The Five Best Exchanges from Letterman’s Appearance at Ball State

David Letterman hosted filmmakers Spike Jonze and Bennett Miller at Ball State University last night. Combined, the two have 27 Academy Award nominations and have written and directed blockbuster hits such as Her, Where the Wild Things Are, Foxcatcher, and Moneyball.

Jonze and Miller join a strong list of previous speakers in the Letterman Lecture Series, including Oprah Winfrey and Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter.

Letterman graced the stage in true Indiana fashion, sporting a Charles Darwin–esque beard. The conversation jumped from heavy topics to lighthearted interactions. Here are the five best exchanges.

When Letterman opened with a story of his 94-year-old mother getting drunk off margaritas at Thanksgiving.

“We [thought] Mom was taking a nap. At 7 [or] 8 o’clock we can’t find Mom … She’d gone out to the backyard and fallen asleep. My hand to God, there was a deer licking the salt off the rim of her glass.”


When Letterman faced the underrepresentation of women in the film industry head-on.

“What about the discussion that [women] may not be trusted to produce the $600 million blockbuster?” Letterman asked.

“I can say that’s ridiculous. Hollywood, that movie business, is probably like all giant American businesses. It takes a long time to change and evolve … Spike Lee talked about how there is no black [studio] head, which is also ridiculous,” said Jonze.


When Letterman, a proud “C”-average student, asked two theater majors, “How are your grades?”

“I’m graduating on time,” one of the students replied.

Of course, Letterman laughed.


When Jonze admitted that being a director was merely a consolation prize to his lifelong dream of being a stuntman.

“Have either of you here rolled out of a moving cab?” asked Letterman.

“Funny you should ask,” said Jonze. “My whole life I wanted to be a stuntman.”

“It actually was a terrible idea because the cement was so hard, and I split my head open.”

Jonze confessed he might have had a few drinks prior to plunging out of the cab.


When Miller gave a simple but brilliant explanation of how he became a director (sans college degree, for the record) after deciding on the career at a young age.

“When I was 12 I thought, There are other 12-year-olds right now who one day will be directors. What do they know that I don’t know?

Letterman announced that after retiring from his 6,028-broadcast Late Show run, he is donating all the memorabilia, including his Emmys, to Ball State University.