He signed off on a high. He didn’t choke up on his last day on the job. He didn’t make any teary-eyed speech. He must be broken up inside – 33 years is a long time for a job to become part of one’s existence.
And to part away spreading laughter is testament to the legacy of David Letterman – a legacy 33 years and over 6000 shows old. He signed off the same way he started – with the elegant comedy late-night viewers have accustomed to expecting from him for over three decades.
David Letterman started in show-business in 1978, impressing Johnny Carson and becoming a regular guest on The Tonight Show hosted by Carson, whom Letterman credits as being his mentor and earliest influence.
Late Night with David Letterman debuted 33 years ago, in 1982 on NBC with Bill Murray as the first guest.
A cake smeared Bill Murray appeared as a guest on the penultimate show and also in the Top-10 segment on the final episode. In 1992, Dave left NBC to host Late Night with David Letterman on CBS network after apparently, he was denied The Tonight Show by NBC, a job which went to Jay Leno.
He announced his retirement in April last year and Stephen Colbert was nominated as his worthy successor soon after.
Dave Letterman is one of the few, or rather the only talk show host who doesn’t pretend to be bowled over by his celebrity guests. If he genuinely likes you, you’ll have a great time but if he doesn’t, he’ll let you know, to your face.
For the same reason, he’s been called an asshole on his own show. He is known for his dry, sarcastic humor. He does not pretend to be an over the top comic.
He doesn’t feel the need to mimic and extend his joke beyond what is absolutely required. His monologues are consistent and hilarious.
The final episode of the Late Night showed glimpses of some memorable segments over the course of his stint as a late-night host. One of them was Dave’s interactions with kids and the sweetly blunt truths they say innocently, which by his own admission was stolen from Art Linklater’s ‘Kids say the Darnest Things’.
Another one shows Dave pissing off customers at a Taco Bell drive through. And one of the most recurring segments on his show is the Late Night Top Ten where surprise guests are invited to disclose the list.
His final top ten list had Dave’s popular and recurring guests including Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Martin, Chris Rock, Jim Carrey, and of course Bill Murray himself. The show ended with Dave’s favorite band – Foo Fighter performing his favorite song.
The past few weeks had fans and celebrities pouring in with heartiest wishes to Dave. A lot of them mentioned the huge influence and inspiration Dave had been in their career.
Conan O’ Brian reminisces his early days taking over Dave’s Late Night show at NBC and how he was despised by critics and fans alike.
Dave came over to his show as a guest which he rarely does and transformed his career for the better. Jimmy Kimmel choked up while mentioning how much he learned from Dave, that he learned more from him than he did in college.
He even decided not to air his episode so as not to take focus away from his mentor. David Letterman undeniably changed the way the game if played. He has set the standards too high to be matched.
David Letterman has left, leaving Stephen Colbert with an extremely challenging task and mighty big shoes to fill.
Dave pioneered the talk show era to an extent that talk show hosts are held in higher regard than accomplished artists. He has won the respect of everyone, including his competitors. His legacy will never be diluted, he’s made sure of that.