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Goodbye, Dave: 10 reasons we’ll miss Letterman

After 33 years on late-night television, David Letterman bids farewell Wednesday.

The onetime weatherman will close out the “Late Show” as the longest-running host of any late-night show.

He gained that distinction in 2013, when he passed his idol/mentor Johnny Carson, who hosted “The Tonight Show” for 30 years. (Carson’s last show was May 22, 1992.)

Starting with NBC’s “Late Night with David Letterman,” which ran from 1982-1993, the snarky, quick-witted former comedian made watching post-news TV fun for a younger generation.

Top 10 reasons David Letterman will be missed:

10. He reveled in goofy stunts

Dave threw stuff off the roof — cans of paint, melons, televisions and marbles, to name a few.

He wondered how many guys dressed like Spider-man could fit into a Jamba Juice; he sent people dressed like pirates into a sandwich shop, he worked the drive-thru windows at fast-food restaurants and harassed customers.

Dave tested suits made of Alka-Seltzer, Rice Crispies and sponges.

The most oddly thrilling? A suit of Velcro.

9. Famous folks were willing to be silly for him

Vice President Al Gore donned goggles and smashed an ashtray with a hammer, Tom Selleck plunged his face and notable hair into a tub full of water on a dare; stolid newsman Ted Koppel did a stupid human trick — balancing a piece of meat on his nose.

Guests loosened up with Dave, sometimes with astonishing results. Case in point, Drew Barrymore jumped on the host desk for an impromptu and provocative dance for Dave’s birthday. So caught up in the moment, a braless Barrymore flashed him.

But no one was more up for fun with Dave than action star Bruce Willis:


8. He showed us the world outside the studio

Dave visited nearby stores and made the staff minor celebrities.

Sirajul and Mujibar, electronics store salesmen, were among the first to experience the power of Dave after the move to CBS.

Rupert Jee at Hello Deli became a fan favorite.

7. Stupid pet/Stupid human tricks

In a nod to the early days of television, Dave brought on pet owners who had trained their animals to do tricks, a lot of them of kind of senseless.

He also got people to do stunts themselves.

6. Applauded hard work, humility

Dave had a tremendous amount of respect for the history of the medium. Besides idolizing Johnny Carson, he also had great respect for news journalists, the presidents who visited and everyday people who did something extraordinary.

And for all the teasing he did of Regis Philbin, Dave always called Philbin a legend and respected his years in television. But he still could be downright mean to him.

5. Top Ten lists

Day after day, through over 6,000 shows, the staff came up with relevant, topical lists. They weren’t all winners, but at least one in each list was worth a laugh or two.

Here’s the first one.

4.Turned grudge-holding into an art form

Dave has been known to get in a snit over slights real or imagined. And did he go to town over them.

The day Sen. John McCain canceled an appearance, citing suspension of his 2008 presidential campaign and had to catch a plane. Instead, McCain ended up across the hall for a news interview during Letterman’s show.

Dave found out and couldn’t let it go.

McCain made up for it with a visit a couple of weeks later, apologizing on air to Dave.

The unluckiest target of Dave’s ire was fellow late-night host Jay Leno.

The “Tonight Show” show star earned Dave’s relentless mocking after Leno was chosen over Letterman to take over for the retired Carson.


There were comments here and there over the years, but it all exploded when Conan O’Brien was all but fired from “Tonight” in order to bring back Leno, who had stepped aside for O’Brien.

Dave lost it.

And while Oprah Winfrey said she never was feuding with Dave, he was bent out of shape that she wouldn’t return to his show.

After 16 years, she came back in 2005. Dave said before her appearance, “Even my mother said tonight she may switch over from Leno.”

In the biggest surprise, Dave temporarily aside his enmity toward Leno for a well-received Super Bowl ad in 2010.

3. Ego buster

If a guest came on the show and acted like a jerk, Dave took care of it. Madonna was bleeped continuously in a visit, and the host finally got cranky, winning over the audience.

When celebutante Paris Hilton sat down and proceeded to seem wholly unaffected by her jail stint for alcohol-rated reckless driving, Dave kept pressing her.

Hilton finally said she was tired of answering questions about it and wanted to talk about her clothing line. Dave said, “(jail) is all I want to talk about.”

Joaquin Phoenix visited and was difficult and loopy. It was later said he had was faking it for a documentary. Regardless, Dave went from puzzled and patient to sarcastic and hilarious. Bam.

He gave CBS President Les Moonves grief repeatedly. The man who was his boss was the butt of jokes and crank calls.

2. He stepped up when it counted

Dave calmed the nation after the Sept. 11 attacks.

He confessed to an audience that he had been blackmailed because he had cheated on his wife. The audience thought he was kidding. He was not.

1. He says what we’re thinking

When he was rebuffed at the door in an attempt to give a fruit basket to new bosses at General Electric, Dave looked right into the camera and said, “Oh, this is going to be fun working with these people, isn’t it?”

Dave nearly went out the same way he arrived on the scene — with guest Bill Murray on Tuesday night.

The final show airs at 10:35 p.m. Arizona time.