In more ways than one, Letterman has changed the way we've thought about TV

By Tom Gliatto AND Nate Jones
April 05, 2014 11:45 AM
CBS/AP

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?)

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.

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.

For a 1986 repeat of Late Night, the entire show was dubbed over with voice actors. Why? Why not?

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.

You’re welcome, Zach Galifianakis.

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.

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.

Thirty years before LOLCats, Dave doubled down on the fact that people would watch animals do nearly anything.

What’s adorable when practiced by a dog becomes strangely compelling when practiced by its owner.

Dave popularized the list – the dominant way of conveying information in the Internet age – and never asked for a cent in royalties.

The last episode of Late Show with David Letterman aired May 20, 2015, at 11:35 p.m. ET on CBS.

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