It’s hard to believe that it’s been 40 years since Late Night, now a fixture of NBC’s after-hours programming, first premiered. Even harder to imagine, when it did, very few people around the U.S. knew who David Letterman was. But thanks to the bad blood fostered by NBC, who made a shitshow of replacing Johnny Carson in the early 1990s, it was near-impossible to imagine Letterman returning to the stage that made him a star. But that’s the thing about David Letterman, he makes the impossible possible—albeit for very low-stakes chat show appearances.
Announced by the current host, Seth Meyers, Letterman will return to Late Night for the 40th-anniversary show on Tuesday, February 1. Additionally, Adam Duritz, best known for his work with The Counting Crows and an appearance on that straight-edge tattoo I’ve been obsessed with for years, will perform. We’re not sure about the overlap there, but we have to assume Meyers is simply a fan of the tattoo.
Letterman’s return is a historic moment that even a few years ago felt unlikely. While the comedian was the original host, he ultimately left the gig 11 years into his run after NBC chose Jay Leno to replace Johnny Carson as the permanent host of The Tonight Show. Longtime A.V. Club readers probably remember NBC doing the exact same thing to Conan O’Brien in 2010. Letterman regularly mocked Leno, NBC, and their handling of the O’Brien handoff on his CBS Late Show, blaming the issue on the “bungling and machinations of the idiots at NBC’s executive level.” Good stuff.
But that was some time ago, and now an older, wiser, and more bearded version of Letterman will once again darken the doorways of 30 Rockefeller Center. Will he offer an update on “The Jay Leno File” or bring back “Stupid Pet Tricks?” If we were a betting website, which we’re not, we’d put all our money on Letterman having a friendly chat with Seth Meyers punctuated with genial ribbing at NBC’s expense.