David Letterman keeps up the long standing tradition established by Johnny Carson. He is unapologetically incapable of curiosity. A stream of people pass the portals of Late Night and we are none the wiser. No good questions are asked. Good answers tend to be accidental.
While in Saratoga this weekend, Pam and I stayed with friends and got to see Costello's new talk show called Spectacle in which Costello does extended interviews with a remarkable diversity of musicians (from Lou Reed to Rufus Wainwright). It runs on Sundance.
Costello is intelligent and well informed. His questions are thoughtful and well chosen. He exhibits the humility required of a great interviewer. (He shows none of the reluctance to shut up and give over that tortures most Charlie Rose interviews these days.)
Five or ten minutes into this sort of thing and I had to put my hands on my knees and take deep breaths. I mean, it was dizzying. So much data. So much complexity. I actually had to pay attention. But once I got the hang of it, it was a great, spectacular, pleasure to behold.
I couldn't help wondering whether this is precisely the process by which popular culture gives up the adjective and becomes culture plain and simple. (And interesting to note that Elton John and David Furnish play originating producers here.)
Let's add Costello to our list of people to whom the CCO (Chief Culture Officer) will sometimes want access. This will usually be a matter of asking an assistant to fetch the appropriate episode of Spectacle. But for the executive with really deep pockets, a personal audience is perhaps not out of the question. Costello appears to be a citizen of all musical worlds. An hour in his presence could be a fantastically efficient way of solving certain CCO problems. (And of course it would be a story to dine out on indefinitely.)
Ryzik, Melena. 2008. Is it a Talk Show if the Host Sings? New York Times. November 28. here.