David Letterman's latest on-screen antics | EW.com

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David Letterman's latest on-screen antics

The late-night talk host has been on a tear since his return from heart surgery

Gabriel Byrne, David Letterman, ...

BYRNE, BABY, BYRNE Letterman gives the actor a grilling (<!-- -->)

On a recent show, Paul Shaffer summed it up nicely: David Letterman ”just doesn’t give a damn anymore.” Indeed, Dave is more unruly, cranky, and brutally frank than he’s ever been. Is it the decaf coffee? No, says ”Late Show” exec producer Rob Burnett, who instead theorizes that the recent outpouring of support helped banish any of his boss’ insecurities. ”He’s now sitting back in the chair – like Johnny Carson did – and driving the car with one hand. And I think Dave is at his best when he doesn’t care about anything.” Here, five examples of post-surgery roadkills.

Byrne Tactics Letterman rattled actor Gabriel Byrne by laying into Ron Perelman, the billionaire fiancé of Byrne’s ex-wife Ellen Barkin. In a March 20 chat, Letterman called Perelman ”bald,” ”fat,” and ”a thug.” Mused Byrne during the exchange, ”This is the weirdest thing anyone has said to me in quite some time.”

A Blow to the Chin After years of virtually ignoring his rival’s existence, Letterman lambasted Jay Leno March 1, sneering at the latter’s interview with George W. Bush: ”Now, THERE’S a real summit meeting,” followed by what seemed to be a jabbering, nasal-voiced Leno impression.

More Bush Bashing Apolitical no more, Letterman said to Tom Brokaw March 10, ”In your heart, you know that George W. makes Dan Quayle look like Winston Churchill.”

Full of Beans When Letterman began his anti-decaf coffee campaign in early March (”It’s what they’re drinking in hell”), he asked, ”Do we have any coffee sponsors? I don’t care.”

Quiz Show Scandal After ”Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek mocked ”Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” last month, Dave appointed himself Regis Philbin’s bulldog, making brutal sport of a photo in which Trebek appears to be wearing lip gloss. The picture’s in nightly rotation with the slogan ”He’s the smartest man in the world – and he wears lipstick!”

Additional reporting by Ken Tucker