Nine times out of 10, when David Letterman asks his guests how their kids are, it's a pretty good indication that he a) has lost interest, b) has no idea what else to ask, or c) just wants to work in a story about his son, Harry.
But last night on the Late Show, when Dave asked guest Michelle Obama about her kids, there was more on his agenda than tossing out a softball question to kill the time — he sincerely wanted some advice from the First Lady on how to deal with 11 year-old Harry's moods. "I need all the help I can get," he cracked. The FLOTUS assured him that such things are normal, and admitted that she and the President refer to one of their daughters (she wouldn't say which) as their "Grumpy Cat" or "Salty Biscuit." She joked that, after Dave leaves CBS and the Obamas leave the White House, "We could do things [together]— I would help you raise your children." "That's both delightful and pathetic, isn't it?" Dave laughed. "Did you hear what the President's wife is doing now?"
The parenting conversation also served as a prelude to a lengthy discussion of Joining Forces, the nationwide initiative begun in 2011 by the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden to support U.S. service members, veterans and their families. Dave showed a more serious side of himself than usual during this part of the show, firing off a number of questions for Obama regarding resources for veterans, the G.I. Bill, the eradication of homelessness, and the importance of giving college counseling support to high school kids. Still, he found a way to work a little humor into the heavy topics at hand. "I remember the day my parents sat me down, and they said, 'Dave, it's time to go to college,'" he told the First Lady. "They said, 'Dave, if you don't go to college and graduate, there's no way you'll get a talk show."
Though the First Lady didn't give Dave any dietary advice — "This will be her last opportunity to try and get me to eat kale," he joked during the opening monologue — she did offer up a farewell gift in the form of a surprise appearance by the President's own U.S. Marine Band. Dave seemed immensely touched by the honor, and he stood and applauded enthusiastically throughout the marching band's performance.
He appeared even more stoked about the other musical event of the evening, a performance of "Hold My Hand" by the reunited Hootie and the Blowfish. Aside from Darius Rucker's grey whiskers, the band looked and sounded pretty much like they did back in 1994, when they made their nationally televised debut on Letterman's show. "Oh, man!" Dave raved to the audience, after thanking Rucker and his bandmates profusely. "It sounded great in 1994 — it still sounds great!"
Earlier in last night's show, Dave had flashed back almost as far, screening a 1997 bit in which he cabbed it to Yankee Stadium, suited up in pinstripes and pinch-hit for the Yankees in a dramatic situation. The bit ended with him popping out to short — "The story of my life," he joked. But when last night's show ended, he was beaming like a man who'd just hit a game-winning home run.