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.