Comedy stars from Steve Martin to Tina Fey and the rock band Foo Fighters ushered David Letterman into retirement Wednesday after 33 years and 6,028 broadcasts of his late-night shows on CBS and NBC.
His final "Late Show" broadcast ran long, some 17 minutes over its usual hour, and CBS planned to let the show go without cutting it.
The transplanted Hoosier, who made Top Ten lists and ironic humor staples of television comedy and influenced a generation of performers, will be replaced by Stephen Colbert in September.
Fans and photographers clustered outside the 53rd Street side entrance to Manhattan's Ed Sullivan Theater on Wednesday afternoon to watch a steady stream of celebrities arriving, including Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Jim Carrey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Barbara Walters, Peyton Manning and Alec Baldwin along with Fey and Martin.
Several audience members who filed out of the theater after the show had tears in their eyes.
"It was really incredible," said Will Landman of Long Island, New York. "It was the best way he could go out."
Audience members pointed to a star-studded Top Ten list and the Foo Fighters as highlights. As for the host, Letterman "was guarded but you could tell it was really hard for him," said John Bernstein, who flew in from Los Angeles to see the finale.
"You could see his emotion," he said. "But I think he's feeling a lot more than he's showing."
His last few weeks have been warmly nostalgic, with Letterman entertaining old friends like Bill Murray, Tom Hanks, George Clooney and Julia Roberts. Anticipating the end, viewers sent Letterman to the top of the late-night ratings the week before last for the first time since Jimmy Fallon took over at NBC's "Tonight" show and they competed with original telecasts. (AP)
See Dave's final "Top 10 list"
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