A lot has changed about late-night TV since there are now nearly a dozen options of shows to watch. But for a while, there were just a few. David Letterman may have played second to Jay Leno in the ratings, yet annually David Letterman’s Christmas Special was memorable as the perfect holiday treat for nearly two decades.

The tradition began in 1998 when then-New York Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde couldn’t hit a meatball off the top of Dave’s tree with a football. Actor, Jay Thomas, the night’s next guest, came out and hit the meatball in one try. Jay came back the following years to knock the meatball off the tree. He also added to the tradition of telling, what Dave called, the greatest talk show story ever told about Jay’s experience as a radio DJ driving home with the Lone Ranger.

Jay Thomas and David Letterman
Jay Thomas and David Letterman

The other part of the tradition was having Darelene Love sing Dave’s favorite Christmas song, “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)”. Her rendition always brought the house down, making a great send-off for viewers as they started their holiday festivities.

The tradition ended in 2014 just before David Letterman ended his long-running show in spring 2015. Jay Thomas passed away in 2017. Darlene Love continues to perform her Christmas classic, most recently as part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

Since we all watch so many different things, it’s growing rarer to find TV traditions like this one. Dave’s goofiness always felt fitting to the holiday season to remind us not to take anything too seriously. The best of The Late Show charm was always found at Christmas.

Thanks to YouTube, we can relive the meatball football throws, the greatest talk show story, and Darlene Love’s Christmas musical magic. Watch the last David Letterman Christmas Special below!

Did you watch David Letterman’s Christmas Specials? Share in the comments!

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