Episodes: 4,263 (62 minutes)
TV show dates: August 30, 1993 — May 20, 2015
Series status: Ended
Performers include: David Letterman, Paul Schaffer, Bill Wendell, and Alan Kalter.
TV show description:
Derived from Late Night With David Letterman, this Emmy Award-winning late night talk show was born as David Letterman switched networks from NBC to CBS. It’s produced by Letterman’s production company Worldwide Pants Incorporated and follows much the same format as its predecessor.
Letterman is the host, opening the show with a monologue, followed by a live or pre-recorded skit and a “Top 10” list. He then typically interviews one or two guests and many times follows it up with a musical guest performance. Paul Shaffer serves as the show’s music director, bandleader, and Letterman’s sidekick.
The announcer (Bill Wendell, then Alan Kalter) introduces Letterman at the top of the show with a unique tagline, such as “And now, a guy we knew would never amount of anything, David Letterman!” or “And now, Marcel Marceu’s protege, David Letterman!” This changes daily, usually playing off a current event.
Two of the best-known bits from the show are “Stupid Pet Tricks” and “Stupid Human Tricks.” Other sketches include “Great Moments In Presidential Speeches,” “Will It Float?,” “Is This Anything?,” and “Small Town News.”
Letterman also frequently plays audience participation games like “Know Your Current Events,” “Stump the Band,” and “Audience Show and Tell,” harkening back to the days of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show.
The episode starts with a clip of President Gerald Ford delivering his famous quote, “Our long national nightmare is over.” That leads into newly record clips of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all saying the same thing. The opening rolls.
After a long standing ovation from the audience, Letterman delivers his last monologue and notes that it’s looking like he’s not going to get to host The Tonight Show. After a commerical break, Letterman wishes Stephen Colbert and his staff well and that leads into clips of Letterman interacting with children. The final top 10 list (What I’ve always wanted to say to Dave) is delivered by Alec Baldwin, Barbara Walters, Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Carrey, Chris Rock, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Peyton Manning, Tina Fey, and Bill Murray.
Next up is a retro-clip of Letterman messing with drive-thru customers at a Taco Bell, followed by a new video that shows a day in the life of Letterman and his staff. In the show’s final minutes, Letterman speaks the home and in-studio audience and says:
“The last six weeks — it’s been crazy. People have been saying lovely things about us, and it’s really been over the top. And I can’t tell you how flattering, embarrassing, and gratifying it has all been. I have two things to say about this. We have done over 6,000 shows — I was here for most of them — and I can tell you a pretty high percentage of those shows absolutely sucked. And, also, in light of all of this praise, merited or not, do me a favor — save a little for my funeral. Alright? I’d appreciate it.”
“Paul and I came here 22 years ago from NBC, and a fellow by the name of Howard Stringer ran CBS in those days. He wanted us to do the show in this theatre. Paul and I said ‘okay’ and came to take a look at it. Frankly, it was dump. It was a huge, horrible dump. It was not certified for habitation, and we came in and — this is a true story — it was crawling with rats. Big rats. But there were so many rafters and beams that were falling down, the rats were stoop-shouldered. That’s absolutely a true story. But he turned it into this beautiful theater, and now look at it, and we’ve come to call this home each and every day and love it more and more. And what a wonderful place to do a show. And what tremendous music this place has housed over the years.”
“And then Howard Stringer left, and I believe now is in charge of a string of very successful nail salons. And then a man named Les Moonves took over and he’s still here today. And let me say a few words about Les Moonves. Over the years, this man has been a friend of the show. He has been very supportive of the show, and he has been more than patient with me. If this was a printed sheet of paper you could underline ‘patient’ several dozen times. So I would like to thank Mr. Moonves for that support.”
“And the crew. What a tremendous crew we have had; the people you have seen on the stage, the people you don’t see on the stage, the people upstairs, the props department, the audio, the cameras, the make-up, the wardrobe, the sceneic and it goes on and on and on. And these people, have put up with my nonsense night after night and have taken great care of not just me but everyone on this show. Thank you everybody involved with that.”
“The staff — what a tremendous staff — and we have researchers, these four people work in some subterranean pit. There is no natural light there whatsoever and yet they come in night after night and do the work. The talent coordinators, they bring the guests in. We have the segment producers, they put together the segments. We have producers.”
“We have people in the control room. I’ve never been in the control room. but let’s show them. ‘Hi everybody, it’s Dave. Let’s keep it to three drinks today, okay?’ And of course, the writers. Through the years on this show and the one at NBC, I have been blessed with men and women who are smarter than I am and funnier than I am and I have always been interested in doing the show that the writers have given me.”
“These people collectively that I have now just mentioned, believe me, they deserve more credit for this show than I ever will. Thank you to all of those people.”
“And now, thanks to people we see every night. Our announcer Alan Kalter — I don’t know of a better announcer than Alan Kalter. A guy that I have worked with every day that I have made television for 30 years, Biff Henderson. Thank you Biff. God bless you.”
“Here’s what I will miss most about this show (gesturing to the CBS Orchestra) and we will start with Felicia Collins, Sid McGinnis, Will Lee, Anton Fig, Tom Malone, Frank Greene, Aaron Heick, and my good, good friend — as good a friend as you can have on television and as good a friend as you can have in life — and a musical genius; Paul Shaffer. It is so obvious every single night that they are so much better at their job than I am at my job.”
“A part of the show for so long was my mom appearing on the show. I remember the first time we wanted her to be on the show and I called and told her and she said, ‘You have a show?’ And it’s been nothing but fun ever since.”
“I want to thank my own family — my wife Regina and my son Harry (in the audience, they receive a standing ovation). Thank you. Just seriously, thank you for being my family. I love you both, and really nothing else matters, does it? And before the show, my son wanted me to introduce his friend (next to him) Tommy Rebatto. There he is. Tommy!”
“I want to thank the folks at home. You know, people come up to me all the time and say, ‘I have been watching you since the morning show’ and I say, ‘Have you never thought about a complete psychological work-up?’ There is nothing I can ever do to repay you folks. Thank you for everything. You’ve given me everything, and thank you again.”
“Now, let me tell you about the Foo Fighters. Fifteen years ago, I had open heart surgery. It saved my life but I was out of doing the show for five or six weeks. So, I’m talking to Sheila Rogers and she says, ‘Well, on your first show back, is there anything you would like musically?’ Well, yeah, what about Foo Fighters? They’ve been on five or so times. And she said, ‘Well, I’ll ask them but it may be a problem.’ And I said, well, just ask them. And also, there’s a song of their’s I would like to hear. It’s special to me and has been meaningful to me during my heart recovery.”
“A few days later she called back and said, ‘Oh, there’s some… they’re on tour in South America.’ I said awww and she said ‘But that’s alright, they cancelled the tour.’ And she said, ‘They are coming back to do the show and they are doing the song that you asked for.’ And happily, ever since, we have been joined at the hip. God bless you gentleman. Thank you very much.”
“All right. That’s pretty much all I got. All I’ve got to do, for the last time on any television program, is to say thank you, and good night.”
The show closes with the Foo Fighters performing “Everlong” as archival photos and clips play.
First aired: May 20, 2015.
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