David Letterman Was Late Night’s First ‘Jimmy’

There’s a surplus of Jimmys in late night these days, but David Letterman was the first—way back in 1995.

Letterman’s official YouTube channel has just resurfaced highlights from an entire episode the original Late Show host did under a different name. Presciently, he chose “Jimmy.”

“For a long time, Paul and myself and the production staff have wondered, ‘How would this show be different if instead of my name being Dave Letterman, my name was Jimmy Letterman?’” Letterman explained to viewers in a cold open for the episode. “So that’s what we’re going to do tonight.”

With that, the show launched into an altered “Late Show with Jimmy Letterman” title sequence, complete with a Jimmified version of Letterman’s famous marquee.

Everyone in the episode played along with the name change, from announcer Alan Kalter to Paul Shaffer to guest Mia Farrow (who gifted him a “Jimmy” mug) and the Jimmy Letterman Singers—a superhero-esque quartet who interrupts Letterman with a “Jimmy” jingle every time the host uttered the name.

But eventually, those interruptions became a burden.

“Ladies and gentleman, at the beginning of the program, we told you that tonight I would like to be known as Jimmy,” Jimmy/Dave finally told the audience. “Well, it stinks, it sucks, it blows, it ain’t working.”

While Letterman couldn’t last an hour in late-night as “Jimmy,” many others have since. Letterman disciple Jimmy Kimmel landed a show in 2003, followed by Jimmy Fallon in 2009. One could argue James Corden, who took over The Late Late Show in 2015, counts as well. While Corden left late-night last year, Jimmy Failla quickly stepped in as late night’s third Jimmy..

Apparently the Jimmy Letterman singers were right: “Jimmy’s a name that’s here to stay.”

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