As you’ve likely heard, tonight is David Letterman’s last night as host of CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman, a job he’s held since 1993. Prior to that, the 68-year-old entertainer hosted Late Night With David Letterman from 1982 to 1993 on NBC. In fact, two years ago, Letterman passed Johnny Carson as the longest-operating late night talk show host—at 31 years.
Despite persistent assumptions to the contrary, Letterman is actually not a Member of the Tribe. However, he has had scads of Jews as guests throughout the year on both of his nighttime talk shows. Here are 10 memorable appearances (in chronological order):
This 1983 episode of Late Night features Dr. Ruth, who talks about discovering Valentine’s Day and answers viewers’ questions.
In a 1985 appearance, Bette Midler chats with Letterman and acts in a skit. But the real star may be her dress.
Here’s Sammy Davis Jr. in 1987, a few years before his death, in a Letterman special in Las Vegas. He sings “For Once in My Life,” and also talks about how much he once owed after a gambling binge (it’s quite a bit). The man was authentic Rat Pack, that’s for sure.
And check out Mandy Patinkin performing six different songs between 1989 and 1994. There’s a recurring bit about needing to use Letterman’s studio as last-minute rehearsal space, but admittedly the banter here with Dave is to a minimum. However, Mandy Patinkin. End of sentence. Alas, there’s nothing from his Mamaloshen album, but from Harold Arlen to Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein, plenty of Jewish songwriters are represented. (Unfortunately, some clips are better quality than others.)
Here’s Patinkin blessing the audience with a rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in 1989:
Here is the first appearance of the Beastie Boys on the Late Show from 1992. A lot of the action is in the buildup as Letterman forebodes that they bring trouble.
In 1996, Natalie Portman, then just 15 years old, went on the Late Show to promote Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You. Witness the birth of her vegan activism from when she was a wee vegetarian at Thanksgiving-time. The interview is also punctuated by Letterman weirdly sort of hitting on her.
In this infamous 2006 appearance, Sacha Baron Cohen appears in character as Borat. The famous character acts starstruck by Letterman’s (Jewish) bandleader Paul Shaffer and makes Letterman extremely uncomfortable with some rather off-color comments. If Letterman was in on the joke, he certainly doesn’t act like it.
Sarah Silverman‘s debut on a major network as a stand-up comedienne was on Letterman in 2007. Her routine includes a bit about her sister, actress Laura Silverman, and Jewish hyphenate-names.
Here, have Leonard Nimoy in 2009 delivering the Top Ten List, “Lines Never Before Said in a Star Trek Film,” though Letterman calls it Star Wars by mistake… Oops.
From only a few weeks ago, as part of Letterman’s retirement celebrations, Jerry Seinfeld showed up to repeat his stand-up set from his first-ever appearance on Late Night. In typical Jerry fashion, he acts like he has the run of the place.
Stephen Colbert is scheduled to debut as Letterman’s replacement on September 8. Maybe he’ll bring his Yom Kippur hotline—the Atone Phone—with him.