Over more than 30 years on the air, David Letterman went from the class clown of late night to one of its most respected icons.
In the ’80s, Letterman’s Midwestern snark and ironic sensibilities were considered groundbreaking in the comparatively staid world of Johnny Carson and Tom Snyder; now they’ve provided the groundwork for many of today’s mainstream comedy trends.
Now that Letterman has officially said farewell to late night, let’s look back at the 10 best things Letterman gave us. (Could it have been any other number?)
10. Memories Galore
Leading up to his final broadcast, Letterman, 68, fulfilled a fan’s request by bringing back a little-remembered character, Pea Boy. Now you’ll remember Pea Boy forever. You’re welcome.
9. Dropping Things off a Five-Story Tower
In his low-budget NBC days, Dave delighted in doing self-consciously time-wasting gags, preferably ones that ended in inanimate objects being destroyed. He dropped six-packs off a building, then crushed tubes of toothpaste with a steamroller, and an entire genre of YouTube clips was born.
8. Jokes That Weren’t Funny but Were Funny Anyway
For a 1986 repeat of Late Night, the entire show was dubbed over with voice actors. Why? Why not?
7. Bill Murray at His Murray-est
The comic actor was Letterman’s first, final and most dependably entertaining guest, never failing to make a great entrance. This was also as close as one could imagine Letterman ever getting to having a bromance.
6. Awkward Celebrity Interviews
You’re welcome, Zach Galifianakis.
5. Larry Bud Melman
The origin of Calvert DeForest’s character Larry Bud Melman has been lost to history, but whoever created him deserves credit for one of the weirdest anti-comic creations in TV history.
4. Late-Night Breasts
Dave has walked the line between flirty and pervy over the years, but this mid-’90s interview with Drew Barrymore stands out as the only time a guest flashed him on-air.
3. Stupid Pet Tricks
Thirty years before LOLCats, Dave doubled down on the fact that people would watch animals do nearly anything.
2. Stupid Human Tricks
What’s adorable when practiced by a dog becomes strangely compelling when practiced by its owner.
1. Top 10 Lists
Dave popularized the list – the dominant way of conveying information in the Internet age – and never asked for a cent in royalties.
RELATED VIDEO: Fans Say Goodbye to David Letterman
The last episode of Late Show with David Letterman aired May 20, 2015, at 11:35 p.m. ET on CBS.