David Letterman's "stupid human tricks" and Top 10 lists are being vaulted into the ranks of cultural acclaim as the late-night comedian receives this year's Kennedy Center Honors with rock band Led Zeppelin and three other artists, The Associated Press reports.
The honors are the nation's highest award for those who influenced American culture through the arts. President Barack Obama hosted the honorees at the White House before they were saluted Sunday at the Kennedy Center Opera House by fellow performers in a show airing Dec. 26 on CBS.
Meryl Streep, a 2011 honoree, introduced the honorees Saturday during a dinner at the U.S. State Department and noted that Letterman had surpassed his mentor, Johnny Carson, in sustaining the longest late-night TV career for more than 30 years.
Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel joined in celebrating Letterman's influence on many other comedians. "I knew Johnny, and I loved Johnny. Johnny was beyond reproach," Colbert said in a toast to Letterman. "Dave was stupid. Dave was ours. Dave was like us.
"We wanted to throw things off of buildings. . . . We would love to stick our heads out the window of 30 Rock and yell at passersby, 'I'm not wearing any pants!' " Colbert marveled at Letterman receiving such an award after he "corrupted the minds of a generation." Paul Shaffer, Letterman's longtime band leader, said he knew his boss was uncomfortable hearing such accolades, but he knew Letterman was enjoying every second of it.
To salute Led Zeppelin, big names from the rock world dressed in black tie for their music heroes as a string ensemble played the band's hit song "Kashmir" and other tunes at the State Department.
Foo Fighters singer Dave Grohl said he never took any music lessons because "my teachers were Led Zeppelin. . . . They were the most powerful thing in my life."
Zeppelin front man Robert Plant said he was flattered and overwhelmed in receiving the prize. He said he was glad to see his former band mates, John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page, using good table manners.
The trio appear Monday night on CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman."