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Scheft, who had written for Letterman since 1991, revealed the celebrity-packed top 10 included two lines written by intern Caroline Schaper after Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tina Fey opted to try out other jokes during rehearsal.
“Julia settled on a line written by Mike Leech (‘Thanks for letting me take part in another hugely disappointing series finale….’) which the next day was proclaimed the ‘winner’ of the Top Ten. Tina took something a little more subtle and much more pointed (‘Thanks for finally proving men can be funny….’) That line, ladies and gentlemen, ladies and ladies, was written by Caroline,” wrote Scheft. “But on the last day of the last show, she scored the final two entries on the final Top Ten. Oh yeah, she already had Bill Murray’s line (‘Dave, I’ll never have the money I owe you….’) We were all genuinely thrilled for her.”
He and the team took the unusual approach of writing the opening monologue the night before, rather than the day of. The one thing they always knew, was they wanted to include a little jab at NBC for passing over Letterman for The Tonight Show.
“We monkeyed with the order a bit, but the Tonight Show joke (written by [Jim] Mulholland and [Michael] Barrie, aka ‘The Boys’ even though they’re Dave’s age) was always going to be first out of the shoot. In 24 years, I remember a handful of times when the opening remarks had been set a few hours before the taping (Anniversary shows, the first show at CBS, the first show after his heart surgery), but never the day before,” wrote Scheft.
Scheft wrote that although it was an emotional day, he turned in his jokes to Letterman the same way he always had, with one addition.
“I wrote the last line of Catullus poem #101 (Atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale.). In the makeup room, he asked me to translate the Latin, and I managed to not choke up when I said, ‘And into eternity, brother, hail and farewell….’),” wrote Scheft.
During rehearsal, executive producer Barbara Gaines was so overcome by the Foo Fighters’ performance of “Everlong” that accompanied her montage of Letterman moments that she rushed the stage to hug Dave Grohl.
As for Letterman’s final moments during the taping, Scheft said he knew his boss was content.
“I can see he’s happy. Hell, anyone can. I know he’s okay. I know he’ll be okay,” wrote Scheft.
A picture taken during the final commercial break.
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