His recent interview with Joaquin Phoenix, impeccable taste, and biting comedy make Dave our pick for February 2009

By Ken Tucker
Updated December 20, 2019 at 02:16 AM EST

His tart Feb. 11 interview with a very eccentric Joaquin Phoenix resulted in more than 7.5 million online views in the following week, a new record for Late Show. Just proves what we’ve long thought: When it comes to odd or rude or recalcitrant guests, no one gets more humor and electricity out of a tense exchange than Dave.

And when it comes to picking recurring guests, Dave’s taste is unerring. Recent returns of Letterman favorites such as Martha Stewart, Steve Martin, and Bonnie Hunt have all killed. (Hunt on the rats in her house: ”One’s having a cigarette, the other’s got my dress on!”) Everyone brings their A game to Late Show.

Having that adorable son Harry seems to have expanded his repaired, vital heart. Inviting the late comic Bill Hicks’ mother on the show Jan. 30 so he could apologize for censoring the comedian’s performance 16 years ago revealed a Letterman who makes sincere amends…

…but he’s no pushover! No one has been more ferociously funny about the state of the economy, A-Rod’s steroid use, or bipartisan political satire. In the shifting landscape of late night, Letterman rules as a constant pleasure.