Illegal, Immoral and Funny

Late Show host David Letterman confessed last night — on national, network television — to having sexual relations with female staffers. He also revealed he was the target of a $2 million extortion attempt.

And, at least for the audience in the studio for the first eight minutes of his monologue, it was funny. And, at least for television critics, it was “brilliant TV“.

As Letterman tells it, the scheme involved the alleged blackmailer — since identified as 51-year-old, Emmy-award winning producer Robert Halderman — demanding that Letterman pay him, or Halderman would write a screenplay detailing all of “the creepy stuff” Letterman does behind-the-scenes at Late Night.

Of course, it’s hard to gauge what type of laughter and applause occurred after Letterman said:

“The creepy stuff” was that I have had sex with women who work for me on this show. Now, my response to that is, ‘Yes I have.’ [Laughter & applause]

…but for most people who aren’t David Letterman, having sex with female subordinates does not often lend itself to comedy.

Watch for yourself below, as long as CBS allows it.

Does Letterman play up his status as victim too much, forgetting about the women involved, let alone his family? Or was the scheme so hare-brained — the alleged blackmailer is a producer for the true-crime show “48 hours” — that you can’t help but laugh?

For what it’s worth, adultery is still illegal in New York.

  • Jim!!!

    We knew the punchline before we watched “live” last night having read it online a few minutes prior. Nevertheless it was genuinely riveting TV to watch. It took the studio audience a while to catch on that this was not a gag.

    From the sounds of it these were affairs between consenting adults.

  • Kim V

    On the “Today Show” this morning, a Hollywood gossip reporter said that Letterman was not married at the time of the affair(s). I don’t know if this is true or not, but I thought I should post it anyway.

  • TJSwift

    What I find creepy is that people in his audience thought it was funny.

    Lefties on autopilot from days of defending ACORN and Polanski…or was John Edwards hogging the studio microphone?

  • Karyn

    I thought it was refreshing to hear someone speak frankly of their actions, rather than give the typical PR apology speech after being exposed. Although I’m not a big Letterman fan, it makes sense that someone who has a career in humor would try to make light of the situation.

    On a side note, it’s sad that someone would try to stereotype an audience of people as “lefties on autopilot” when that commenter has never actually met any of them. Ugh.

  • Kim V

    TJSwift: You are totally trying to derail this post. ACORN and Polanski are 2 very different, unrelated topics, as are the groups of people who are trying, unbelieveably, to defend them. I agree with Karyn, your comment on “lefties on autopilot” was completely unnecessary and has nothing to do with Letterman.

  • TJSwift

    “I thought it was refreshing to hear someone speak frankly of their actions, rather than give the typical PR apology speech after being exposed.”

    Yeah, I see you’re point. How could I come to equate making light of adultery and an absence of any sense of regret, much less an apology, with people that defend human trafficking and pedophilia…what *was* I thinking?

    I mean, as soon as Al Franken’s financial involvement in swindling the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls club was exposed, lefties dropped him like a hot potato….right?

  • TJSwift

    I see *your* point.

  • kennedy

    Things that make a difference:

    -Was Letterman married at the time of the affair(s)?

    -Did the relations involve any kind of assualt?

    -Was there abuse of the manager/subordinate work relationship?

    It is now up to the women involved, or possibly Letterman’s spouse, to press charges.

    As far as the initial studio audience reaction, they were probably expecting humor. It is an entertainment show after all.

  • Constant Gina

    How are you going to walk into a bank and expect to cash a 2 million dollar check?? bad move, idiot deserved to get caught.

  • tiredboomer

    Yes, consenting adults. But what I find disturbing is the workplace aspect. Letterman is in a position of power.

    Rhetorical question: Will Letterman be fired? Answer: No, he makes too much money for CBS (which ultimately makes CBS an employer condoning a hostile work environment).