David Letterman is an icon of late-night television and on May 20th, 2015 the credits would roll on his reign hosting The Late Show. On this day, some five years ago, Letterman would grace our TVs for the final time after 6,028 shows over 22 years with the host bowing out at the top of his game.
13.7 million people would tune in to watch Letterman’s send-off, which was packed full of guests who wanted to say their goodbyes to the institution that the host had created since it’s inception in 1993. So many wanted to pay their tributes that the show would end up running 17-minutes-over its allotted timeslot.
The show was introduced by archival footage of President Gerald Ford and pre-recorded cameos of former Presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and incumbent Barack Obama all jokingly proclaiming “our long national nightmare is over.”
Another star-studded feature in the finale which was somewhat hit and miss which was a section titled “Top Ten List of “Things I’ve Always Wanted to Say to Dave”, which featured in order of appearance Alec Baldwin, Barbara Walters, Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Carrey, Chris Rock, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Peyton Manning, Tina Fey, and Bill Murray.
Highlights of the segment include this quip from Rock aimed at Letterman’s successor Stephen Colbert: “I’m just glad your show is going to another white guy.” Tina Fey was also on triumphant form as she delivered this stinger of a line: “Thanks for proving men can be funny” and Seinfeld star Louis-Dreyfus used her time to take a potshot at Jerry by saying: “Thanks for letting me participate in another disappointing series finale.”
The show ended in euphoric fashion with David Letterman securing Foo Fighters to perform his favourite song ‘Everlong’ which the host revealed inspired him following his open-heart surgery in 2000, he also paid tribute to his staff who worked on the programme saying they “deserve more credit for this show than I ever will”.
The whole programme is just heartwarming and manages to encapsulate what Letterman created over the course of over two decades all into one show.
What made his programme so special is that largely when he would have A-listers appear they would have nothing to promote but were coming on because they enjoyed the experience and to speak with their friend ‘Dave’. Watch the glorious finale in full, below.