On Wednesday the Late Show’s David Letterman, the man who introduced TV to a new kind of comedy show, signed off as a TV host after 33 years of his career.
David Letterman welcomedÂ Bill MurrayÂ as his final regularly scheduled guest, but it’s clear the late night host saved the best for last.
After a video of President Gerald Ford saying âOur long national nightmare is over,â Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama repeated the line at Letterman. Letterman answered to Obama saying You’re just kidding, right?”
Ten stars delivered the final Top Ten list of “things I’ve always wanted to say to Dave.”
Number One was Bill Murray saying “Dave, I’ll never have the money I owe you.”
Tina Fey also had some fun with the host, saying âThanks for finally proving men can be funny.â
Alec Baldwin, who alongÂ with Tina Fey and actress Amy Sedaris, was a frequent fill-in guest for the host when an actor cancelled at the last second, jokedÂ âOf all the talk shows yours is most geographically convenient to my home.â
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, with Jerry Seinfeld standing nearby, said “Thanks for letting me take part in another hugely disappointing series finale.”
Peyton Manning, who spent 14 seasons as the quarterback on Letterman’s favorite team, the Indianapolis Colts, winning the Super Bowl in 2007, told the host âYou are to comedy what I am âŚ to comedy.â
Letterman remembered touring the Ed Sullivan Theater before moving to CBS: âIt was a dumpâŚ crawling with ratsâbig rats.â
He thanked CBS President Les Moonves and Biff Henderson, the gang in the control roomââLetâs keep it to three drinks tonight!ââand his writers. Of course, he thanked Paul and the band. And with the kind of personal touch he has been showing in his later days he thanked his son Harry and his wife Regina.
Daveâs last minutes on the show were as heavy on the laughs as on the thanks, an hour-plus of an entertainer being an entertainer and enjoying it. It was true to Dave, it was fun and it was terrific.
Something that may be lost on the audience is how well Letterman understood late night comedy.
According to the Huffington Post, Ron Simon, a curator at the Paley Center for Media, called Letterman a pioneer of late night comedy, experimenting in a new time slot when NBC launched “Late Night” and then again breaking the mold and bringing a new, more mature late night show to CBS. Letterman had an “understanding of all the rules, and then he was able to break those rules,” Simon said.
“Dave came over with his writers, and they looked up, especially some of the early ’50s early ’60s talk show hosts like Steve Allen and Ernie Kovacs. I think that was one of the special things about David Letterman is they were able to take a look at history but do their own unique, surreal spin on it,” he said.