It’s last call for The Late Show. As of tonight, David Letterman’s run of 33 years in the talk-show business will end, shutting down a TV show that was famously comfortable being both acerbic and goofy.
“Tomorrow is our final show,” Letterman said Tuesday night. “Unless it rains. Then there’ll be a rain delay, and we’ll probably make it up … in a double-header around Labor Day.”
No matter the weather, that final show will air tonight on CBS at 11:30 p.m. ET. You’ll also be able to catch it online. Stephen Colbert will take over Letterman’s show this fall, with the first episode airing on Sept. 8.
Last week, Letterman described the end of tonight’s episode in a talk with NPR’s Eric Deggans: “It will be a variety of visual images, you know, in various presentation, and then just me saying thanks and good night.”
Letterman is 67. He was 34 years old when he started Late Night With David Letterman on NBC back in 1982. In 1993, he moved to CBS; tonight’s show will mark 6,028 episodes Letterman has hosted.
In that time, the comedian and former weatherman has talked with musicians, celebrities and presidents. And particularly in the show’s early years, he staged stupid pet tricks and provided a home for oddball guests such as Brother Theodore, a performer who practiced what he called “stand-up tragedy.”
Letterman and his staff also relentlessly played with both show business conventions and audience expectations, airing an episode that was dubbed by voiceover actors in 1986 and another, a rerun, that aired in Spanish, with subtitles.
When Letterman announced his retirement last December, he thanked his network, his staff, the theater crew and the viewers.
“What this means now,” he told an audience that had grown quiet as Letterman announced his looming departure, “is that Paul and I can be married.”
The end of The Late Show is one in a swirl of changes for late-night TV. Jon Stewart will turn over The Daily Show to Trevor Noah later this year, and Larry Wilmore’s The Nightly Show took Colbert’s old slot at Comedy Central. Colbert signed off on his Colbert Report in December — in the same week that Craig Ferguson hosted his last episode of CBS’ The Late Late Show.