Last night, David Letterman bid farewell to late night with his final episode of The Late Show. Stars everywhere showed their support for the retiring host, who spent the last 33 years in late night. Musicians like Tegan and Sara, Broken Social Scene, St. Vincent and Future Islands posted their memories performing on the show and celebs gave thanks with the trending hashtag, #ThanksDave. It was a very emotional night for everyone who grew up watching Letterman’s show, but perhaps the most affected, other than the people involved with the show itself, were Letterman’s late night peers.
While Jimmy Kimmel politely aired a rerun so his viewers can tune in to Letterman (he gave a tearful speech about Letterman the night before), Conan went ahead with his show, but told viewers to tape his show in order to watch Letterman instead. Conan began airing just prior to Letterman’s last show so he took that time to give his very own emotional speech about his relationship with Letterman throughout the years.
“There simply are no words that can encapsulate the sheer magnitude of what Dave has achieved these past 33 years,” Conan said during his opening monologue. “He’s been the North Star for me and every comic of my generation.”
Conan continues to tell the story of how he briefly took over Letterman’s Late Night show in 1993, remembering how he was “utterly and totally unprepared for that enormous job.” Critics immediately hated Conan’s hosting job and the network warned him that his time there was limited, but as Conan says, “something miraculous happened”:
“After four really dreary months, out of the blue, we got a message at the show that David Letterman wanted to come on the program as a guest. Now understand, Dave wasn’t just the biggest late-night star at the time, he was the biggest thing on television. He didn’t go on other people’s shows. […] On February 28, 1994, David Letterman walked onto my set and he blew the doors off the place. It’s easily one of the happiest nights of my professional life.”
Conan goes on to play a clip from that interview and adds: “After that night, everything turned around for me. The moral of the staff shot through the ceiling, my producer, my writers, Andy, we all thought that if David Letterman could come on our show and say a few kind words maybe, just maybe, we could earn the right to be here — and we survived.”
Conan also wrote an essay about David Letterman for Entertainment Weekly earlier this month — you can read that here. Thanks for everything, Dave!