When I came to New York in the early 90's, Late Night with David Lettermanwas the hottest comedy show to watch and I quickly became hooked. I still remember him poking fun at NBC after leaving to host CBS's Late Show, because Jay Leno got promoted to take over Tonight Show after Johnny Carson instead of him.
However, the shift ended up being agreat career move. While the format remained the same, he was now in the grander Ed Sullivan Theater in midtown Manhattan, where he utilized the whole neighborhood for improvisations, such as the now famous Hello Deli across the street as well as interactions with random passers-by. He would stretch television borders by frequently putting his production staff on camera, or going backstage himself. Of course the highlight of each episode would be interviewing a celebrity guest, and many of the later interviews, preserved by better technology, have become beloved classics on YouTube with millions of views. David also invited up-and-coming comedians to perform on his show, as well as talented musicians that would later become famous.
So Wednesday May 20th was a sad day for television when the last episode aired, but the ending was honored by the greatest. The previous week George Clooney had handcuffed himself to David, and Oprah Winfrey, after having confessed she hated selfies, permitted David to take one of them together. Tom Hanks jokingly brought a selfie stick the next day, when he appeared for the 60th time on the show, while Bill Murray, who was also Letterman's very first guest in 1982, popped out of a giant cake in the second to last episode.
Finally, the last episode opened not only with President Obama himself, but also three previous presidents. David's Top Ten list "Things I've always wanted to say to Dave" was read by Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Frey, Chris Rock, Peyton Manning, Bill Murray, Jim Carrey, Barbara Walters and Chris Rock. The episode ended with sincere thanks to colleagues, friends and family, and compilation footages of highlights throughout Letterman's 33 year career. The star-filled goodbye averaged nearly 13.8 million viewers, with the show hitting its highest score since the Late Show's first season in 1994.
As a tribute to a colleague held in highest regard, other TV-hosts choose not to air their shows that same day or week. Jimmy Kimmel, who's show "Jimmy Kimmel Live" airs at the exact same time as Letterman on ABC, did a rerun on May 20th, while Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore" showed repeats that whole week.
Despite many laughs, as always when entertained by David Letterman, I felt a great deal of nostalgia and sadness. Countless are the times I've passed by the Ed Sullivan Theatre living in New York, and numerous the episodes I've enjoyed watching, not only in the US but also home in my native Sweden, one of the many countries airing the show worldwide. David Letterman has made a huge impact on comedy and television all over the world.
Thank you David Letterman for everything - television will not be the same without you!