CNN will mark the occasion of David Letterman’s retirement with a special program paying tribute to the late-night icon. The one-hour CNN Special Report “David Letterman Says Goodnight” is on tap for Tuesday, May 19, at 9 p.m. ET.
Letterman’s farewell installment of CBS’s “Late Show with David Letterman” is set to air the following night.
Jake Tapper will host the CNN program.
“Tapper will look back on Letterman’s tenure as a critically acclaimed host, examining how he redefined the talk-show genre and battled for the late-night crown against his NBC rival, Jay Leno,” CNN says in its announcement. “Tapper provides an in-depth look at Letterman’s career, with hilarious video clips from Dave’s best moments, as well as through interviews with his peers, many of whom found their comic inspiration by watching Letterman.”
Here’s the list of key players who will talk with Tapper, from the CNN announcement:
• Paul Shaffer, Letterman’s band leader and sidekick throughout his late-night career, who says he had a “dream job, working for a dream boss who encouraged me to do what I wanted.”
• Jimmy Kimmel, the ultimate “Letterman Fanboy,” who jokes that he remembers more about “Late Night” than his own life and that the show was the “most formative thing in his life.”
• TBS late-night host Conan O’Brien, whose dream job was to become a writer on Letterman’s show after college in 1985 and who, in 1993, replaced Letterman on NBC’s “Late Night.” A virtual unknown when he started, Conan was truly honored that Dave paid an early visit to him as a guest on his new show.
• Seth Meyers, new to the talk show scene after an acclaimed career on “Saturday Night Live,” who took over the “Late Night” franchise in 2014. Meyers told Tapper that Letterman has “influenced the next generation.”
• Merrill Markoe, Letterman’s lead writer and longtime girlfriend, who engineered most of the original concepts for the show, including “Viewer Mail” and “Stupid Pet Tricks.” Throughout Markoe’s tenure with Letterman, she says, “He was in constant fear of cancellation.”
• Steve O’Donnell, who was with the Letterman show almost from the beginning and became head writer. O’Donnell calls his time at the show “the best, craziest job” he’s ever had. He and his writing team came up with many of the skits and helped craft the classic Top 10 list.
• Hal Gurnee, a late-night television veteran and Letterman’s longtime director, who became one of Dave’s favorite muses.
• Bill Carter, veteran New York Times reporter and author of “The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy,” who has covered the TV industry for more than 25 years and recalls Letterman’s unparalleled banter with late-night king Johnny Carson.