Never a dull moment with Dave

By Verne Gay

Verne Gay looks back at an eventful two decades for David Letterman and his late-night TV chat show.

 The Late Show 's first guest Bill Murray returns to help David Letterman celebrate the show's 20th anniversary.
The Late Show 's first guest Bill Murray returns to help David Letterman celebrate the show's 20th anniversary.

The Late Show with David Letterman, which screens nightly on Prime in New Zealand, is turning 20. Here's a list of the 20 most memorable moments in its time on air from the Ed Sullivan Theatre in New York.

Aug 30, 1993: First guest Bill Murray - who'll be back on tonight's episode dressed as Liberace - spray-painting "Dave" on the host's desk. Other first guests are Billy Joel, Tom Brokaw and Paul Newman.

Sep 8, 1993: Vice-President Al Gore wears goggles and smashes ashtrays. It was all in the service of comedy, but the absurdity of the screen grab - a goggle-wearing Vice-President wielding a hammer - did not help politically.

Feb 14, 1994: Dave's mum, Dorothy Letterman, joins the show as, umm, Dave's mum, and interviews Hillary Clinton.

Mar 31, 1994: Madonna discusses sex and the various parts of her body that are used to that end. She is heavily edited throughout - 13 times, in fact - which may be why the only recollection I have is of one long bleep.

May 13, 1994: After a week of airing the show from L.A., Johnny Carson, in his last TV appearance, closes it all down. He walks out, presumably to do a Top 10, but takes Dave's seat. He says not a word for 30 seconds, then leaves. "That was great," Letterman said. "That was great."

Apr 12, 1995: Drew Barrymore hops on the desk, dances and flashes Letterman, who doesn't seem to mind in the least.

Oct 28, 1996: That salute to manager Joe Torre and the New York Yankees after their first World Series win in 15 years.

Jun 5, 1997: Farrah Fawcett meanders aimlessly through the byways of her mind, confounding all while establishing herself as a late-night television legend.

Jan 12, 2000: Hillary Clinton, after enduring six years of Letterman torments and taunts, submits to an interview (she was running for senator).

Feb 21, 2000: Letterman makes a triumphant return after his quintuple bypass and has his medical team in attendance, in what may be the most memorable show of them all.

Sep 17, 2001: The return after 9/11, with a succinct summation of the horror: "We're told that they were zealots fuelled by religious fervour. ... And if you live to be a thousand years old, will that make any sense to you?"

Oct 30, 2002: The entire edition is devoted to musician Warren Zevon - then diagnosed with mesothelioma - who performed and spoke of what he'd learned in life. (He died in 2003.) Still probably the best hour of The Late Show.

Nov 4, 2003: "Last night at 11:58, I became a father."

Jan 31, 2005: The Johnny Carson tribute edition; per Dave, "At the end of the day, that's who you wanted to be there" - which is how many Americans feel about Dave.

Dec 1, 2005: Oprah Winfrey finally appears, ending what popular culture had decided was a "feud". Dave is even nice: calling her "the most beloved woman in America - despite the fact she gave us Dr Phil".

Jun 6, then Jun 15, 2009: Letterman makes a pair of lame jokes about Bristol Palin. (Example: She was "knocked up" by A-Rod at a game.) He's forced to apologise.

Sep 21, 2009: President Barack Obama becomes the first sitting President to do the show. Letterman hits 5000 shows in late-night TV mark three days later.

Oct 1, 2009: Millions of jaws drop as Dave admits to multiple office affairs and relays a wild story about an extortion plot gone bad. The apologies came later in the week.

Oct 29, 2012: There is no audience because of uninvited guest superstorm Sandy. Eerie silence pervades the Ed Sullivan Theatre.

Apr 9, 2013: Lindsay Lohan is asked, "How will this time be different? What are they rehabbing?" She responds: "We didn't discuss this in the pre-interview, I'm just saying to everyone."

TV profile

What: The Late Show with David Letterman
When and where: Prime TV, 11.10pm tonight

- AAP

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