The king of late-night television, David Letterman, brought the curtain down on a 33-year career in an emotional final show packed with jokes and farewells from US presidents, Hollywood stars and devoted fans.
The last-ever Late Show with David Letterman brings to an end an American cultural institution that has been watched by millions and an extraordinary career that has inspired a generation of comedians.
Wednesday’s finale opened with a bang.
Former US presidents George H and George W Bush and Bill Clinton, as well as current President Barack Obama, were filmed repeating one after the other, “our long national nightmare is over”.
It was a night of rapturous applause and standing ovations from a VIP-studded crowd.
The show featured gags at Letterman’s expense, jokes poking fun at celebrity and play-back highlights of years gone by.
Hollywood stars Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, Bill Murray and Jim Carrey, and comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Tina Fey led 10 stars who performed the bit “Top 10 things I’ve always wanted to say to Dave”.
Their pithy one-liners paid tribute to the caustic humour of the veteran broadcaster, the longest-serving nighttime US talk show host, who has been on air since getting his first show on NBC in 1982.
“Thank you and goodnight,” Letterman said at the end of what was the 6028th television show of his career, calling a multitude of tributes “flattering, embarrassing and gratifying”.
“Thank you for everything, you’ve given me everything,” he told his fans.
He also gave thanks to wife Regina and their 11-year-old son Harry, who sat beaming in the audience as he said how much he loved them.
Rock giants Foo Fighters played out the show to roars from the jubilant crowd at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York.
Critics have praised Letterman for combining innovative and odd-ball antics with traditional interviews, and for inspiring some of most the talented comics working today in Britain and the US.