The beard was longer and whiter, but it was the same old Dave when David Letterman returned to Late Night on Monday to mark the show’s 40th anniversary.
“If it weren’t for your kind invitation, I would not have known that this is the 40th anniversary,” the former host told NBC’s current man behind the desk, Seth Meyers. Letterman then recalled the hubris with which he and his compatriots approached TV at the time of the show’s launch.
“When you’re young, one of the nice complementary features of being young is being dumb,” explained Letterman. “We all thought, ‘Television is the way television is because we’re not there yet. When we get to television, it’ll be fine.’ We were wrong about that and many, many other things.”
After a failure on daytime TV, Letterman said he went to “the back of the line” before he eventually got another shot, this time hosting Late Night.
Letterman recalled that first show back in 1982, and said having Bill Murray as his debut guest helped a lot.
“The night of the show, I just felt fantastic,” he said. “And then that lasted until my feet hit the floor in the morning, and then the paralytic fear starts all over again.” You can watch his appearance with Meyers below.
Letterman went on to host Late Night on NBC for 11 seasons. His first company, Space Age Meats, produced Late Night in partnership with NBC and Johnny Carson from 1982 to 1990, before the advent of Letterman’s current company, Worldwide Pants Productions, which took over from there. In 1993, Conan O’Brien began hosting the show, followed by Jimmy Fallon until 2014 and now Meyers.
Letterman later hosted The Late Show with David Letterman until 2015. A run that was also produced by Worldwide Pants. Stephen Colbert took the desk in 2015 after Letterman announced his retirement.
Also on Monday, Letterman stealthily relaunched his YouTube channel with a trove of old clips, many sorted according to the groups of classic sketches from the show such as Stupid Pet Tricks, Stupid Human Tricks and Top 10 lists.
The comedian teased the relaunch on Twitter by posting two vintage clips of Larry “Bud” Melman (née Calvert DeForest), who introduced the first show in 1982, and another more recent video of Letterman laughing. Letterman, of course, owns the rights to the clips because of the deals Worldwide Pants made to produce the shows.
You’ve been warned… https://t.co/nRTSzwmrf9 pic.twitter.com/uSwioKDXmF
— David Letterman (@Letterman) February 1, 2022
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