David Letterman‘s late-night legacy was celebrated Sunday night at the Kennedy Center as Bill Murray, Jimmy Kimmel, Eddie Vedder, former Late Show bandleader Paul Shaffer and more honored Letterman at the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor ceremony.
“No one from his generation influenced American comedy more,” Kimmel said of the late-night host.
“When Dave left 17 long months ago, we had no idea how much trouble we were in. I look at what’s going on now and I think this is your [Letterman’s] fault. All of it. Everything was fine until you went off the air. You abandoned us. You went out for a pack of cigarettes and left us to live with an abusive orange stepfather.”
Six months after Letterman helped induct Pearl Jam into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Vedder was on hand at the Mark Twain Prize to perform “Keep Me in Your Heart,” a song by Letterman’s good friend Warren Zevon, who died in 2003, NPR reports. The Pearl Jam singer performed the song alongside Shaffer.
Steve Martin, Jon Mulaney and, via video, former First Lady Michelle Obama also paid tribute to Letterman. The Mark Twain Prize ceremony will broadcast on PBS on November 20th.
“Because of this award, I am now the most humorous person in the world,” Letterman said after receiving the prize, ending his own speech by quoting Mark Twain. “I’m going to wrap this up now with a quote and I hope I get it correct and it has to do with patriotism. And Mark Twain’s definition of patriotism is this: ‘Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it.'”
In a red carpet interview prior to the Mark Twain Prize ceremony, Kimmel elaborated on his oft-repeated statement, “If there is no Letterman, there is no Kimmel.” “You ever see the movie Back to the Future, where he goes back in time and almost has sex with his mother,” Kimmel said. “That’s me and Dave.”
Letterman added on the red carpet of ending his retirement for an upcoming Netflix series, “When I was on terrestrial broadcast television, we did 6,000 shows. The deal that I have now with the good people of Netflix is six shows. You do the math. On the talk shows, as you know, you’re asked to produce three, four minute segments, and I just got tired of the time limitation. So now we have no time limitation, and that’s a benefit, because I don’t know what happened, but I can’t stop talking.”