Jimmy Kimmel's David Letterman Tribute: Watch His Tear-Filled Speech

Right around the stroke of midnight on Wednesday (eastern time, of course), Jimmy Kimmel ushered in David Letterman‘s last day as the host of Late Night with a tear-filled speech to his personal hero.

“I want to say something if I could,” the Jimmy Kimmel Live! host begins in the video above. “I wanted to be an artist when I was a kid, and every night I would sit at my desk in my room and draw until it was very late. And while I was doing that, I would watch a show that was very important to me, as you can tell. It was called Late Night With David Letterman.”

That’s when the tickle in the back of Kimmel’s throat evolves into full-blown tears, which he does his best to hold back; the audience drowns him in applause.

“It was a lot like The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, in that they’d have guests and an audience and a band… but it was weird,” he continues. “Even though it looked like every other talk show, it wasn’t. It was totally original, primarily because the host of the show — who, a lot of the time, seemed embarrassed to even be there — did not seem like a part of show business. He was uncomfortable, he never pretended to be excited and his way of saying things was so subtle that, a lot of the time, the people he was talking to didn’t know he was joking.”

Kimmel goes on to recall some of his favorite Letterman moments throughout the years, share his own history obsessing over the latenight legend — right down to his Letterman-themed birthday party and vanity license place — and admit that watching Late Night taught him everything he know about hosting.

“The only reason I have this show is because the executives at ABC saw me on Dave’s show and hired me for this show,” he says. “So I want thank Dave, his writers and producers. Tomorrow night is Letterman’s farewell show, and I’d like it if you made sure to watch that instead of our show. We’re still going to have a show — it’s going to be a rerun — but please do not watch it, especially if you’re a young person who doesn’t understand what all the fuss it about. Dave is the best, and you should see him.”

Letterman’s final Late Show episode airs Wednesday at 11:35/10:35c on CBS.

Hit PLAY on Kimmel’s tribute above, then drop a comment below with your own thoughts on Letterman’s farewell.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. BetsyBoo says:

    What a lovely lovely tribute.

  2. Kim R says:

    Very touching and genuine. Sweet.

  3. JR says:

    Jimmy is a total mensch. He is the one I’ll be watching after Dave signs off tonight. (Even though I’m tempted, as per Tom Hanks, to throw away all my TVs.)

  4. Steve says:

    This guy needs to stop with the endless ass-kissery. His juvenile show will never measure up to Letterman’s, you can tell that Letterman knows it.

  5. KenL says:

    Until reading this, I wondered who I might wind up watching on late night on the few times I have the time to watch. I think I’ll begin checking Kimmel out. Tried Fallon’s Tonight Show and it just doesn’t work for me. What a great tribute by him to Dave.

    • Lisa says:

      I watched Fallon on the Tonight Show for awhile and started to get turned off by him. I started watching Kimmel and have never looked back!

      • Jeri says:

        Agree. Fallon is the a–kicker. Not even worth watching him pull the same kiss-kiss on every show. You know nothing unexpected will happen. He would never dare to say anything any guest would disagree with.

        • Jeri says:

          oops! A–KISSER, not kicker. Sorry.

        • Nanette says:

          Jeri, I think Fallon is more suited to off-the-wall improv comedy like SNL. He just seems lost as a late night host. He’s not much of a stand-up comedian either. He’s just out-of-his-league on the Tonight Show because he can’t interview well, either. Some people can, many can’t. It’s hard to follow Carson and Leno who really were suited to the job. We tried giving Fallon a chance for several months, but he is too “East Coast” for the rest of the country. I don’t know how the people on the East Coast feel about him. On Kimmel’s show, you never know what kind of crazy thing will happen next and that’s how I like it.

    • Nanette says:

      KenL, After Leno left the Tonight Show, we tried watching Jimmy Fallon several times and it doesn’t work for us either. We actually like watching Jimmy Kimmel a lot. The family he has on his show are really funny people (his actual family members) and many of his stunts are hysterical. I really enjoy how he and his cousin pester their aunt. She’s quite a character–especially when the guys get her to fall for one of their many stunts. It reminds me of how funny some families are with each other. We don’t always watch the whole show, but we enjoy the beginning. Hes not Carson-no one is that good anymore–but try watching it several times. If you have a wacky, “down home type” (not urban or sophistated) sense of humor, you will probably enjoy it.

  6. Dj says:

    This was a really touching moment. Kimmel is a class act.

  7. Cindy W. says:

    David Letterman is the best! Will miss him so much! Will probably watch Jimmy Kimmel from now on. He’s a great host on Late Night TV also. God Bless David Letterman. We wish him the best.

    • Nanette says:

      I’m happy for Letterman that he chose to retire. I noticed after his heart problems that he just didn’t seem happy being on the show anymore. From what I’ve read, that isn’t unusual after someone looks death in the face. He seemed to lose his interest being there or something. I hope whatever he does next and being with his family will make him happier. I’m glad that Kimmel honored him that way. It’s not ass-kissing to pay tribute to someone you have respect for. Kimmel is known to have a big heart. I didn’t see that show, but it sounds like Kimmel to do something like that. I remember how he honored his uncle on the show after he died. His uncle was a great part of his show and he died unexpectedly. You could tell that he really loved and respected him. He didn’t wait until Letterman died to honor him for his work. That is cool.

  8. AngelWasHere says:

    Glad Kimmel found time to pucker up. I lost respect for this guy when he jumped in the Leno and Letterman fight with his immaturity. Plus his show sucks!

    • Sara says:

      Did you mean to call Kimmel immature in one sentence and then say his show sucks in another sentence? You know what they say about glass houses ;)

  9. Gerald says:

    Kimmel carry’s the Late Night torch. Very touching tribute.

  10. Whatevah says:

    I love Jimmy Kimmel. I love David Letterman so I love this tribute!

  11. Ame says:

    Such a great tribute. Dave will be missed!

  12. Anon says:


  13. Dennis says:

    Love Kimmel!

  14. Jeri says:

    Like Johnny, no-one can replace Dave. I will miss his goofiness, his intelligence and his respect for us, NY and this country. Bye Dave.

    • maggie says:

      Well said Jeri. I will give Stephen Colbert a chance, but he will have to be himself and not try to be Dave.

  15. maggie says:

    What a wonderful, classy, heartfelt tribute to Dave from Jimmy K.