Mr. Rogers described meeting Eddie Murphy in 1982 and it showcases his kind confidence
Letterman asked what he thought of Eddie Murphy parodying him on SNL's "Mister Robinson's Neighborhood."
Few people have earned the amount of genuine, wholesome love that Fred Rogers did. Mr. Rogers made an indelible mark on countless children's childhoods with his goodness, and he even managed to maintain his reputation for being genuinely kind and caring until the end of his life and beyond.
It's a rare feat these days, to live a life in the spotlight and not be outed for some kind of scandal. But Mr. Rogers did and we love him all the more for it.
In the clip, Letterman chatted with Rogers for a few minutes about his career, then pointed out that there was a performer in the building who had done imitations of Rogers.
"I just met him a little bit ago," Rogers responded, pulling out a Polaroid photo of himself smiling next to comedian Eddie Murphy.
Murphy was a regular cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1980 to 1984 and one of his most popular skits was a parody of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" called "Mister Robinson's Neighborhood."
By Eddie Murphy standards, the skits were fairly clean, but they referenced some hefty topics such as poverty, racism and gentrification while also playing up certain racial and socioeconomic stereotypes. And they weren't always very kid-friendly (as is the case with many SNL skits).
"How do you react to that?" Letterman asked Rogers. "We talked to Andy Rooney about someone doing an impression of him and he didn't seem too keen on it."
Rogers' response was honest but totally classy.
"Well, some of them aren't very funny," he said. Then he seemed to choose his words thoughtfully: "But I think that a lot of them are done with real kindness in their hearts."
People in the comments praised Rogers for being exactly who he was during the interview.
"I love that he seems unfazed that some of the audience are not exactly laughing with him... or that Dave would ask him some baiting questions. The man is so comfortable in his own skin that he cares not what others think or say. One of the many reasons he was such a wonderful role model for us kids. A truly wonderful human being." – @OldSaltyBear
"After watching this interview, I just realized what you see on Mr. Roger's Neighborhood is basically him, he wasn't acting or trying to be someone else just for the show, that was him. Fred Rogers was Fred Rogers on and off the show. Such genuineness, it definitely, and exponentially, multiplies the kindness he shows on the show." – @arisketch9247
"Mr Rogers was truly the odd man out. Just a wonderful human being. I was never a fan of Letterman but I think he wanted this interview to go different. I’m not sure the exact intent but Mr Rodgers was just a convicted, sincere and genuine person to want kids to be kids. Even the bad, he wanted them to be true to their feelings and have a safe place to express it. He was the best." – @MurphySullivan
Others shared how much Mr. Rogers meant to them personally:
"I will always appreciate Mr. Rogers because my childhood was one of abuse and violence. Watching an adult talk to me like I mattered and in a calm way was a refuge for me. It may sound corny and dramatic, but it was my reality back in the 80's. He was a blessing and a genuine person." – @jameswhittenburg5299
"That man saved me from my childhood. Abuse surrounded me. There were no good or trustworthy adults I could rely on, but I had Mr. Rogers. I loved him when I was really young, & he taught me things I desperately needed to hear. What a wonderful, wonderful man." – @dshepherd107
"I don't think people realized that Mr. Rogers was actually a foster parent to every child that watched this show. He's still fostering children posthumously. He just had that big of a heart and good spirit. Such a good man. RIP" – @randomsteve7808
It's truly impossible to overstate the impact Fred Rogers had on generations of kids during his lifetime, and thanks to the miracle of television, his legacy continues to inspire and comfort to this day.
(And if you haven't seen "Mister Robinson's Neighborhood," here's a taste:)