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One of the series' most memorable moments occurred in the mid-1990s when Johnny Carson made a surprise walk-on appearance. David Letterman stood up and let Carson sit at his desk for a moment, with the intent of having the The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962) veteran deliver a joke. The audience went crazy and applauded for so long that Carson never got to say a word.
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Many, including rival talk show host Jay Leno, whom NBC chose over David Letterman as Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show (1962) successor in a bitter competition between the two, saw Carson's Late Show with David Letterman (1993) cameo appearance as a signal that Carson preferred Letterman over Jay.
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In January 2005, onetime Late Show with David Letterman (1993) producer Peter Lassally revealed that Johnny Carson occasionally contributed material for Letterman's monologues, even years after Carson's retirement.
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Before reading the Top Ten List, David Letterman used to announce that it came "from the home office of Sioux City, Iowa". This was a reference to the fact that at the time, the CBS affiliate in Sioux City refused to air the show.
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In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks (specifically the World Trade Center attack in New York, downtown from where "The Late Show" is taped), David Letterman was reported to have said that he didn't know if anything would ever be funny again. Most American programming (including "The Late Show") was suspended in the aftermath. However, on September 17, "The Late Show" was one of the first comedy shows to resume regular programming. The starting guest that night was Dan Rather, and the emotionally-charged episode is considered one of Letterman's finest.
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On the show, people in the audience are often wearing coats, or appear "bundled up". This is because the temperature of the Ed Sullivan Theatre is kept at 58 degrees during taping, supposedly at Dave's insistence.
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NBC claimed "intellectual property rights" on many of Letterman's famous running gags and characters from his original show. As a result, the character of "Larry Bud Melman" was retired (though the actor remained with the show and appeared under his real name), and such traditions as "Viewer Mail", "Stupid Pet Tricks", and the "Top 10 List" were simply renamed. This controversy was the subject of much ridicule during the 1993-94 TV season, mostly from Letterman himself.
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On April 28, 2010, Letterman's monologue included references to Jay Leno's 60th birthday. He refused to read one joke from the cue cards. The joke was: "Time flies - seems like just yesterday he was pushing Johnny out."
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Episodes from Monday through Thursday were taped at 5:30 p.m. on their respective days. Friday episodes were taped at 8:30 p.m. on the preceding day.
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David Letterman originally wanted to call Paul Shaffer's musical ensemble "The NBC Orchestra," but that name was already taken by Doc Severinsen and company on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962). Letterman settled for the name "Paul Shaffer and the World's Most Dangerous Band," but he got his way in the end: when Letterman and Shaffer defected to CBS, they changed the name of Shaffer's ensemble to "The CBS Orchestra."
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The show was forced into hiatus during the November/December 2007 Writers Strike, so reruns were aired, with almost all of them being from earlier that year except for two memorable 1998 episodes. One featured an extended conversation with Cher and a live performance of her smash hit single "Believe". The other featured Angelina Jolie in her only appearance on the program. An ostensibly displeased Jolie ended the interview by walking off the stage before they cut to commercial.
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When Louis C.K. requested to be booked on the show, the producers asked if he would meet with Letterman to discuss being hired as a writer. C.K. agreed to this only if he was given a firm date to perform on the show. C.K. had no intention of writing for the show but upon meeting Letterman he could not turn the offer down. C.K. hated the job and quit after three months.
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An estimated 13.5 million viewers watched when Oprah Winfrey was Dave's guest on 1 December 2005. The average night pulled in 4.3 million viewers.
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The microphone on David Letterman's desk was an old RCA DX 77. It was a replacement for the original microphone given to him as a gift from the NBC crew when he left the network. A couple of years after making the move to CBS, the original microphone was stolen. The microphone on his desk was usually not plugged in. His primary microphone was the lapel clipped to his tie.
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Voted #7 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.
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Stephen Colbert took over as host of the Late Show in 2015 after Letterman retired.
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At least 29 people have guest hosted for David Letterman. In 2000, as he underwent and recuperated from heart bypass surgery: Charles Grodin, Regis Philbin (2 times), Paul Shaffer (3 times), David Brenner (2 times), Tom Snyder (2 times), Tom Arnold, Bill Cosby, Kathie Lee Gifford, Nathan Lane, Janeane Garofalo, and Dana Carvey; in 2003, as he recuperated from the shingles: Bruce Willis, John McEnroe, Regis Philbin, Whoopi Goldberg, Vince Vaughn, Elvis Costello, Will Ferrell, Megan Mullally, Brad Garrett, Tom Dreesen, Bonnie Hunt, Paul Shaffer, Bill Cosby, and Luke Wilson. Guest hosts who filled in for Letterman in June for no apparent reason ("Tired Ass Syndrome"): Tom Arnold, Tom Green, Kelsey Grammer, and Jimmy Fallon. In November 2003, Paul Shaffer filled in for Dave because of his girlfriend's ('Regina Lasko' ) delivery of their baby, Harry Joseph. In 2005, Paul Shaffer filled again as host, after Letterman went to accept a car award in Detroit. In 2007, Adam Sandler stepped in after Letterman caught fever earlier in the day.
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The public perceives there to be a serious rift between Dave and Jay Leno starting at about the time Jay got the Tonight Show and Dave did not. Dave disputes this however; and insists Jay and he are really friends; and have been during the whole late night wars; and if there are any differences or static between them it has to do with Jay's general and unwarranted insecurity as a person, not related to the Jay getting the Tonight Show specifically.
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Tom Arnold was the first guest host to fill in for David Letterman due to a non-illness related absence.
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"You don't like stupid people" longtime guest Julia Roberts said to Letterman at one point.
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On an early episode of the Late Show, this was 1993 and Dave had just made the jump from NBC, Dave invited Debra Winger on the show to promote her new movie "Wilder Napalm." Debra had a longstanding rivalry with former Wonder Woman star Lynda Carter. Carter eventually married businessman Robert Altman, who himself got caught up in BCCI banking scandal and had to appear in those hearings. On March 30, 1993 the BCCI trial opened in New York City, and Lynda attended the hearings every day, sitting behind Robert with his family to give him support. As this was happening, Lynda's former Wonder Woman co-star, Debra Winger, who played Lynda's sister Wonder Girl on that series in 1976-1977, appeared on CBS's "Late Show with Dave Letterman" to promote her 1993 romantic comedy "Wilder Napalm". On the David Letterman episode Debra reminisced about her Wonder Woman days and also teased co-star Lynda Carter and her husband about the BCCI scandal. At the end of the episode Debra disrobes from the formal dress she is wearing and runs out of the studio wearing her Wonder Girl costume, as Paul Schaffer and his band plays the Wonder Woman theme song, and the audience cheers. You can watch this episode and Debra's Wonder Girl antics on Youtube.
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Before David's Late Show CBS's last offering in the late night territory was The Pat Sajak show which was a ratings bomb and only lasted about 4 months before it was cancelled.
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One of Letterman's most memorable guests was Madonna on the March 31, 1994 broadcast in which Madonna says "fuck" 14 times.
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The Feburary 21, 2000 broadcast was Letterman's first show since his quintuple bypass heart surgery Letterman's guests that night are the doctors that performed the surgery.
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