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Dick Cavett Explains How David Letterman's 'Mask Of Innocence' Helped Him Get Away With Anything

05/20/2015 04:31 pm ET | Updated May 20, 2015

Late-night TV legend Dick Cavett joined HuffPost Live on Wednesday to look back on the legacy of David Letterman and say goodbye to the subversive comedy icon, who officially begins his retirement after his final "Late Show" episode airs tonight.

Cavett, a longtime fan of and former guest on Letterman's show, told host Josh Zepps that the key to Letterman's incredible interview style was his ability to hilariously insult his guests even as they sat right next to him, creating a unique "sense of danger" on his show. Cavett said Letterman was able to sneak by his biting barbs thanks to "that hayseed, rustic, Midwestern, innocent, clownish face."

In order to do "those things that he was criticized for and the dummies didn't get," Cavett explained Letterman often hid his cutting wit "behind a wonderful mask of innocence, and I think that's what made it effective for those who dug it, among whom I was one."

Cavett added that often guests had no idea they'd been hilariously ripped apart by Letterman until after the interview was over.

"David's attitude -- it wasn't so much ever what he said -- but his attitude and his looks were priceless, and I'm sure some of [the guests] were stunned when they got home, saw themselves with David and saw what he had done to them," Cavett said.

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