Every year I watch this 1987 clip with David Letterman and Julia Child, and this year it feels more relevant than ever. If you haven't watched it yet — this is the time. Ostensibly the segment has Julia brought on to make a hamburger but she is faced with an equipment malfunction that I deeply suspect was constructed by Letterman to throw her off for laughs.
So she improvises, to devastating effect, keeping Letterman's sarcasm at bay with a blowtorch and a tangible determination to own every joke. Letterman didn't stand a chance. How refreshing.
So what is probably my favorite Julia Child TV moment of all time is not only delightful in its sense of food, and good for a belly laugh or two — but also a master class in keeping an entitled man rocked back just a little, with cool and class.
"Well, I mean, if you come to a place where they don't have the proper kind of cooking equipment, you bring your own stuff."
She plays to the audience and the camera, with a touch of self-deprecation, but mostly leans in, on her toes, flipping every smirk and jab back into laughter at Letterman's expense.
In the wake of #metoo, knowing what we know now about Letterman and his own possibly corrupt relationships with power and sexuality, and having watched years of Letterman using his humor to subtly dismiss and undermine women — Julia sparks and fizzes like an Alka-Seltzer thrown into a warm, sickly tub of white male privilege. She will not let Letterman make points at her expense; yet she is generous. She does not deny the audience their laughs.
She knows she's in a knife fight, but she brought her frying pan (from Good Morning America, that bastion of ladies' morning television, no less!) and no one is getting a jump on her — let alone this smirking young man.
And though she emerges with dignity and the last laugh ("Well I like you anyway!"), she still manages to feed her opponent before the end. He can't say he wasn't fed.
Now that's class. Julia, I bow.