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Upfronts 2014: Alan Cumming, David Letterman put on a show for CBS

David Letterman on CBS CEO Les Moonves: "He has been nothing but supportive."
"Life is like an elevator ride with Beyonce's sister." -- David Letterman
Alan Cumming, star of "The Good Wife," dons suspenders and sings "Willkommen" from "Cabaret" at #CBSUpfront.

At its annual upfront presentation Wednesday at Carnegie Hall, CBS proved it knows how to put on a show with special (and highly entertaining) appearances by two of the network's stars, "The Good Wife's" Alan Cumming and outgoing "Late Show" host David Letterman. 

In a sign of CBS' support for "The Good Wife," which is coming off what may be its most acclaimed season to date, Cumming kicked off the event. The Scottish actor took to the stage in character as political operative Eli Gold, but stripped down to the bare chest, suspenders and bow tie he currently sports each night as the Emcee in the latest Broadway revival of "Cabaret." (As theater lovers will know, Cumming has played the part twice before.)

He then busted out a special upfronts-centric version of "Willkommen," the opening number from the musical, singing about CBS' dominance over its rivals while stroking his nipples. (Yes, really.) He capped off the performance, which was a hit with the audience of advertisers and journalists, by revealing a CBS eye logo on his rear end, another move borrowed from "Cabaret." 

(Pssst, Nina Tassler, maybe it's time to bring "Cabaret" to television? Musicals are all the rage, after all...) 

Later, it was David Letterman's turn to charm the crowd. After introductory remarks from CBS Chief Executive and Chairman Les Moonves, who called the host "a true legend" and "a genius who has left an enduring mark on the television landscape," Letterman entered to a standing ovation at what is likely to be his last appearance at the network's upfront. 

He began by joking that, even though he'd been thinking about what to say all week, "Not once did it occur to me to put lipstick on my nipples." He also made light of the brouhaha surrounding Jay Z and Solange Knowles, saying, "Life is like an elevator ride with Beyoncé's sister."

Letterman also made light of the strange annual ritual of television upfronts. "I've been coming to these for 30 years," he said. "I have no idea who you people are."

Kidding aside, the comedian spent much of his time onstage paying tribute to Moonves. He recalled a "two-day, 48-hour phone fight" with Moonves that occurred early in the executive's tenure at the network. Letterman was vague about the specifics of the spat, but hinted that he may have been acting unreasonably. "For some reason I was under the impression that everything that was wrong was Les’ fault," he said. The two men have long since patched up their differences and, according to Letterman, Moonves "has been nothing but supportive."  

Letterman concluded his appearance by telling a strangely evocative joke borrowed from comedian Norm MacDonald. It's likely to get lost in translation, so we'll just link to the unabridged, original version.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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