David Letterman’s Late Night and The Late Show archives are now being uploaded to YouTube, following the digital archive practice we’ve been seeing the past few years from retired late night host channels like Conan O’Brian, Johnny Carson, and Dick Cavett.
As of today (which happens to be Late Night’s 40th anniversary), over 120 clips have been uploaded to the new channel branded “Letterman,” featuring some of the most well-known moments from both of the host’s shows — from the “infamous” interview with Joaquin Phoenix in 2009, all the way back to the philosophical ramblings from recurring guest Brother Theodore in 1983.
This is the first time we’ve seen official archives of David Letterman’s shows online since the host left The Late Show in 2015, although some of the most popular moments from the shows have been on YouTube for years in an unofficial capacity —most notably from superfan Don Giller, who has been profiled in places like The New York Times for his devotion to preserving the Letterman archive on YouTube and his personal blog. This is also the first time we’ve seen many of the clips, notably the ones from the 1980s, at this level of quality; others uploaded online have mostly been digitized VHS recordings from fans.
The channel’s About page says it will continue to upload clips from the shows as well as “conversations with the writers, producers and performers who helped make it all happen” — which are seemingly teased in a tweet featuring a video of present-day Letterman giggling through multiple takes.
On a personal note, I am ecstatic to see this news. Though Don Giller has done an unbelievable job of preserving the show, I am excited to see higher-end quality clips of Late Night that probably haven't been seen in decades. Late Night with David Letterman has always been my personal favorite of the late night shows because of its experimental goofiness, which I am still envious of. There have been moments reading about shows, skits, and gags (developed by great talents like Merrill Markoe and Chris Elliot) in Jason Zinoman’s Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night that left this thought in my head: “I had this idea. I can’t believe they did it before I was born and got it on TV.”