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:
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 »
UPDATE: 11:25 AM: On its first night in its new time slot, Jimmy Kimmel Live had more viewers than The Late Show With David Letterman but fell short of topping The Tonight Show. ABC’s Kimmel pulled in 3.097 million viewers Tuesday night compared to 2.882 million for CBS’ Letterman and 3.274 million for Leno. The Tonight Show got 1.084 million in the Adults 18-49 demographic compared to Jimmy Kimmel Live’s 887,000. But Kimmel solidly bested The Late Show among demo, getting 30% more than Letterman’s 683,000.
PREVIOUSLY, 8:28 AM: Jimmy Kimmel had a very good night Tuesday. In his 11:35 PM debut for his ABC late-night talk show, the host beat now-rivals Jay Leno and David Letterman in households and in the key adults 18-49 demo. In 25 markets with local people meters, Jimmy Kimmel Liveearned a 1.0/5 rating in 18-49, besting The Tonight Show’s 0.8/4 and Late Show’s 0.6/3. Among Nielsen’s 56 metered markets (with Memphis and Salt Lake City excluded), Kimmel’s move from midnight to a half-hour earlier saw his show receive a 2.8/8 household result, compared with Letterman’s 2.7/7 and Leno’s 2.4/6.
Eddie Murphy was on Late Night With David Letterman last night to promote Tower Heist, giving Letterman a chance to ask about Murphy’s upcoming Oscar-hosting gig. “It aint all it’s cracked up to be,” said a semi-joking Letterman, a former Oscar host himself. Murphy then went on to talk about … Read More »
With new Two and a Half Men star Ashton Kutcher as a guest, CBS’ late-night host David Letterman predicted that the veteran sitcom is “going to go through the roof” with him. Kutcher agreed. “I think it’s going … Read More »
In his first night in front of the cameras at Late Night With David Letterman since a threat on his life was posted to a jihadist website, Letterman hit the ground running and used the occasion as one big punch line in his monologue. Saying that the feds were investigating … Read More »