Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night by Jason Zinoman:
The CBS Late Show proved to be a hit right from the start. Bill Murray was Letterman’s first guest, just as he had been on Late Night with David Letterman, and not long after he rushed onstage, he told Letterman he had some advice. He explained how Chevy Chase (who would start an infamously terrible talk show on the Fox network one week after Late Show premiered) had told him it’s important to get your name out there. He took out a can of spray paint and spelled DAVE on Letterman’s desk.
Two weeks after Letterman started his new show, Conan O’Brien, a former Simpsons writer plucked from obscurity by Lorne Michaels, started his hosting tenure at Late Night with a video that portrayed him preparing for his new job, walking through the streets of New York as strangers repeatedly compared him to Letterman (Tom Brokaw warned, “You better be as good as Letterman”) until finally he arrived at his office and decided to hang himself. The intimidating prospect of following David Letterman was the subject of a joke even on the network that he’d spurned. O’Brien would eventually establish his own distinct style. Six months after his premiere on CBS, Letterman returned to his old studios to appear on Late Night. O’Brien asked him if he was surprised by how much attention leaving Late Night and moving networks had received. “I had no idea that it was that important,” Letterman said, then couldn’t resist a shot at his old employers. “And NBC had no idea that it was that important.”