David Letterman welcomed Bill Murray as his final regularly scheduled guest on Tuesday, but it's clear the late night host saved the best for last.
Though CBS didn't disclose exactly what would happen on Letterman's final show, the network did promise plenty of "surprises," and that promise got delivered. Letterman's final appearance as host of "The Late Show" included some throwback clips and other moments that were instant classics:
There was a visit from the president ...
A star-studded Top Ten List ...
And Letterman finally accepted that it's not going to work out with NBC ...
Even with the retro clips and surprising moments, something that may be lost on the audience is how well Letterman understood late night comedy. Ron Simon, a curator at the Paley Center for Media, told The Huffington Post that before the comedian made his late night debut on NBC, he brought his staff to the Center, then the Museum of Television & Radio, to study up on late night history.
"Dave came over with his writers, and they looked up, especially some of the early '50s early '60s talk show hosts like Steve Allen and Ernie Kovacs," said Simon. "I think that was one of the special things about David Letterman is they were able to take a look at history but do their own unique, surreal spin on it."
Simon called Letterman a pioneer of late night comedy, experimenting in a new time slot when NBC launched "Late Night" and then again breaking the mold and bringing a new, more mature late night show to CBS. Letterman had an "understanding of all the rules, and then he was able to break those rules," he said.
Here's to 33 years of breaking the rules!
Happy retirement, David Letterman!