Conan O’Brien honored David Letterman on Wednesday by directing his fans to change the channel halfway through his show and watch Letterman’s Late Show finale instead.
“I promise you we will not see a man of his talents and comedic integrity again in our lifetime,” O’Brien said. “You can not miss out. Have a great show, Dave, and from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much.”
O’Brien, who famously took over as host of NBC’s Late Night franchise following Letterman’s acrimonious departure, showed footage from Letterman’s appearance on his show as a guest, and explained that the gesture could not have come at a better time for him.
“I got the sh*t kicked out of me, okay?” O’Brien admitted. “Critics despised me. The ratings were bad. My skin broke out. My network started to make it clear that I probably wouldn’t be around very long.”
But after floundering on the job for four months, he said, Letterman’s request to appear on the show led both O’Brien and sidekick Andy Richter that they might have a chance to survive.
“He didn’t go on other people’s shows,” O’Brien said of Letterman. “It was like the Beatles asking Maury Povich if they could stop by and sing a couple of tunes. It was that absurd. And at the time, I was convinced it was a prank. I didn’t think it couldn’t be real. But, on February 28, 1994, David Letterman walked onto my set and he blew the doors off the place. It’s easily one of the happiest nights of my professional life.
Watch O’Brien’s tribute, as posted online on Wednesday, below.