Over the past 33 years, David Letterman has become a fixture in our living rooms and our water cooler discussions, a catalyst for the evolution of television comedy. On Wednesday night, David Letterman's last show on late-night TV marked a final, fitting hour of tributes and laughter.
His last show — which actually ran some 20 minutes over the hour — opened with a playful swipe at Letterman's long career that set the tone for the show. A succession of four presidents declared solemnly: "Our long, national nightmare is over," with President Obama continuing, "Letterman is retiring."
In his final monologue, Letterman cracked self-mocking jokes as he looked back on his dynamic career and talked about retirement. In his 33 years at NBC and CBS, Letterman noted the number of shows he's hosted — 6,028 — and the number of minutes of laughter from those thousands of broadcasts, according to scientist Stephen Hawking's calculations — eight. Post-"Late Show," however, he plans to take a completely different career route to "become the new face of Scientology."
His last Top 10 List was a star-studded event: 10 celebrities delivered a hilarious final list of "Things I've always wanted to say to Dave."
"Thanks for letting me take part in another hugely disappointing series finale," quipped Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning wasn't much more supportive, saying, "You are to comedy what I am to comedy."
But Tina Fey delivered the real side-splitter: "Thanks for finally proving men can be funny."
The last show saw an outpouring of gratitude and congratulations from fans and colleagues alike. Jimmy Kimmel gave an emotional farewell to Letterman the night before, and on Wednesday aired a rerun of "Jimmy Kimmel Live" so as not to get in the way of Letterman's finale.
Conan O'Brien delivered a poignant farewell speech on his Wednesday show that aired at the same time as Letterman's, telling his viewers to tune in to "The Late Show" instead.
As Letterman introduced the band, his last words on late-night were:
"The only thing I have left to do for the last time on a television program... Thank you and good night."