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Thread: David Letterman Retires

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    Default David Letterman Retires

    New York Times
    May 20, 2015

    David Letterman, Ending an Era, Goes for Laughs Instead of Tears


    David Letterman during the final taping of the "Late Show"ť on Wednesday.

    There were jokes cracked and tributes paid. There were retrospectives and reminiscences, and a rock band that played at maximum volume. There was, of course, one last Top 10 list, delivered by a parade of celebrity guests.

    As David Letterman closed the book on his last “Late Show” on Wednesday night, after a 33-year run in late-night television, he went for laughs rather than tears.

    This all-star edition of the show was an exuberant, self-deprecating celebration of Mr. Letterman’s work and accomplishments as the host with the longest tenure in American late-night TV.

    To its end, Mr. Letterman remained true to a personal sensibility of delivering sarcastic comedy with a straight face, and rarely allowed mawkish sentimentality to creep into the show.

    Noting all the praise he has received of late, Mr. Letterman said, “Do me a favor. Save a little for my funeral.”

    Before its opening credits, the program began with stock footage of former President Gerald R. Ford saying, “Our long national nightmare is over.” A prerecorded segment showed former Presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush repeating this phrase, followed by President Obama, who added the words, “Letterman is retiring.”

    Fans waiting in line for the final taping of the “Late Show with David Letterman” in New York on Wednesday afternoon.

    Mr. Letterman was welcomed to the stage of the Ed Sullivan Theater in Manhattan with a standing ovation, and performed a customary opening monologue filled with gags about his impending exit.

    “It’s beginning to look like I’m not going to get the ‘Tonight’ show,” Mr. Letterman joked.

    Observing that he had been repeatedly asked about his post-“Late Show” plans, Mr. Letterman said, “By God, I hope to become the new face of Scientology.”

    Suggesting another possibility, Mr. Letterman said that next month, he and Paul Shaffer, his longtime bandleader and sidekick, “will be debuting our new act at Caesars Palace with our white tigers.”

    His current transition had been especially hard on his young son, Harry, he said, adding: “My son keeps saying, ‘Why does daddy have to go to prison?’ ”

    Mr. Letterman’s final Top 10 list, titled “Things I’ve Always Wanted to Say to Dave,” featured a sequence of celebrity visitors, each delivering a comically dismissive riposte to the host. (No. 8, from Steve Martin, was, “Your extensive plastic surgery was a necessity and a mistake.” No. 2, from Tina Fey, was “Thanks for finally proving men can be funny.”)

    Foo Fighters, the rock band led by Dave Grohl, played its hit song “Everlong,” reprising a number the group had previously performed for Mr. Letterman in 2000, when he returned to the “Late Show” after having had quintuple-bypass heart surgery. At that time, he had introduced the performance as “my favorite band playing my favorite song.”

    Mr. Letterman had hosted more than 4,000 episodes of the “Late Show” since its debut on CBS in 1993, and in his late-night television career, more than 6,000, including nearly 2,000 installments of his NBC program, “Late Night,” which ran for 11 years starting in 1982.

    He revealed on the “Late Show” in April 2014 that he planned to step down. (“What this means now,” Mr. Letterman said at the time, “is that Paul and I can be married.”) CBS later announced that Mr. Letterman would be succeeded by Stephen Colbert, the political satirist of Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report,” who will take over in September.

    David Letterman with Bill Murray in Tuesday’s episode, the penultimate “Late Show.”

    On the “Late Show” finale, Mr. Letterman offered an enthusiastic endorsement of Mr. Colbert. “I’m very excited,” Mr. Letterman said. “I think he’s going to do a wonderful job and I wish Stephen and his staff and crew nothing but the greatest success.” In recent weeks, a cavalcade of faithful and high-profile guests have stopped by to bid Mr. Letterman farewell, including Julia Roberts, Jerry Seinfeld, Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney, as well as President Obama and Mr. Clinton.

    On Tuesday, in his penultimate broadcast, he welcomed the comic actor Bill Murray, who had also been his first guest on the “Late Show” and on “Late Night.” (In his typically haphazard and whimsical manner, Mr. Murray emerged from a cake and smeared icing on Mr. Letterman, who wore it on his suit for most of the show.) The episode also featured a performance by Bob Dylan and a cameo from Regis Philbin, the TV host and a frequent guest.

    Many other late-night hosts a generation younger, professed fans of the arch comedy Mr. Letterman helped to pioneer, have paid tributes to him over the past several days.

    On Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart called Mr. Letterman’s show “an incredible epiphany,” adding, “For God’s sakes, the man put a camera on a monkey.” On ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” a visibly moved Mr. Kimmel said he “learned almost nothing at college” but learned “how to do everything from Dave.”

    Mr. Letterman had said that, in his final episode, he did not necessarily want to duplicate the sentimental tone of his mentor, Johnny Carson, who signed off from NBC’s “Tonight” show in 1992.

    “I want it to be upbeat, and I want it to be funny, and I want people to be happy that they spent the time to watch it,” Mr. Letterman said of his last “Late Show” in an interview with The New York Times.

    “Of course, Johnny’s last show was historic,” he added. “This one won’t be.”

    In his concluding remarks before introducing the Foo Fighters, Mr. Letterman thanked his “Late Show” staff and crew and the band members of his CBS Orchestra, saying, “These people deserve more credit for this show than I ever will.”

    He also thanked his mother, Dorothy; his wife, Regina, and their son, Harry.

    And to his dedicated fans, Mr. Letterman said, “Have you thought about a complete psychological workup? The people who watch this show, there’s nothing I can do to ever repay you. Thank you for everything. You’ve given me everything.”

    © 2015 The New York Times Company

  2. #2


    David Letterman and Jon Stewart in the same year.


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