Letterman Leaves Late-Night TV With A Near-Perfect Final Show Late Show host David Letterman said goodbye Wednesday night with his trademark self-deprecating sarcasm. He left as he had arrived: with a hilarious show made on his own terms.
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Letterman Leaves Late-Night TV With A Near-Perfect Final Show

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Letterman Leaves Late-Night TV With A Near-Perfect Final Show

Letterman Leaves Late-Night TV With A Near-Perfect Final Show

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Here's a downside of doing this job. You get up early, so you go to bed early, so you miss the final episode of CBS's "Late Show With David Letterman." Here's part of how he said goodbye.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")

DAVID LETTERMAN: The people who watched this show, there's nothing I can do to ever repay you. Thank you for everything. You've given me everything.

(APPLAUSE)

INSKEEP: Letterman was wrapping up more than 30 years on late-night television. And NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans did stay up to watch. Hi, Eric.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.

INSKEEP: How well did Dave finish up?

DEGGANS: I thought he finished up wonderfully. Throughout this process, David Letterman has been kind of touched, he's been embarrassed and he's been overwhelmed by all the compliments that people have been throwing his way. So this last show, which went about 18 minutes over his usual hour-long timeslot, was just a perfect summation of all of those things. I mean, it moved between celebrating his great moments and poking fun at them. And we saw clips stretching back to his morning show on NBC and classic bits like the time he took over this Taco Bell drive-thru and harassed the customers. And it kicked off with five different presidents - and four of them recorded especially for this show - including Barack Obama, who said our long national nightmare is over because Letterman is retiring.

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

DEGGANS: And this time, the star of the show was his legacy as a broadcast comedy giant, which I thought was totally appropriate.

INSKEEP: And, of course, reminders of some of his great bits over the years, like the final top 10 list. Jim Carrey, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld saying the top 10 things they always wanted to say to David Letterman. And one of these was Julia Louis-Dreyfus, also of the "Seinfeld" program, giving her line.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")

JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS: Thanks for letting me take part in another hugely disappointing series finale.

(LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: (Laughter) A reference to the Seinfeld finale there, I guess.

DEGGANS: Yeah. And Jerry Seinfeld had this priceless look on his face when she said it. But what was great about this moment was that it sort of referenced how much Letterman values talented, funny people and how much he makes them a part of his show, both on CBS and when he was on NBC. I mean, people forget that Seinfeld and Ray Romano and Pee-wee Herman and Michael Keaton and Andy Kaufman and even his longtime rival Jay Leno, they all got huge early career boosts by being on the show a lot. And this top 10 list sort of hearkened back to that.

INSKEEP: And you have her there also kind of making fun of herself, which was David Letterman's own hallmark, the self-deprecating remark. Let's listen to a little more of the program.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")

LETTERMAN: We've done over 6,000 shows.

(APPLAUSE)

LETTERMAN: And I - I was here for most of them.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: And I can tell you a pretty high percentage of those shows just absolutely sucked.

INSKEEP: I'm remembering shows where a joke would bomb, and he would look at the camera and say, the amazing thing is I'm the only thing on CBS right now.

DEGGANS: (Laughter) Exactly. And, you know, as much as Letterman and Julia Louie-Dreyfus might have joked about this, what was great about this finale is that it did not suck. You know, we got some great clip packages. We saw Letterman's wife, Regina, and his son, Harry, who have rarely appeared on the show before. And based on what he told me last week in an interview, I suspect that the last segment of the finale, which featured this montage of images from the show's history while the Foo Fighters played this great song called "Everlong" - that's one of Letterman's favorites - I suspect that segment was crafted by Letterman himself.

INSKEEP: Did not suck. An artistic judgment by our TV critic Eric Deggans. Eric, thanks very much.

DEGGANS: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Miss him already.

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