“It’s beginning to look like I’m not going to get ‘the Tonight Show,’” David Letterman joked at the top of his final episode as host of ”Late Show with David Letterman” on CBS. Thirty-three years after “Late Night with David Letterman” first aired on NBC, the iconic comedian at the show’s helm – along with his trusty sidekick/bandleader Paul Shaffer – graced Manhattan’s Ed Sullivan Theater for his last episode.In a veritable who’s who of Hollywood comedy, Wednesday night’s guests included the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Tina Fey, Jim Carrey and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss. The rock group Foo Fighters, whom Letterman has called his favorite band, was the show’s final musical guest. Donning tuxedos, the band played Dave’s favorite tune, “Everlong,” a song Letterman requested upon returning to the show from heart-bypass surgery in 2000.
Letterman’s celebrity guests helped Dave deliver his final top-10 list, one of the show’s signature segments. Among the highlights from the “Top 10 Things I’ve Always Wanted to Say to Dave,” was Steve Martin’s No. 8: “Your extensive plastic surgery was a necessity and a mistake.” Bill Murray delivered the last joke on the list: “Dave, I’ll never have the money I owe you,” the “St. Vincent” star quipped.
Letterman’s final episode drew 13.76 million viewers, his largest audience since February 1994, according to Entertainment Weekly.
Letterman announced his retirement last year.
Tuesday night’s penultimate episode featured an interview with Murray, who was Letterman’s first guest on NBC, and a musical performance by Bob Dylan.
Through the years, Letterman’s show has served as a platform not just for actors, athletes and musicians promoting their projects, but for politicians, too. Last week, Letterman welcomed former President Bill Clinton, and on May 5, President Obama joined Letterman for a few laughs, rendering him the first sitting president to appear on the late-night program.
Wednesday’s finale – which ran 80 minutes long instead of the usual 60 – was no exception. Four of five living presidents appeared on video, expressing relief over Dave’s departure: ”Our long national nightmare is over,” President Barack Obama and former Presidents George Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush each said.
Letterman, now 68, moved to CBS in 1993 when NBC executives chose Jay Leno to replace Johnny Carson as host of “The Tonight Show.”
Funnyman Stephen Colbert – whom Letterman wished well on Wednesday – will replace Letterman as the show’s host beginning in September.