to be thinking of another film?
Michael Moore [00:43:45] Yeah, I want to make more movies. I’ve got this idea — you know how the Virgin Mary has been appearing around the world lately? She’s in a cornfield in Texas and elsewhere. And so I thought we’d go around and try and meet her now. And call it The Virgin Tour ’89.
David Letterman [00:43:57] Right. Well, regardless of what happens with this project, I think you really are to be commended because it’s it’s really a very nice piece of work. And good luck to you. Nice meeting you. Thank you for being here.
[ end of excerpt ]
Michael Moore [00:44:17] Wow. I was shaking most of the time. You probably can’t hear it, but I think if you saw it, you would see that, you know, I’m in my thirties and I’ve made my first film and now here I was on Letterman and I had a chance to thank him. You know, they had warned me not to talk to him during the commercial break. And I guess he sort of had that reputation. He was kind of a… You know, I don’t know. I don’t know. Whatever. All I can say is this — he was the nicest guy. He talked to me during the commercial break. We talked about the making of the film, how much he loved it. And that was just the first time he had me on the show. Over the next, I don’t know how many more years was he on? Another four years or so he was on NBC and then he switched to CBS and he was on CBS for… Wow. 20 years, maybe? And he had me on both shows, both NBC and CBS late night a number of times. I don’t even know the number. Well, at least a half dozen, maybe closer to a dozen. Usually when I had a movie out or a book I’d written or my TV show, he’d have me on. In fact, after I wrote my first book, which was called Downsize This in 1996, the mail came one day and it was a handwritten envelope. And I opened it and it was from him. It’s from Dave. A handwritten note thanking me for writing this book of essentially political satire called Downsize This and how much he enjoyed it. I hadn’t sent him the book or anything. I mean, it was just so random, and there was this lovely note from him. He was that kind of person. And to the people that he liked and if he liked your work and whatever, he was solidly behind you and there for you. And he wanted to share it with the audience so that they would also read, watch, listen to your work. So a lot of the audience that I was able to build up was in large part because of the times that he would have me on. And I was grateful for it then. I’m grateful for it now.
Michael Moore [00:46:25] And so now he’s in semi-retirement and he’s got this show that he does on Netflix called My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman. And it’s just a one-on-one interview that he does with really interesting and cool people. And I encourage you to watch it if you haven’t seen it. But, you know, I just wanted to do this. I want to do this back in February, when it was the 40th anniversary of his first late night show. And I wanted to do it a couple of weeks ago when he turned 75. And I’m glad that you’ve allowed me to do this now — I know there’s a lot of things going on in the world. There are many things we need to talk about. I posted my Substack for the week yesterday, on Sunday, called “May Day Every Day” about the massive, amazing thing that’s going on with young adults who are forming unions in their workplaces. You’ve got to read this — my Substack — it’s free. Just go to MichaelMoore.com. “May Day Every Day” is the title of it. And I also lay out at the end of it, if you work in a place where you think it needs a union, here’s how to do it. Join these hundreds of other young people who are being successful at Starbucks, at Amazon, at REI, many places getting unionized. And I’ll be back to talk about other things here in the coming weeks, but I wanted to just share this piece of my life with you and how one person, when they don’t even know it, can make a difference. That’s what Letterman did for me. He didn’t even know me from Adam, but he was a good soul. He still is. And I’m grateful for him in my life. I think all of us, a lot of you can say that, right? Not just the entertainment that he gave us, but also getting us to think while we’re laughing at those who are doing a lot of crap to people and to this planet. And he was that person. And I wanted to share that with you tonight. So thank you for listening to this.
Michael Moore [00:48:32] I’m going to close with a song by a singer who was, I think, a very good friend of Dave’s. He had him on quite often each year. Dave loved his music. Dave introduced us to a lot of people that maybe were not that famous at the time, but we first got to see them. And this was the case with Warren Zevon, who died sadly at too young of an age. But Dave gave him a lot of exposure to us, general public. So I thought I’d close tonight with a song by Warren Zevon. And thank all of you for listening to this. Thanks to the producer and editor of this episode, Angela Vargos. My thanks to our executive producer, Basel Hamdan, and everybody else who’s had a hand in this. Donald Borenstein, thank you for pulling these clips together, and to Nick Kwas — all of you, much appreciation and much appreciation to David Letterman. I’ll talk to you soon and we’ll go out here with a great Warren Zevon song “I Was in the House When the House Burned Down.” Thanks, everyone. This is Michael Moore and this is Rumble.