The first guest was Bill Murray. That much I know.
Unlike Johnny Carson, David Letterman hasn't ever made too much of anniversaries. Letterman's "Late Night" show doesn't, anymore, do any prime-time specials, as Carson would do every October to celebrate another year on the air with "Tonight."
So it flew under the radar, big time---the 30th anniversary of Letterman on late night television, which was celebrated, in a very low-key style, last night.
That's right---30 years.
As a point of reference, that's even longer than Carson did "Tonight" (debuted October 1, 1962 and last show was May 22, 1992).
Hard to believe, eh?
Letterman's first foray into hosting a talk show came in the mornings on NBC, and didn't last very long. At all. But he was one of the lucky ones who got another shot, taking his quirky act to late night, where it played much better.
Murray was Letterman's very first guest in February 1982, and he would frequently be invited back every February thereafter, like a recurring birthday guest.
Letterman never went head-to-head against Carson, because their time slots were never the same (Letterman started at 1:00 a.m. in 1982). Only after Carson retired did Letterman move into his now current 11:35 pm slot.
There has been much made of Letterman wanting to follow Johnny in the "Tonight" host's chair after Carson retired. That job, of course, went to Jay Leno.
It will always be an unfulfilled desire, for Letterman, who will likely never be the host of the "Tonight Show." But it's also likely that his desire for that job has waned.
One thing Letterman does have in common with Carson is his intense desire for privacy, and his almost refusal to hang out with his guests outside of the show. You don't see photos of Letterman, really, other than on the set of his talk show. He's not a mingler. He doesn't do the party scene.
Any social relationships Letterman has with those he interviews are kept very hush-hush, if they exist at all.
Just like Carson, who would participate in poker games and the like, but those hardly ever got reported.
David Letterman and his gap-toothed grin have been gracing late night television for 30 years. Yet it's hardly celebrated, and the fact that he's been doing it longer than Carson did "Tonight" is barely a footnote.
But given how much reverence Letterman has for Carson, maybe Dave would like to keep that little factoid mostly for himself.