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Kimmel got emotional as he explained to his studio audience Tuesday night just how much of an impact Letterman had on his upbringing and choice to pursue a career in comedy, saying Dave's first show, Late Night with David Letterman, stood out to him as a child because "it was weird."
"Even though it looked like every other talk show, it wasn't. It was totally original, primarily because the host of this show," Kimmel said. "A lot of the time [Letterman] seemed embarrassed to even be there, he did not to seem like he was a part of show business. He was uncomfortable, he never pretend to be excited, and his way of saying things was so subtle a lot of time the people he was talking to didn't even know he was joking."
Kimmel likened Letterman to a tiny eyeglasses screwdriver, "gently twisting a little screw all the time."
"We had no VCR, so I would have David Letterman viewing parties at my house in the middle of the night," Kimmel shared. "My friends who also loved the show would come over -- my parents would be asleep -- at midnight and we would drink soda and watch the show."
The host admitted to being obsessed with the show, drawing pictures of Letterman in his textbooks at school, and when he was 16 his mother baked him a "L8 NITE" cake. Kimmel even had a vanity plate on his first car that read "L8 NITE."
"Watching Late Night, not only did I learn how to do everything from Dave, the reason I have this show is because," Kimmel started as he began to choke up. "Is because the executives at ABC saw me when I was a guest on Dave's show and hired me to host this show."
Kimmel went on to thank Letterman and the writers and producers of Late Night and The Late Show for being such a big part of his life.
Jimmy Kimmel Live! bandleader Cleto Escobedo III, friends with Kimmel since childhood, also shared his affection for his The Late Show counterpart Paul Shaffer.
"I think that any of us who's fortunate to have a job like this owes a lot to Paul. I believe he's the gold standard," said Escobedo. "I'm just really gonna miss seeing Paul and his 'Most Dangerous Band' in my living room ever night."
In tribute to Letterman's final show, Kimmel chose not to air a new episode Jimmy Kimmel Live! tonight, and will instead air a repeat.