's first late night talk show. It premiered on NBC
at 12:35am on February 1, 1982. Coming off of his failed morning show
still had confidence in Dave. This show was the result, and it changed the late night talk show forever.
Dave's first show saw him introduced by the "NBC Peacock Girls", a group of cabaret dancers in feathered costumes, whom Dave said had "come home to roost". His first guest was Bill Murray who, having had a little too much to drink that evening, went off on a twenty minute aerobic dance routine to Olivia Newton-John's "Physical" (much of which was edited down for broadcast).
And all of that was just on the first night.
Dave went on to make TV history on several occassions. He dressed up in giant suits made of things such as rice krispies or alka-seltzer. Then he'd be submerged in milk or water. He once donned a suit of magnets and pressed up against a shelf of metal cans. Another time he held elevator races in the building. He'd read viewer mail and sometimes even go and visit fans who wrote in (such as the time he encountered a fan who criticized his shoes. Dave found the young woman who wrote the letter and took her shoe shopping with him to find suitable footwear).
Often times Dave would introduce a new camera angle, like the Late Night Monkey Cam (a camera strapped to a chimp's back}, the Late Night Thrill Cam (which was a camera suspeded above the studio audience and pointing down towards the people that ran along an inclined track), and the Late Night Tiger Cam (similar to the monkey cam, only this one mauled bandleader Paul Shaffer.
The most infamous (and hilarious) segment on Late Night was shortly after General Electric bought NBC. Dave took his camera crew and a basket of fruit to the GE Building to meet his new bosses and say Hello. After trying to turn Dave away at the door to the building, Letterman slipping inside during the confusion. He was met by a GE Pinhead who ordered him to turn off the cameras. Dave introduced himself and tried to offer the basket of fruit, but the suit would have no part of it and instead walked to the camera and covered the lens with his hand. A clip of this "handshake" was included at the end of each broadcast for several weeks after the incident. SEE: GE Handshake
Two of Dave's signature comedy bits, Stupid Pet Tricks and Stupid Human Tricks reached fame on Late Night. People were interviewed and auditioned for the show from around the country. If you or your pet could do an amusing trick, chances are you'd be invited to perform it on the show. Pet tricks included a dog that could cram three tennis balls in its mouth, a little dog that could attack a vaccum cleaner, and another dog that could "sing". People tricks included the man who could stop a moving fan with his tongue and a man who would pour milk in his mouth, lay down, and let his cat drink from his mouth.
Animosity between Dave and NBC built over the years, and after Johnny Carson retired, the network gave The Tonight Show to Dave's good friend, frequent show guest, and fellow comedian Jay Leno. Letterman felt betrayed and eventually moved to CBS to start Late Show With David Letterman. As such, Dave's final NBC edition of Late Night aired in June 1993.
On the final edition Dave was serenaded by one of his favorite musicians, Bruce Springsteen, and a lot of clips were shown of the past decade of shows (since once the show moved to CBS all of those old clips were forbidden from being trotted out and shown).
Reruns of the show used to air on E! and A&E until Dave insisted that practice end because he felt it was diluting his nightly new editions. As such, all of the old editions were locked away in a vault somewhere for over a decade until the Trio Network bought the rerun rights in late 2002. After running a 96-hour marathon on Thanksgiving Weekend 2002, the network announced plans to begin nightly reruns in 2003. Clips are also seen now and again on various NBC Anniversary Specials, but are few and far between. If you ever have the chance to see reruns of the show, don't hesitate. You're in for a treat.