Letterman gets the last laugh, bowing out of ‘Late Night’ surrounded by presidents and pals

Letterman gets the last laugh, bowing out of ‘Late Night’ surrounded by presidents and pals

Agence France-Presse
in New York

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David Letterman and band leader Paul Shaffer, filming the last “Late Show” on Wednesday. Photo: AP

The king of late-night television, David Letterman, brought the curtain down on a 33-year career in an emotional final show packed with jokes and farewells from US presidents, Hollywood stars and devoted fans.

The last-ever Late Show with David Letterman brings to an end an American cultural institution that has been watched by millions and an extraordinary career that has inspired a generation of comedians.

Wednesday’s finale opened with a bang. Former US presidents George H. and George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, as well as current president Barack Obama were filmed repeating one after the other, “our long national nightmare is over.”

“Letterman is retiring,” said Obama, standing shoulder to shoulder with the 68-year-old comedian in a pre-filmed segment. “You’re just kidding right?” deadpanned Letterman to a no-nonsense shrug from Obama.

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Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock outside the Ed Sullivan Theatre ahead of Wednesday’s last “Late Show”. Photo: EPA

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Tina Fey gets emotional. Photo: Reuters

It was a night of rapturous applause and standing ovations from a VIP-studded crowd. The show featured gags at Letterman’s expense, jokes poking fun at celebrity and play-back highlights of years gone by.

Hollywood stars Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, Bill Murray and Jim Carrey, and comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Tina Fey led 10 stars who performed the bit “Top 10 things I’ve always wanted to say to Dave.”

Their pithy one-liners paid tribute to the caustic and at times grumpy humour of the veteran broadcaster, the longest-serving nighttime US talk show host, who has been on air since getting his first show on NBC in 1982.

“Thank you and goodnight,” Letterman said at the end of what was the 6,028th television show of his career, calling a multitude of tributes “flattering, embarrassing and gratifying.”

“Thank you for everything, you’ve given me everything,” he told his fans.

He also gave thanks to wife Regina and their 11-year-old son Harry, who sat beaming in the audience as he said how much he loved them.

Rock giants Foo Fighters played out the show to roars from the jubilant crowd at the Ed Sullivan Theatre in New York.

Critics have praised Letterman for combining innovative and odd-ball antics with traditional interviews, and for inspiring some of most the talented comics working today.

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Letterman’s longtime band leader Paul Shaffer arrives for the final show. Photo: Reuters

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Comedian Steve Martin, a “Late Show” regular. Photo: AFP

Letterman got his first comedy show on NBC, before defecting to CBS in 1993 to host the Late Show after the major career disappointment of losing out to Jay Leno as host of the coveted Tonight Show.

Initially, his ratings eclipsed Leno’s on NBC. Then Leno landed an interview with British actor Hugh Grant in 1995, just after he was caught with a prostitute, and Letterman’s ratings never caught up.

Singer Cher once quipped on air that she thought he was an “a**hole” and yet he enjoyed an on-camera chemistry with many guests.

Through it all, Letterman won numerous Emmy awards and was nominated dozens of times, including every year from 1984 to 2009.

Other stand-out moments also set him apart.

After the horror of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Letterman was the first comedian to go back on air6 days after the Al-Qaeda hijackings that killed some 3,000 people.

In January 2000, he underwent a quintuple heart bypass. Five weeks later, he was back on air with his doctors as his guests. In 2009, he admitted to affairs with female staffers and apologized on air, alongside his wife and his team. He kept his job.

In a nod to the past, Letterman quipped Wednesday that next time he screws up “I’ll have to go on someone else’s show to apologise.”

In September, he will be replaced by Stephen Colbert, 51, to whom he wished nothing but the greatest success. “I’m very excited I think he’s going to do a wonderful job,” he said.

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Fans throng the front of the Ed Sullivan theatre during the taping of the last “Late Show”. Photo: AP

The final countdown

The Top 10 list on David Letterman’s final show before retirement on Wednesday, delivered by celebrities. The category was “Things I’ve Always Wanted to Say to Dave.”

10. Alec Baldwin: “Of all the talk shows, yours was the most geographically convenient to my home.”

9. Barbara Walters: “Did you know you wear the same cologne as Muammar Gaddafi?”

8. Steve Martin: “Your extensive plastic surgery was a necessity and a mistake.”

7. Jerry Seinfeld: “I have no idea what I’ll do when you go off the air. You know, I just thought of something. I’ll be fine.”

6. Jim Carrey: “Honestly, Dave, I’ve always found you to be a bit of an over-actor.”

5. Chris Rock: “I’m just glad your show is being given to a white guy.”

4. Julia Louis-Dreyfus: “Thanks for letting me take part in another hugely disappointing series finale.”

3. Peyton Manning: “You are to comedy what I am to … comedy.”

2. Tina Fey: “Thanks for finally proving men can be funny.”

1. Bill Murray: “Dave, I’ll never have the money I owe you.”

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 May, 2015, 2:16pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 May, 2015, 2:23pm

#DavidLettermanLastShow   #LateNightShowWithStephenColbert

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Robert Chaen

Global CEO-Founder of ChangeU and Movsha Movers & Shakers, Hero-CEO Whisperer, Writer, The #1 Alpha Change Expert, Father of Asian FireWalking Robert Chaen is an International Keynote Speaker, writer, researcher, and corp games designer. He is famously known to be the “Hero-CEO Whisperer”, 1-on1 coaching with many CEOs and Celebrities for corporate strategies, staff & office political issues, personal branding, and even public figure OSHA safety drilling called Drager Defense. He has transformed CEOs and managers in Coca-Cola China, TVB Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airport Services, VADS, TM, Public Bank, Auditor General's Office Maldives, etc. He is the prolific creator and online Author of innovative management tools such as DragonCEO, Diamond Leader, Papillon Personal Effectiveness, OSHA Drager Defense, KPI Bank, etc. He is also the Founder of Movsha, an international networking with monthly mingles with MOVers & SHAkers, Angels, Entrepreneurs, CEOs, Celebrities, HR-PR-CSR, HODs, and the Most Influential IDEA people. ​Chaen is widely considered as one of the top International Platform Keynote Speakers for Resorts World Genting Senior Management Conference (Manila), 7-Eleven HK, Samsung, Coca-Cola China Mini-MBA @Tsing Hua University, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Jockey Club, The Story Conference where he interviewed Datuk Kamarudin (Chairman of AirAsia) and Siti Nurhaliza. He has been widely featured in TVB, AWSJ, CNBC, SCMP, The Star, and Sin Chew. As “The Father of Asian FireWalking”, he coached TVB celebrities (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) to walk on 650°C fire; and raised HK$68M in the world’s 1st and only live TV Charity FireWalk (TVB Tung Wah Charity Show), before Tony Robbins even came to Asia. If Robert can get you to walk on 650⁰C fire, he can inspire you to be THE BEST. He champions CN-HK-EU-US Tycoons to be philanthropic, and to be angel investors to support the next generation of Jack Mas, Steve Jobs, Richard Bransons, Steven Spielbergs, or Barrack Obamas. With some slick motivational speakers with fake doctorates out there, graduates often describe Robert to be "the most credible, empowering, truthful Coach" who believe in his graduates to believe in themselves. ​However, clients have described Robert as "The #1 Cool Badass Alpha Change Expert". He has the coolest first class stature, rapport and trust from clients. He will not hesitate to tell the badass truth ever so gently because clients are paying him big bucks to reveal the truth, find solutions, persuade the hostile HODs, and align cross-teams within the organization. Originally based in Hong Kong for 20+ years, he had worked with top Branding/Ad agencies at J Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett, and was a certified FranklinCovey (7 Habits) in USA, and NLP MasterCoach (USA). His warmth is known to soften the most hardened, resistant sceptics. He will inspire your team to Go for Top 1, or to be a Dragon CEO. With boundless energies, Robert owns 15+ successful business Joint-Ventures, and created unique products under his global VC network called Chaen's Angels VC. He is deeply passionate about ChangeUTH Youth CSR, Science-Based Medicine (vs. quackery), short films and Reality TV. Touched by a personal tragedy through the loss of his HK-born Portuguese wife, co-coach and business partner, Brenda José of 18 years, Robert explores the many ways in which the spirit world is communicating with the living with real scientific studies and evidence. He gives inspiring conferences on The Secret Afterlife.

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