David Letterman was both silly and serious in his first show since an alleged extortion plot laid bare the comic's intra-office sexcapades, apologizing to his wife and staff while poking fun at himself.
“Did your weekend just fly by?” Letterman said to kick off his monologue. A little later he joked: "I got in my car this weekend and the navigation lady wasn’t speaking to me."
He also issued a heartfelt apology to his wife, Regina:
"She has been horribly hurt by my behavior, and when something happens like that, if you hurt a person and it’s your responsibility, you try to fix it. And at that point, there’s only two things that can happen: either you’re going to make some progress and get it fixed, or you’re going to fall short and perhaps not get it fixed, so let me tell you folks, I got my work cut out for me.”
Letterman made fun of himself quite a bit – just as he did when he made the bombshell announcement before a stunned studio audience last Thursday.
"It’s fall in New York City and I spent the whole weekend raking my hate mail," he said. "Chilly outside my house, chilly inside my house. This whole thing is surreal. Normally when I’m shaken down for money, you know, it’s my relatives."
The talk show legend also skewered a few easy targets along the way.
“So Bill Clinton…” Letterman said using a set-up he’s used a thousand times. “Oh, never mind."
“So Eliot Spitzer….oh, never mind,“ Letterman continued to uproarious laughter.
Then he cautioned the audience, "This is only Phase 1 of the scandal. Phase 2: Next week I go on 'Oprah' and sob."
Striking a more serious note, Letterman apologized to his staff who are now living under intense media scrutiny.
"I just wasn’t thinking ahead. And, moreover, the staff here has been wonderfully supportive to me, not just through this furor, but through all the years that we’ve been on television and especially all the years here at CBS," he said.
"Let me tell you, folks, I have a lot of work to do at home,” the funnyman added. He also added in a dig at South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, "I wish I were hiking on the Appalachian Trail."
A bit later, guest Steve Martin gave Letterman his kidding consolation: "It proves that you're a human being. And we weren't really that sure before."
Martin Short, making an unannounced appearance, playfully plopped himself in Martin's lap.
"You spend one more minute on his lap, you're gonna get blackmailed," Letterman quipped.
The reception was more than warm, according to several members of the studio audience. He was not heckled or jeered. He was met with applause and understanding.
“I think everyone was pleased that he was taking ownership and realized that he caused other people pain,” said Kristy Balthasar, who traveled from Kansas to catch the taping. “People were really supporting him for the level of ownership and responsibility he has taken for his action.”