Only two more episodes of Late Show remain before David Letterman retires, and on Monday’s episode of The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon paid tribute to Letterman, the man who changed the face of late-night television. “This show, what late night has become, is a result of [Letterman] playing with the genre and exploring,” Fallon said. “I, like every kid who grew up watching him, will miss him.”
The Tonight Show host then shared a page from his 8th grade yearbook where a teacher accurately predicted that the then-14-year-old James Fallon “will replace David Letterman on the Late Night show,” referencing the 12:35 a.m. NBC program that Letterman once commandeered. Fallon ended up following in Letterman’s (and Conan O’Brien’s) shoes by hosting Late Night for nearly five years before taking over permanently for Jay Leno on Tonight Show.
Fallon talked about his final Letterman appearance since, as he was then still the Late Night host, he knew he wouldn’t be able to visit the Ed Sullivan Theatre again once he became competition in 11:35 p.m. time slot. “He taught us how to do something smart and stupid for comedy…He just wants to have fun and be goofy, and I’ll always remember that.”
Fallon, like all Late Show fans, also remembered Letterman’s cool in the inescapable serious moments that seeped into their world of comedy. “He’s always just there when you need him. I remember after 9/11, we needed somebody, the city was in shock, and we’re all looking for answers, and we wanted to see what Dave had to say and we looked at him to say something,” Fallon remembers. “He said ‘There’s only one requirement for any of us, and that’s to be courageous, because courage, as you might know, defines all other human behavior.’ David Letterman is courageous. Have a nice retirement, Dave!”
While Fallon used a five-minute segment to remember Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel opted to pay his respects in a different manner: The host of ABC’s late-night program promised that they would not run a new episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live! against Letterman’s farewell Wednesday night. “I have too much respect for Dave to do anything that would distract viewers from watching his final show,” Kimmel said. For The Tonight Show, Wednesday night will be business as usual as David Duchovny, Jeff Foxworthy and Pitbull guest on a new episode.