May 20, 2015 12:15 PM

An emotional Jimmy Kimmel choked up several times Tuesday night while paying tribute to his idol David Letterman, whose final show airs Wednesday.

“I learned almost nothing in college, but watching Late Night, not only did I learn everything from Dave, but the reason I have this show is because,” Kimmel said haltingly, his voice trembling, as he stopped to keep himself from crying. “The executives at ABC saw me when I was a guest on Dave’s show and hired me to host this show. I want to thank Dave.”

In Kimmel’s heartfelt six-plus-minute tribute to Letterman, 68 – who is retiring after 33 years on the air – he recalled the impact the late-night legend has had on his life.

Kimmel said he used to stay up late in his room and draw as he watched Letterman, before going to school and drawing “pictures of Dave on the covers of my textbooks.”

“It was weird,” Kimmel said of the Late Show when it first aired. “It was totally original.”

And Kimmel was obsessed: He had late-night viewing parties with his friends, and he showed photos of a “L8 Nite” cake his mother baked for him on his 16th birthday, as well as the “L8 NITE” vanity plate he got on his first car.

Kimmel urged his viewers to watch Letterman’s finale instead of his own show Wednesday, stating he would be airing a rerun rather than a new show.

“Especially if you’re a young person who doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about,” Kimmel said. “Dave is the best and you should see him.”

Even Kimmel’s band leader, Cleto Escobedo Jr. – who Kimmel said despised public speaking – became emotional paying tribute to his idol, Paul Shaffer.

“I’ve been watching and learning from Paul since I was a kid,” Escobedo said of Letterman’s longtime band director. “He’s the gold standard.”

In a fitting farewell, Escobedo donned a pair of loud shades – one of Shaffer’s signatures – before delivering his trademark line.

“Here’s to you, Paul,” Escobedo said. “Fabulous. Fabulous.”

The final episode of the Late Show with David Letterman airs Wednesday (11:35 p.m. ET) on CBS.

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