On the day the king of late-night longevity announced his plans to retire, we thought we’d take a look back at some of David Letterman‘s most memorable moments. We’ll start with two unforgettable incidents from his NBC days and work our way up through the CBS era. First, we set the wayback machine to the first Reagan administration …
Andy Kaufman vs. the Wrestler, July 1982
The polarizing comic was known at the time for wrestling women and mouthed off until he finally got into the squared circle with a man. He took on pro grappler Jerry “The King” Lawler and lost, falling victim to a piledriver. A few months later, the two faced off on Late Night:
UPDATED THROUGHOUT, 7:35 PM: CBS late-night star David Letterman surprised his studio audience this afternoon when he announced he is retiring in 2015. “The man who owns this network, Leslie Moonves, he and I have had a relationship for years and years and years, and we have had this conversation in the past, and we agreed that we would work together on this circumstance and the timing of this circumstance. And I phoned him just before the program, and I said ‘Leslie, it’s been great, you’ve been great, and the network has been great, but I’m retiring,’” Letterman told his Ed Sullivan Theatre crowd, who reacted with stunned silence. According to sources with knowledge of the situation, Letterman only notified Moonves this morning.
Unlike NBC, with its Tonight Show host training camp (aka SNL) and clear heir apparent in Jimmy Fallon, CBS does not have as evident a line of succession for David Letterman‘s late-night throne — though Craig Ferguson hosts CBS’ other late-night program which, like Late Show, is produced by Letterman’s Worldwide Pants (it’s now a co-production with CBS). He has a succession clause in his contract, but that contract is set to expire this summer. Presumably, he’d seek the same in his next contract. Should CBS balk, the network might find itself looking for two late-night hosts within months of each other — which would be tough, and not the image of stability CBS has so carefully cultivated. Additionally, Ferguson has won a Peabody Award for his show and has hosted the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and that kind of prestige appeals to Moonves. Regardless, almost immediately after Letterman announced on his show tonight he’s stepping down sometime in 2015, The Reporters Who Cover Television began playing The Replacement Game. Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert name keeps popping up; he’s said to be well-liked by CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves and, with his contract coming up in mid-2015, Colbert could be available if his network does not sign him to a new contract by the time Letterman bows out. Ditto Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart, whose contract also is set to expire at around the same time and who, years ago, was under option at CBS as that network was looking for a Late Late Show host – CBS went instead with then-Daily Show host Craig Kilborn. (Ferguson won the companion-show gig, from a slew of auditioners, after the network threw in the towel on Kilborn.) Some sources speculated the April Fools’ Day job-swap of Ferguson and CBS’ Price Is Right host Drew Carey might actually have been Carey’s first late-night audition at the network. Others on the list are known to be looking for employment elsewhere – like E!’s Chelsea Handler, who has said her show will be toast at the end of the year because the network has become a “sad, sad place.” Another name that popped up this afternoon: Neil Patrick Harris, the versatile How I Met Your Mother star who has demonstrated a knack for talk shows when he sat in with Kelly Ripa on her syndicated daytime talker and is highly regarded at the network for his stints hosting the Tony and Emmy Awards. And don’t forget Louis C.K., who during the third season of his FX series was offered a chance to take over Letterman’s show by the head of CBS (played by Gary Marshall) — until everything goes wrong for Louie, and Letterman re-ups for 10 years and declares his wannabe replacement persona non grata. Read More »
Comedian David Brenner died today at his home in New York, NY. He was 78. A favorite of Tonight Showhost, Johnny Carson, Brenner made over 150 appearances as a guest and substitute host on the NBC latenight show, starting in the ’70s. A contemporary of such stand-up legends as Andy Kaufman, Freddie Prinze and Gabe Kaplan, Brenner made a name for his observational comedic styling accentuated by his toothy grin, wavy hair and lanky demeanor. Brenner was born on Feb. 4, 1936 in Philadelphia, the son of a vaudeville singer and comedian who went under the stage name “Lou Murphy”. Read More »
U.S. Men’s Olympic slopestyle snowboard gold medalist Sage Kotsenburg talks about skipping the Opening Ceremony at Sochi and watching it on TV when he visits CBS’ Late Show with David Letterman. Watch here:
Jay Leno‘s Tonight Show swan song churned up the franchise’s biggest weekly crowd since the week of NBC’s Cheers finale in ’93. Meanwhile, his replacement, Jimmy Fallon wrapped his Late Night hosting gig with that show’s biggest weekly haul since it followed Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show farewell, in May of ’92.
Leno’s actual Thursday night finale last week clocked the biggest crowd for an individual Tonight show broadcast since Jerry Seinfeld turned up after his primetime hit’s so-long episode, on May 14, 1998. Read More »
American popular culture was altered forever 50 years ago this Sunday when four mop-topped lads from England hit the stage at the Ed Sullivan Theatre in Manhattan. More than 73 million people watched in glorious black and white. A half-century later, the two surviving Beatles returned for a chat with the room’s current occupant. Here’s a clip of David Letterman talking with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr about that landmark night and the landmark theater where it all went down. After the jump, watch McCartney tell a funny story about how a Teamster made him nervous backstage during a later Ed Sullivan Show appearance. The clips are from The Beatles: The Night That Changed America, which CBS is airing Sunday night:
Tonight’s return to New York drastically changes the late-night landscape. With Tonight at 30 Rock, Lorne Michaels for the first time will have charge of the network’s flagship late-night show as well as Saturday Night Live and Late Night – which SNL alum Seth Meyers will host — and can orchestrate an “event” for a guest across all three programs. NBC can also throw in a Today appearance; it’s also housed at 30 Rock. Lorne Michaels Packaging already has been in effect across the other two NBC late-night programs, say industry navel gazers who note how many SNL guests this season also appeared on Fallon’s Late Night. “It’s pretty much been 100% over the last year and a half,” insisted one. “Now he’ll have more power because [Fallon] will be in a better time slot. You’re talking about somebody who has a big series of stages” to offer, the pundit said.
NBC Broadcast chairman Ted Harbert says the network is working to streamline guest booking across its various celebrity-centric New York-based shows which, starting in the fall, will include a Meredith Vieira daytime talk show. “Every single person selling something comes to New York – it’s part of the swing,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll find anybody who only does late-night in Los Angeles and that’s their promotional tour.”
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, will present the Top Ten List on the Late Show With David Letterman on Election Day, Tuesday, November 5, CBS announced this morning. This will … Read More »
David Letterman has probably wanted to be able to tell NBC what to do with their late night line-up for years – even if it is advising Seth Meyers on what name to put on the mugs for his upcoming 12:30 AM slot show, which debuts on the Peacock … Read More »
While his long-term rival Jay Leno is signing off as host of The Tonight Show in February, David Letterman is staying put at CBS with a new contract extension that will keep him as host of … Read More »