UPDATE: The final guests to appear on the last week of David Letterman’s Late Show have been announced. Dave Itzkoff of The New York Times reports that Tom Hanks and Eddie Vedder will stop by on Monday, Bill Murray will chat with Dave on Tuesday and Wednesday is merely tapped as “an hour filled with surprises.”
“Julia Roberts tonight,” mused David Letterman on Wednesday night’s Late Show. “Next week, I’ll be lucky to get a table at IHOP.”
Ever since the beginning of Dave’s farewell run, it’s been pretty much a foregone conclusion that Roberts would be one of his final guests. The actress, who made her Letterman debut in 1989 promoting Mystic Pizza, has always shared a sparks-filled chemistry with the host — a chemistry which was still noticeably apparent on her 26th and final show appearance.
Attired in a white Late Show varsity jacket — a much spiffier one than yellow version Dave had given away to an audience member earlier in the show — Roberts admitted that, back in ’89, she’d been absolutely terrified of coming on the show. “I had seen you absolutely dismember young actresses,” she recalled, “and I thought, ‘I’m going to go on and he’s going to know within 10 seconds what my IQ is,’ and you are going to, like a samurai, Benihana me and I’ll be left for dead.” It was the sort of comment that Dave might have pooh-poohed coming from another guest, but with Roberts he was both receptive to her perception and willing to discuss it.
“I’m not going to dispute this,” he said. “But what do you suppose was wrong with me? Why would I behave that way?”
“Because I think stupid people annoy you,” Roberts answered — and, well, Dave didn’t attempt argue with her.
Though the rest of their conversation wasn’t particularly memorable — retirement, kids, and the 25th anniversary of Pretty Woman were briefly discussed — Dave clearly enjoyed every second of it, spending most of their chat grinning like a cat who’d just swallowed the proverbial canary. He finished the segment by playing a highlight reel of their kisses through the years, then walked Roberts to center stage and planted a big one on her lips for the final time. Paul Shaffer struck up the band for a rendition of the Young Rascals’ “Groovin'” — Rascals guitarist Gene Cornish was sitting in for the night — but Roberts asked them to hold up.
“I just want to say, David Letterman, I love you,” she said, “and I thank you for all the joy and the laughs and the intelligence you’ve brought to us for 33 years.” Dave responded with an “I love you” of his own, and one of the most famous and long-running flirtations in television history came to a conclusion that was both sad and sweet.
The appearance of Paul Shaffer in the guest chair also brought a heavy sense of finality to the episode. While the Late Show band leader had certainly earned the right to screen his new “On Broadway” video, the clip wasn’t nearly as fun as watching him and Dave laugh while reminiscing about some of the show’s greatest musical guests. (“Can you introduce me to Larry ‘Bud’ Melman?” might well be Bob Dylan’s all-time greatest non sequitur.)
Ryan Adams, who first appeared on the show in 2001, closed the night with some musical magic of his own, performing a fiery version of “Starting to Hurt” with his band the Shining. “Fourteen years old, that song is?” Dave asked, Yoda-like, before begging Adams to vamp on “just a little more of the same thing” as the credits rolled. No doubt the song will be running through his head next week, while he’s waiting for that table at IHOP.