As the original host of Late Night, David Letterman introduced the world to a brand of comedy not seen on Network TV. His “Stupid Pet Tricks” and “Top Ten” lists were cutting edge at the time, and his use of the NBC studios broke down walls for viewers and gave them an inside (funny) look at the inner workings of a late night show.
When Johnny Carson retired as host of the Tonight Show in May of 1992, Letterman was the front-runner in many people’s eyes to carry the show forward. Of course, this was not to be the case as NBC decided to move Jay Leno into the host’s chair. Letterman took his talents to CBS, where he was able to mold the Late Show into his own. Whether it was dropping watermelons off of the roof of the Ed Sullivan Theater, being flashed by Drew Barrymore, or publicly acknowledging the lack of strong lead-in CBS programming, the Late Show continued to bring a fresh comedic tone to the usually formulaic 11:30pm time period.
Since 1993, many have come into the late night space, brandishing their own spin on the time period. Names include Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon, John Stewart, Jimmy Kimmel and Letterman’s heir apparent, Stephen Colbert. All are funny in their own right, but each of them owes a bit of their comedy prowess to Letterman.
As tonight’s finale kicks off at 11:36pm, you can be certain that the nation will be tuning in. Over 13 million viewers were on hand to watch Leno’s final Tonight Show. With the potential to reach that audience number, the world says its final goodbyes to a comedic icon.