David Letterman: The Biggest Moments From Final 'Late Show' Episode

PHOTO: David Letterman appears during a taping of his final "Late Show with David Letterman," May 20, 2015 at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York.PlayJeffrey R. Staab/CBS/AP Photo
WATCH David Letterman's Star-Studded Send Off

David Letterman closed his 33-year late-night TV career Wednesday with a star-studded, emotional episode of “Late Show” that featured Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Tina Fey and a musical performance by the Foo Fighters.

The episode opened with a video clip from former Gerald Ford’s inaugural address: “Our long national nightmare is over,” Ford said. George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and President Obama followed in pre-taped appearances to repeat Ford’s statement.

“Our long national nightmare is over -- Letterman is retiring,” President Obama said.

Letterman appeared next to him.

“You’re just kidding, right?” Letterman said.

Letterman, 68 -- introduced as “a boy from a small town in Indiana” -- was greeted with a standing ovation when he entered the Ed Sullivan Theater stage, the audience applauding Letterman’s 6,028-episode career. He discussed his future job options during his monologue.

“I am sick and tired ... [of hearing] 'What are you doing to do now that you’re retired?' You know what I’m going to do now that I’m retired? I hope to become the new face of Scientology,” Letterman said.

PHOTO: David Letterman appears during a final taping of the ?Late Show with David Letterman,? Wednesday May 20, 2015 in New York.John Paul Filo/CBS/AP Photo
David Letterman appears during a final taping of the ?Late Show with David Letterman,? Wednesday May 20, 2015 in New York.

He also joked about being passed over to replace Johnny Carson on “Tonight Show” in the early 1990s, with Jay Leno getting the job instead -- and Letterman moving to CBS, where he’s been since 1993.

“I’ll be honest with you: It’s beginning to look like I won’t get the ‘Tonight Show!’” Letterman said.

The episode was interspersed with video clips from some of the show’s famous, memorable and poignant segments, a chance to reflect on three decades of pop culture, three decades of humor.

One of the show’s enduring segments was its Top Ten List, and Wednesday’s installment was among the most memorable: Top Ten Things I’ve Always Wanted to Say to Dave, featuring a bevy of celebrities.

  • Alec Baldwin: “Of all the talk shows, yours is most geographically convenient to my home.”
  • Barbara Walters: “Did you know that you wear the same cologne as Muammar Gaddafi?”
  • Steve Martin: “Your extensive plastic surgery was a necessity and a mistake.”
  • Jerry Seinfeld: “I have no idea what I’ll do when you go off the air. ... I just thought of something: I’ll be fine.”
  • Jim Carrey: “Honestly, Dave, I’ve always found you to be a bit of an over-actor.”
  • Chris Rock: “I’m just glad your show is being given to another white guy.”
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus: “Thanks for letting me take part in another hugely disappointing series finale.”
  • Peyton Manning: “You are to comedy what I am to comedy.”
  • Tina Fey: “Thanks for finally proving men can be funny.”
  • Bill Murray: “I’ll never have the money I owe you.”
  • As the episode reached its closing moments, Letterman reflected on the show’s legacy and the celebration of his successes. He departs as the most seasoned host in late-night history and ranks among its most influential. Of the years on air,

    “A high percentage of those shows absolutely sucked,” he said.

    PHOTO: David Letterman appears during a taping of his final Late Show with David Letterman, Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York.Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS/AP Photo
    David Letterman appears during a taping of his final "Late Show with David Letterman," Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York.

    Letterman also looked to downplay the glowing tributes bestowed on him as he enters the next phase of his life.

    “Save a little for my funeral. I’d appreciate it,” he said.

    He reserved special mention for his family, honoring wife Regina and son Harry, who were sitting in the audience. He also mentioned his son’s friend Tommy Romano, who was sitting beside a bemused Harry.

    “Thank you for being my family. ... Really, nothing else matters, does it?” he said.

    PHOTO: The Foo Fighters perform during a taping of David Lettermans final Late Show with David Letterman, May 20, 2015 at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York.Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS/AP Photo
    The Foo Fighters perform during a taping of David Letterman's final "Late Show with David Letterman," May 20, 2015 at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York.

    Then it was time for the Foo Fighters, time to find the tissues. Letterman lists the group’s song “Everlong” among his favorites, and the Foo Fighters had performed the song when Letterman returned to the air following open-heart surgery in 2000.

    The group, clad in tuxedos and awash in red light, played the song as photos from Letterman’s late-night career appeared on the TV screen. Many of the people featured, including George Burns, Andy Kauffman to Warren Zevon, have passed away. But there were funny moments, too: Letterman driving into a Christmas tree. Chris Elliott in ridiculous outfits. Larry “Bud” Melman’s wonderful presence. The Drew Barrymore situation. The Madonna situation. Throwing things. Blowing up things.

    Three decades of memories later and here we are, celebrating the boy from Indiana who became a late-night legend.