It began very similar to the best way it ended for David Letterman.

There he got here, striding onto the stage on the Ed Sullivan Theater on Monday night time, to a standing ovation and a refrain of chants of “Da-vid! Da-vid!”

The one distinction this time was that Mr. Letterman, in a full grey beard, was a visitor of “The Late Present,” and Stephen Colbert, its host since 2015, led him to a chair that was not behind a desk.

“Stephen,” Mr. Letterman stated as he sat down. “Management your individuals!”

Mr. Letterman’s look on “The Late Present” — the collection he started for CBS in 1993 and hosted till Mr. Colbert changed him — introduced some decision to one of many odder mysteries in present enterprise: Why wouldn’t he go to together with his successor?

Mr. Letterman has been no stranger to the limelight since he stepped down from his late-night gig. He hosts his personal Netflix long-form interview present, “My Subsequent Visitor Wants No Introduction,” and he has visited loads of different exhibits. He has finished Jimmy Kimmel’s ABC show several times; Seth Meyers’s late night show; Ellen DeGeneres’s daytime talk show; Howard Stern’s radio show; Dax Shepard’s podcast; Marc Maron’s podcast; Conan O’Brien’s podcast. He even did the Busy Philipps podcast.

All of these appearances made his absence from Mr. Colbert’s present much more conspicuous. In spite of everything, it’s one thing of a tv custom for grand eminences of late night time to go to their successors.

Jay Leno has joined Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Present.” Jon Stewart visited his successor, Trevor Noah, on “The Every day Present.” Mr. Letterman, then at rival CBS, visited Mr. O’Brien on “Late Evening,” the 12:30 a.m. NBC present that he had created over a decade earlier.

Was being again on the Ed Sullivan Theater an excessive amount of to bear for Mr. Letterman?

Was it the truth that it took Mr. Colbert lower than two years to change into the most-watched host in late night time, a designation that eluded Mr. Letterman for many of his run?

Or was one thing else at play?

In a 2015 interview with The New York Instances, Mr. Letterman stated he had initially been bothered that he wasn’t consulted about who would exchange him. He additionally appeared shocked that Mr. Colbert had been chosen so shortly after Mr. Letterman introduced that he was retiring.

“They didn’t need to put a lot thought to it, did they?” he stated in 2015. “I believe it was the very subsequent day.” (Mr. Colbert was hired a week later.)

Throughout his look on Monday, which took up greater than 20 minutes of airtime, Mr. Letterman and Mr. Colbert prevented the subject. As an alternative, Mr. Letterman mentioned, amongst different issues, visiting CVS pharmacies, his son going off to varsity, and the way he made his means into the studio on Monday.

“I got here to the present this afternoon, and folks have been saying, ‘Sure, could I assist you?’” Mr. Letterman stated. “And I stated, ‘I’m Ed Sullivan.’ Acquired me proper in.”

Mr. Colbert requested Mr. Letterman if he missed something about internet hosting a late night time present.

“I miss all the pieces,” Mr. Letterman replied. “Largely, it’s enjoyable. Only a few issues in life present one the chance — and I can’t converse for you on this subject — however for me, in the event you muck one up, 24 hours later, you get to attempt once more.”

The ice could have damaged a number of weeks in the past when Mr. Letterman was a visitor on “Strike Power 5,” a podcast that a number of of the present late-night hosts, together with Mr. Colbert, began throughout the Hollywood writers’ strike. Throughout the interview, Mr. Colbert used the event to clear the air about how he had been employed.

Over a number of minutes, Mr. Colbert defined that CBS executives first approached him in 2013 to debate the potential for changing Mr. Letterman. On the time, Mr. Colbert stated, he wished assurances from CBS that Mr. Letterman was conscious of this assembly. He was instructed that the community had Mr. Letterman’s blessing to fulfill with individuals.

Six months later, in April 2014, Mr. Letterman introduced that he would step down from “The Late Present.” However, Mr. Colbert defined within the podcast, he then obtained an odd message that made him marvel if Mr. Letterman had really identified in regards to the outreach.

Mr. Letterman stated on the podcast that CBS executives may need thought he was contemplating retirement — however that he had by no means explicitly instructed them to start a seek for his alternative.

“I’m sure that that half didn’t occur,” he stated.

Mr. Letterman then recalled on the podcast how he had discovered himself in the same state of affairs years earlier when NBC executives wished him to host “The Tonight Present” half time with Johnny Carson. When Mr. Letterman discovered that Mr. Carson was not conscious of the association, he declined to take part.

As Mr. Letterman’s “Late Present” look reached its finish, he made a request of Mr. Colbert: Might he sit down behind his desk? Mr. Colbert instantly sprung up, and gave up his chair for Mr. Letterman.

With Mr. Letterman behind the desk, Mr. Colbert had a query.

“Only a few individuals know what it’s wish to host one among this stuff,” he stated, gesturing to the bottom of his desk. “What do you consider my provides? Was that something such as you had down there?”

“What?” Mr. Letterman replied. “All this weed?”

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