It’s been nearly a year and a half since David Letterman relinquished his Late Night throne to Stephen Colbert after 33 years of bringing his biting wit to living rooms across the world.
Since then, many might think he’s gone to ground and is enjoying a quiet retirement with his wife Regina and their 12-year-old son Harry, perhaps on a farm somewhere in upstate New York.
On the contrary, Letterman has actually been exploring a range of fascinating projects, flying under the radar by growing a massive white beard that obscures his instantly recognisable grin.
“I just got tired of shaving every day, but then it became something else, and I’m not quite sure what it became,” Letterman told the New York Times this month.
“My family has given up on the beard. My son thinks it’s creepy.”
‘They feel a little sorry for me’
The 69-year-old and his beard, it turns out, have been keeping themselves busy doing everything from the mundane to the extraordinary.
He told the Times he had recently delighted in visiting Target on a weekday, spends a lot of time “sitting around the house” and is enjoying the kindness anonymity brings.
“People are so much nicer to me than when I had a TV show,” he said.
“I think they feel a little sorry for me. ‘Let’s be nice to the old man.’”
According to the Times profile, Letterman also fills his time doing other normal things like watching Veep and Portlandia, worrying about his pubescent son and dining with former colleague, Paul Shaffer.
“Most of the day I just sit around and wait for Ellen to come on,” he said at a New Yorker event earlier this month, later admitting that plenty of holidays have been on the cards since his departure.
“The family and I did a great deal of traveling this summer and it was delightful. We were in Montana for about six weeks, in Martha’s Vineyard for about six weeks, went to Japan for two weeks. And it was fun.”
Then there are the less-than normal activities he’s adopted since retiring, including travelling to India for 11 days to interview Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the National Geographic series Years of Living Dangerously.
Watch David Letterman interview Narendra Modi
‘Trump is a damaged human being’
Of course, Letterman is still on hand for biting social commentary and never has his opinion been more missed than during Donald Trump’s campaign for presidency.
“I’ve known Donald Trump for a long time and I always thought he was exactly what New York City needed to have: the big, blowhard billionaire,” Letterman admitted in another New York Times interview.
“Nobody took him seriously, and people loved him when he would come on the show. I would make fun of his hair, I would call him a slumlord, I would make fun of his ties. And he could just take a punch like nothing. He was the perfect guest.”
Letterman recalled when his opinion of Trump changed after seeing him impersonate a New York Times reporter with a congenital disorder.
“[T]hen I thought, if this was somebody else – if this was a member of your family or a next-door neighbour, a guy at work – you would immediately distance yourself from that person,” Letterman said.
“And that’s what I thought would happen. Because if you can do that in a national forum, that says to me that you are a damaged human being. If you can do that, and not apologise, you’re a person to be shunned.”
Watch David Letterman interview Donald Trump
Bald, wild and free
However, Letterman’s new look is not so different he can completely disappear, something he learned the hard way during a holiday in Saint-Barthélemy in March this year.
A sneaky paparazzi shot of him jogging around the Caribbean island with full beard and shaved head spread like wildfire online, as fans expressed shock at his post-Late Night look.
Buzzfeed ran the photos with the headline, ‘David Letterman is bald, bearded and happy as hell’.
Letterman does seem content with his current situation. In fact, the one thing he’s ruled out in retirement is a return to late night television.
“You know, I don’t miss it. It’s for younger people,” he said.
— BuzzFeed (@BuzzFeed) March 27, 2016