David Letterman leaves his post at Late Show later this month, and today, fellow late night host Conan O’Brien wrote a touching tribute to him for Entertainment Weekly detailing how Letterman’s work on The David Letterman Show, Late Night with David Letterman, and Late Show changed the late night game and ultimately inspired O’Brien to get into comedy. Here’s an excerpt:
Dave’s show was that rare phenomenon: a big, fat show business hit that seemingly despised show business. Dave didn’t belong, and he had no interest in belonging. He amused himself, skewered clueless celebrity guests, and did strange, ironic comedic bits that no one had seen on television before. Everything about that show was surreal and off-kilter. Where late night television had once provided comfort, this man reveled in awkwardness. Cher called him an asshole. Andy Kaufman ran screaming from the set. Chris Elliot lived under the stairs. Throughout one episode the entire show rotated a complete 360 degrees, for no reason whatsoever. By 1985, when I graduated from college and was ready to try my hand as a comedy writer, Late Night with David Letterman had been the Holy Grail for several miraculous years.