The late-night TV hosts who battle one another for audiences laid down their arms this week to pay tribute to their inspiration,
"I was utterly and totally unprepared for that enormous job," O'Brien said. "I don't think anything like that could happen today -- the government wouldn't allow it. And after going on the air, in September of 1993, I got the ... kicked out of me. Critics despised me, the ratings were bad, my skin broke out, and my network started to make it clear that I probably wouldn't be around very long.... And then, something miraculous happened. After four really dreary months, out of the blue, we got a message at the show that David Letterman wanted to come on the program as a guest. Now understand: Dave wasn't just the biggest late-night star at that time, he was the biggest thing on television. He didn't go on other people's shows. It was like the Beatles asking Maury Povich if they could stop by and sing a few tunes. At the time, I was convinced it was a prank -- it couldn't be real. But, on Feb. 28, 1994, David Letterman walked onto my set and blew the doors off the place. It's easily one of the happiest nights of my professional life."
O'Brien showed a clip of the appearance and noted, "After that night, everything turned around for me. The morale of the staff shot through the ceiling. My producer, my writers, and Andy [Richter, his longtime sidekick] -- we all thought that if David Letterman can come on our show and say a few kind words, maybe, just maybe, we can earn the right to be here. And we survived."
Seth Meyers, who took over NBC's "Late Night" last year, opened his show Tuesday with a re-creation of the opening titles used during the time Letterman hosted in the 1980s. Meyers' crew went to every original New York location, including Lincoln Center, Radio City Music Hall and the Lyric Theatre, seen in those titles. "The big difference between 1982 New York City and today in New York City -- so many fewer pornography theaters," Meyers said in a Letterman-esque riff. "It's so sad because people still bring families here for vacation and I don't know where they go anymore."
James Corden, the host of "The Late Late Show" used Letterman's opening theme at the start of his Wednesday program that followed the finale. The words "Thank You Dave" were posted on the marquee above Corden's stage in his
"So many ideas on television today come from his 30-year career," Corden said.