The No. 1 reason you should've tuned in to the Late Show With David Letterman last night? It was a celebration—albeit a relatively understated one—of the CBS (and onetime NBC) institution's three decades of bookending the midnight hour.
As befits such a milestone, Letterman brought out one of his most popular and headline-grabbing guests: Howard Stern.
And he didn't disappoint, wasting no time in bringing up Dave's many feuds, starting with arch-rival Jay Leno. After offering up the requisite congratulations, of course.
"I would like to say congratulations on your 30th anniversary—you continue to be somebody I admire. I think longevity in this business is almost impossible and you are outlasting everyone, and I wish you continued success, and I'm quite honored you had me here on your 30th anniversary," Stern said in the sole moment of sentiment allowed during the show.
But before that, Stern, a newly minted Peacock net employee thanks to his judging gig on America's Got Talent, took Letterman to task for seemingly calling off his long-running rivalry with the Tonight Show host. Which Letterman, in turn, wasted no time in disputing.
"I didn't say the war was over," Dave explained, saying he was only pretending to make nice with Jay as a ploy to win the People's Choice Award for favorite late-night host.
"I knew my only chance was to come on night after night after night and grovel and say things I didn't really mean."
"So we like him now?" Stern asked. "Well, I didn't say that," Letterman replied, going on to counter Howard's own vow of loyalty and proclaim that he'd never appear on the rival program.
"You want me going on his show?" Stern asked. "This is some anniversary."
"No," came the shouted-back reply. "And by the way, you're going on that show, I know you're going on that show, they're going to pressure you."
What with the Leno feud proving alive and well, the dynamic duo then moved on to Letterman's other headline-grabbing détente with Rosie O'Donnell, sparked after a couple harmless monologue jokes.
And while Stern proved his loyalty in the late-night wars, that's about the only place he had some.
"She spent the night at my house," Stern began. "She came over and you came up, and I said to her, 'You know, that Dave's a son of a bitch.' And we teamed up on you, it was a glorious evening."
"If comics can't make jokes about comics, then the terrorists have won, Howard," Letterman said. "I've always liked Rosie."
"Well, she hates you."
The event was earlier marked with the traditional Top 10 list, this time themed as "Things Staffers Would Like to Say to Dave on His 30th Anniversary in Late Night."
The No. 1 response was given by none other than Paul Shaffer: "I got nothing to say to that [expletive]." Use your own imagination, apparently.
While not quite his anniversary, earlier this week, frequent guest Bill Murray also stopped by the show, and preemptively gave Dave a cupcake with 30 candles…it was exactly the fire hazard you'd expect.
Hey, with friends like these, who needs rivals?