When the Lights Went on, the Loner Became Letterman

Comedians, coworkers reminisce about the shy, enigmatic late-night host
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2015 1:32 PM CDT
When the Lights Went on, the Loner Became Letterman
David Letterman signs off Wednesday night.   (AP Photo/CBS, Jeffrey R. Staab)

David Letterman will wrap up more than three decades in late-night TV tomorrow with his final Late Show broadcast. Already, tributes from comedy legends and coworkers are pouring in. A few memories, per the Hollywood Reporter:

  • Ray Romano: "My life has been affected more by David Letterman than anybody else's." Days after appearing on the Late Show in May 1995, producer Rob Burnett offered Romano a deal that led to Everybody Loves Raymond, which Letterman helped develop. "Without that moment, I'd be your Uber driver today," he says.
  • Billy Crystal: "All the late-night hosts are funny and irreverent and tremendously talented at what is a most difficult job, but Dave has always had a certain extra dimension to him, and over time, became the beloved curmudgeon," he says. "I will miss my three-times-a-year visits because frankly, I love making him laugh."
  • Don Rickles: "He's a great listener, but also he's very shy," he says. But "when the lights go on, and it's business, he's terrific." Rickles remembers that "even though Dave is a bit of a loner, he showed up to speak about me in front of all those people" at Spike's One Night Only: An All-Star Tribute to Don Rickles. "I still thank him for that," he says.

  • Paul Shaffer: Letterman's band leader tells the New York Times he stuck around for 33 years because, "I realized, ultimately, that this was the best job I was ever going to have. The main reason being Dave himself." He reminisces about his first talk with Letterman about nabbing a spot on his show: "I said, 'Boy, I really hope I get to work with this guy.'" Now, "the only appropriate emotion is gratitude."
  • Rob Burnett: Remarking on Letterman's evolution from a performer to a thoughtful monologuist and interviewer, the show's executive producer notes, "If Dave were still putting on a Velcro suit and jumping up on walls, I think it would be foolish." He continues, per the New York Times, "It's microscopic course corrections, day by day, until you look up and go, 'Wow, things have really changed.'"
(More David Letterman stories.)

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