As we inch toward to an 11:35 p.m. time slot without David Letterman, many of today’s hosts have paid tribute to the man who changed the face of late-night television. Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Fallon have already honored the influential Letterman, and on Tuesday’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, Kimmel delivered an emotional monologue where he thanked Letterman for single-handedly inspiring his career in entertainment.
In a teary remembrance — Kimmel had to stop numerous times to compose himself — the host shared staying up late at night to “watch a television show that was very important to me, as you can tell, called Late Night With David Letterman.
“It was weird, even though it looked like every other talk show, it wasn’t,” Kimmel said. “It was totally original, primarily because the host of this show, who a lot of the time seemed embarrassed to even be there, he did not seem like he was a part of show business.” Kimmel’s obsession with the host extended to birthday cakes, letterman/Letterman jackets and vanity license plates (all with photographic evidence).
“I watched the show every night, I never missed it, but little did I know many years and many pounds later that watching the show was a great education to me,” Kimmel said. “I learned almost nothing in college, but watching Late Night, not only did I learn how to do everything from Dave, but the reason I have this show is because the executives at ABC saw me when I was a guest on Dave’s show and hired me to host this show, so I want to thank Dave and his writers and his producers.”
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Kimmel, who previously promised that he would not air a new episode against Letterman’s Late Show finale, reiterated to his audience that they should not watch the Jimmy Kimmel Live rerun that will broadcast Wednesday night. “Please do not watch [the rerun], especially if you’re a young person who doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about. Dave is the best and you should see him,” Kimmel said. The host’s longtime friend and bandleader Cleto Escobedo then paid tribute to his Late Show counterpart Paul Shaffer.
Meanwhile, on Letterman’s old Late Night stomping grounds, the NBC program’s current host Seth Meyers remembered the man who first helmed the 12:35 a.m. show by creating a shot-for-shot remake of Late Night‘s 1982 opening sequence. “Those opening credits you saw tonight were our homage to David Letterman,” Meyers told the crowd. “This show that we do here every night was Dave’s show, so we went out to the same streets, the same buildings, and reshot the opening, and we realized the biggest difference between 1982 New York City and today New York City is so, so many fewer pornography theaters.”