Eminem and Jay-Z got the royal treatment on The Late Show with David Letterman last night, as he dedicated the whole show to the two of them, promoting their two concert dates in September. He even tricked out the roof of the Ed Sullivan Theater so they could perform up there instead of on the stage. But that didn’t stop the host from being “scared silly” of the man.
Eminem cut his teeth on being a bit goofy and funny in many of his songs, but he’s got something of a reputation for having no sense of humor outside of that, justified or not. For example, he wouldn’t let Weird Al Yankovic do a video of his “Lose Yourself” parody, and there was that whole thing with Sacha Baron Cohen at the MTV Movie Awards, although he claimed he was in on it after the fact. He’s a hard man to read, which is probably why David Letterman mentioned on that he feared getting coldcocked by the rapper.
“Never been on the show before, and here’s a guy – he makes me nervous, because I think, like many people, he wants to punch me,” Dave said. “He’s one of those guys, you can just tell by looking at him – ‘yeah, I’d kinda like to punch Dave.’ So he’s here tonight, and I couldn’t be more frightened, ladies and gentlemen.” With that set-up, it was almost a given that Eminem was going to come out and give the most blank-faced, disinterested, monotone delivery of the Top Ten List – in this case, “Eminem’s Top Ten Pieces of Advice for Kids.” Watch a clip of it right here.
There was a very brief moment when he first came out where it looked like maybe he’d break, and that maybe he was pretending just to give Dave something to riff with, but he never really did. That led Dave to note with vague sarcasm to Paul Shaffer that “that guy is cool. I’m not cool, and neither are you. That guy – that guy is cool.”
Jay-Z also seemed to be getting in on playing the stone-faced tough guy as well in his interview, but since he’s a repeat guest, it was clear that Dave was more comfortable with him. His first question was about what Eminem thinks of him, and Jay said “I just passed him in the hallway and he said ‘this guy’s an a**hole,'” which got a big laugh from the host. So maybe they were just playing along. Dave did get Jay-Z to break into laughter at the end during their conversation about LeBron James coming to the team he co-owns, the New Jersey Nets, saying “he’s got a better chance of winning with the Nets than the Knicks. That’s like saying he’s got a better chance with the Cub Scouts than the Girl Scouts.”
The music was no joke, though. Eminem busted out “Not Afraid” first, a performance also featuring perhaps the most underappreciated musical job you can have, the back-up rapper who has to fill up Em’s inhaling time with rhymes. That was followed by Jay-Z doing “On to the Next One,” and they closed out the show by performing their hit “Renegade” together in the open air. It certainly wasn’t your typical Late Show.