Conan O’Brien and other late-night hosts pay tribute to David Letterman

22 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

David Letterman Leaves Late Night With Thanks and a Smile.

When David Letterman signed off CBS’ “Late Show” for good Wednesday, he closed the book on more than his own incomparable career in late night. Comedy stars from Steve Martin to Tina Fey and the rock band Foo Fighters ushered David Letterman into retirement Wednesday after 33 years and 6,028 broadcasts of his late-night shows on CBS and NBC.With help from four presidents, David Letterman said farewell to late-night television Wednesday night, shedding no tears, but arousing plenty of laughter, nostalgia and melancholy.

Wednesday night’s final “Late Show” episode included a fitting “Top Ten” tribute in which David Letterman turned his recurring segment over to a host of celebrity guests. He closed out a broadcasting epoch that also encompasses his mentor, “Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson, who retired with great emotion and ceremony in 1992. The transplanted Hoosier, who made Top Ten lists and ironic humor staples of television comedy and influenced a generation of performers, will be replaced by Stephen Colbert in September.

Each took turns airing their grievances — all in good fun, of course — and slammed the retiree for everything from being unbearably white to being the “Peyton Manning of comedy.” Dave also called it a day for Steve Allen and Jack Paar, who back in the 1950s broke ground as each took a turn as the host of “Tonight.” For anyone sad that Letterman is leaving the spotlight, he offered joking consolation, announcing that he and about-to-be-former bandleader Paul Shaffer would soon “be debuting our new act at Caesars Palace with our white tigers.” Dave’s much-awaited finale was surprisingly unsurprising for such a momentous occasion. Fans and photographers clustered outside the 53rd Street side entrance to Manhattan’s Ed Sullivan Theater on Wednesday afternoon to watch a steady stream of celebrities arriving, including Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Jim Carrey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Barbara Walters, Peyton Manning and Alec Baldwin along with Fey and Martin.

Bush echoing footage of the late President Gerald Ford: “Our long national nightmare is over.” After asking Obama, “You’re just kidding, right?” the president shrugged. As for the host, Letterman “was guarded but you could tell it was really hard for him,” said John Bernstein, who flew in from Los Angeles to see the finale. His farewell “Late Show” was a pure celebration of his 33 years (more like 35, as Letterman showed several clips from his “Late Night” precursor, “The David Letterman Show,” a short-lived morning program that ran on NBC in 1980) as a pioneer of late-night television.

Anticipating the end, viewers sent Letterman to the top of the late-night ratings the week before last for the first time since Jimmy Fallon took over at NBC’s “Tonight” show and they competed with original telecasts. He presented a sampling of vintage clips, and a new filmed segment displayed a day in the life of Dave doing “Late Show” — fun, even instructive, if an odd idea since this is no longer the way Dave’s day will go. The other celeb participants included Alec Baldwin (#10), Barbara Walters (#9), Steve Martin (#8), Jim Carrey (#6), Chris Rock (#5), Peyton Manning (#3) and Tina Fey (#2) – who, as promised, appeared in a far more casual (but no less beautiful) ensemble this time around. Near the end of the show, Letterman voiced appreciation for all the praise and tributes, “merited or not,” directed at him recently, but added, “Do me a favor: Save a little for my funeral.” Whereupon his by-request band, the Foo Fighters, pounded out a chosen song, “Everlong,” over which a rapid-fire slide show of Dave’s TV life flashed.

Thank you for everything, you’ve given me everything, and thank you again.” He thanked his staff: “It’s so obvious again tonight, and every night, that they are so much better at their job than I am.” He thanked his long-time band leader, Paul Shaffer, joking that the two would soon debut their white-tiger act in Las Vegas. Celebrities used to being fawned over either clicked with his prickly personality or didn’t, and when Cher called him a more profane version of “jerk,” it became a memorable moment. The late-night talk TV world Letterman leaves behind is packed with capable hosts on many networks, but what they preside over, strictly speaking, is neither talk TV nor late night.

Before he signed off for the last time, Letterman spent just under 12 minutes thanking his staff, longtime bandleader and friend Paul Shaffer, and the CBS Orchestra (calling them out individually), and his family (his wife, Regina, and his son, Harry) and his audience. His audience welcomed him back after a heart bypass, listened as he became the first late-night host back on the air after the 2001 terrorist attacks and saw him acknowledge to inappropriately having sex with a subordinate.

As retirement neared, Letterman joked about second thoughts. “Next week I’ll be Googling foods that improve prostate health,” the 68-year-old host said Tuesday. Of his staff, a humbled Letterman said, “These people collectively that I have just now mentioned and introduced, believe me, this is absolutely the truth, deserve more credit for this show, than I ever will. Thank you to all of those people.” (Earlier in the evening, Letterman took a moment to wish Stephen Colbert all the best when he takes over hosting the “Late Show” on September 8th.) Just before introducing his final musical guests, Foo Fighters, Letterman told the story about how the Dave Grohl-led band canceled their South American tour back in 2000 in order to perform his favorite song, “Everlong,” upon the host’s return to the “Late Show” following his quintuple-bypass surgery. Immersed, as before, in a wide-open culture of humor he helped mastermind — an ironic, irreverent sensibility sufficiently absorbed into the ethos that it is scarcely noticed anymore, much less recognized as being largely of Dave’s making.

In the final star-studded Top Ten List (“Things I’ve Always Wanted to Say to Dave”), Tina Fey weighed in with: “Thanks for finally proving men can be funny.” Now he has left on his own accord, which lends him a further distinction among talk-show hosts. Letterman can boast a record of influence and longevity (33 years and more than 6,000 broadcasts) that is unlikely ever to be matched, so, at age 68, it was time to go. It’s hard to watch his show sometimes.” Rival Jimmy Kimmel paid tribute to Letterman by not making a fresh ABC show on Wednesday, where he usually competes in the same time slot.

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