David Letterman returns to the CBS ‘Late Show’ — for a night

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‘I’ll be here through Christmas.’

— David Letterman

That’s former CBS

“Late Show” host David Letterman on his thoughts about returning to the program — for a night.

Stephen Colbert, the host since Letterman stepped down in 2015, had his predecessor as a guest on Monday night’s show. It was the first time Letterman had been back to the late-night talkfest, which is recorded at New York City’s Ed Sullivan Theater.

And he seemed thrilled to be there, especially given the warm welcome he received from the crowd.

“I will say this is the most enthusiastic audience I have been near since the night I announced I was quitting,” Letterman said.

Letterman joked with Colbert about how the theater had been transformed in glitzy fashion since his departure, which led to his quip about staying through the holidays.

“It’s like Rodeo Drive!” he added, noting that his dressing room was “nicer than the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in in my life.”

 “We’ve fixed it up a bit,” Colbert responded.

Letterman reflected on his 22-year tenure with the CBS show, saying he didn’t have a lot of fellow show-biz people to turn to for advice. “I was pretty much alone,” he said.

Nevertheless, Letterman became his generation’s equivalent of late-night titan Johnny Carson of NBC

“Tonight Show” fame. In 2002, TV Guide ranked the Letterman-helmed “Late Show” as the seventh-greatest television program of all time (“Seinfeld” took the top slot).

Not that the “Late Show” has struggled under Colbert. The program has been the consistent ratings winner in the late-night wars, beating out “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” on NBC and “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on ABC

When the late shows returned this fall after the Writers Guild of America strike, Colbert did especially well, averaging 2.6 million viewers per program (including those who watch it after the initial airing) in his first block of shows. Kimmel was second, with 1.8 million viewers.

As for Letterman, he hasn’t exactly retired. He has produced a long-form talk show on Netflix
“My Next Guest Needs No Introduction,” since 2018.

Still, musical guest the National, a known Letterman favorite, expressed on the social platforms X and Instagram an awareness that the legendary host’s one-night return to network TV represented a significant moment.

“When David Letterman reaches out to ask if you’ll join him as the musical guest on his first return to ‘The Late Show,’ there is only one answer,” the alt-rock band’s Instagram account observed.


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