May 18, 2018

Isaac Asimov to David Letterman in 1980: “I just tried to write stories that would sell so I could pay my way through college”


A young Isaac Asimov. Someday, this would all become muttonchop.

It’s hard to imagine any better way to cold boot your Friday morning than to watch this incredible 1980 TV spot featuring science fiction legend Isaac Asimov and David Letterman. Maybe the greatest revelation is that Asimov, sixty in this video, proves himself a natural comedian; Letterman, thirty-three, can barely keep up. He also talks about loving the Star Wars movies (“I enjoyed The Empire Strikes Back so much that when they finished it I jumped up in my seat and yelled, ‘Start the third part!’”), his occasional technological prescience (“I described pocket computers in 1950 — got the appearance exactly right”), and the Cold War arms race (“I figure that the best weapons research is no weapons research”), among a great many other things. Other bonuses include the angular New York accent that Asimov, born in Russia shortly after the revolution, uses to great comedic advantage, and, of course, the muttonchops — by God, those muttonchops. Letterman, for that matter, is a good sport about all of it, and a lively interlocutor. The whole thing is a pleasure. Enjoy: