By returning to meet with current presenter Seth Meyers, the TV legend honored the ‘Late Night’ institution that he founded.
To commemorate the show’s 40th anniversary, David Letterman returned to his old stomping grounds at Late Night. Before retiring to host The Late Show on CBS, the 74-year-old comic pioneered the NBC show from 1982 to 1993. During the latest broadcast of Late Night on Tuesday, February 1, David spoke with current presenter Seth Meyers, 48, about some of his memories from the first run.
After welcoming David back to «his show,» Seth reflected on the days leading up to the show’s debut (with Bill Murray as the first guest). He comically admitted to being nervous as a result of the failure of his morning show, The David Letterman Show.
«First and foremost, what was it that consumed me? Because we had blown up the NBC daytime schedule a year before, we had paralyzed dread. We had a show — many of us had a show — that we thought was fantastic, and it aired live for 90 minutes, from 9:00 to 10:30 p.m. on NBC, and it replaced two or three game shows, which America didn’t want to be replaced. He recalled, «I certainly didn’t want to be the one to replace them.»
Despite the fact that it felt like an «eternity» to return with Late Night, David said he went into it with «trepidation» and «mixed» emotions since he thought people would be delighted to see Bill Murray, but he was still unsure if the show would go the same way as the morning show.
«I just felt amazing the night of the concert, and that lasted until my feet struck the floor in the morning, and then the paralytic terror starts all over again,» he remarked before delving into the show’s philosophy throughout his tenure. «We attempted to be as out of the ordinary as possible.»
Before moving on to other things, Dave said that one of the reasons he was apprehensive was because of the short contracts.
«We were thinking, ‘How many people could be watching?'» he said. «For the first year, we were never sure if we had a future beyond a month and a half or two months, and then things started to—the cement started to firm a little bit.»
When Johnny Carson departed from the Tonight Show in 1992, Dave was passed up for the job, which went to Jay Leno, who hosted from 1992 to 2009. (and then again from 2010 to 2014).
The Late Show, which he helmed until 2015 and is currently starring Stephen Colbert, was founded by the presenter. Following his tenure on late night, he retired and began a Netflix long-form chat series called My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.
Overall, David was a huge fan of Seth and had nothing but positive things to say about the current season of Late Night. «Honest to goodness, I would not have known that today is the 40th anniversary of what you currently do as the show if it hadn’t been for your gracious invitation,» he remarked. «You’re in great form!» exclaims the narrator.
Before they wrapped up their discussion, the two presenters played a clip from Dave’s tenure as host, which David described as «not hilarious,» but which he felt captured the heart of his time on Late Night. When he persuaded three competitors to do «elevator races» in the NBC office, the clip came back.
«It’s symbolic of the nonsense we pursued every night when I first started the show, which, by the way, is so much better now.» «Thank you,» David expressed his gratitude.