David Letterman is ending his late-night television career with a heartfelt “goodnight” and goodbye to viewers.
Letterman taped his farewell episode of “The Late Show” on Wednesday afternoon, then walked backstage as the Foo Fighters closed out the show with a performance of “Everlong.”
The show ran one hour and 17 minutes on Wednesday and CBS showed the entire program.
There were no tears from Letterman, but the sign-off moment was emotional, especially for his longtime staffers and the lucky fans who were inside the Ed Sullivan Theater for the finale.
Before the taping began, Letterman called it “the most important show of my life.” CBS Corporation CEO Les Moonves came on stage to thank the broadcasting legend.
The episode contained a number of montages, according to members of the studio audience.
It also included a star-studded top ten list of the “final things I would like to say to David Letterman.” Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Steve Martin, Barbara Walters, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Jim Carrey, Peyton Manning, and Bill Murray all contributed.
Three former presidents and President Obama appeared via videotape, according to an audience member, with the joke being that “our long national nightmare is over.”
Letterman’s wife Regina and son Harry were in the audience for the comedian’s closing monologue. The lights in the theater came up to acknowledge their presence.
Conan O’Brien, the man who took over for Letterman on NBC’s “Late Night,” also aired a show on Wednesday night, but told viewers to instead watch Letterman.
“Trust me, I want you to record this show,” O’Brien said. “But please switch over and watch Dave.”
O’Brien wasn’t the only host that told viewers to change the channel. Jimmy Kimmel, host of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” told his audience on Tuesday to instead watch Letterman.
Fans said the taping had a historic feel to it.
David Eisenstein, 70, from Springfield, N.J., described himself as a “fan of Dave’s ever since he was on Mary Tyler Moore’s show.”
“Seeing Dave, so many other giants of comedy, his favorite band, playing his favorite song, and clips from the past 30-plus years made me realize that I was experiencing something that I will never forget,” Eisenstein said.
Wednesday’s show was #6,028 for Letterman, counting his work on both NBC and CBS.
“He changed television forever,” Letterman’s former head writers Eric and Justin Stangel said in an email. “There will never be anyone like him. We are throwing out our TVs.”
It was meaningful that The Foo Fighters were there on Wednesday. When the band played on the show last year, Letterman told an emotional story about how the band’s song “Miracle” had been added to a video of him and his son, Harry, skiing together.
The Foo Fighters were also there the night Letterman returned from heart surgery. In that performance, the band played “Everlong,” which Letterman said was his “favorite song.”
The Wednesday night broadcast marked the end of a big and historic week that saw some of Letterman’s most beloved guests return to the “Late Show” to bid the host farewell.
On Monday, Tom Hanks took a picture with Letterman using a Selfie Stick while Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder blasted the Ed Sullivan Theater with the classic song, “Better Man.”
On Tuesday Letterman’s first-ever guest, Bill Murray, bookended the host’s career as Letterman’s last sit-down guest by popping out of a cake.
This was followed by Bob Dylan serenading Letterman with the smooth standard, “The Night We Called It a Day.”
All of it led up to Wednesday night’s finale — a significant moment in television history and the completion of an era in late night.
After the taping on Wednesday, some of Letterman’s staffers were expected to gather for a wrap party.
And then what? Well, the famously private Letterman hasn’t said much about what’s in store for him.
He and his producers have to move out of their office space in the coming days — since the staff of Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” is about to move in.