On Friday night, Nathan Lane appeared on David Letterman’s show to promote his Broadway show (“The Nance”) and a new movie (“The English Teacher”). Lane has, for a long time, been a money-in-the-bank guest, always prepared with material for every appearance on the show. But it didn’t occur to me until watching this one that Lane’s on-air relationship with Letterman is similar to the one Rodney Dangerfield had with Johnny Carson.
On the latter’s show, Dangerfield would sit down, Carson would ask him, “How are you feeling?” and then happily act as the straight man while Rodney rolled off 5-6 minutes of non-stop jokes. Part of my enjoyment of the two of them together was seeing how much Carson was enjoying it, and his willingness to allow Dangerfield to have the spotlight. It’s apparent that’s exactly what’s happening when Lane sits down with Letterman and, with minimal prompting from the host, launches into a comedic monologue.