'Late Show With David Letterman' turns 20: His 20 most memorable editions

Madonna puffs on a cigar while David Letterman

Madonna puffs on a cigar while David Letterman looks on during the taping of "Late Night with David Letterman" in Manhattan. (March 31, 1994) (Credit: AP)

Verne Gay

Verne Gay Verne Gay

Gay is the television critic.

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"Late Show With David Letterman" turns 20 on Friday.

So let's get to the list, shall we? Twenty memorable moments in chronological order:

Aug. 30, 1993 First guest Bill Murray -- who'll be back Thursday night -- spray-painting "Dave" on the host's desk. Other first guests Billy Joel, Tom Brokaw and Paul Newman ("Where are the singing cats?") do not damage property.

Sept. 8, 1993 Vice President Al Gore wears goggles and smashes ashtrays. It was all in service of comedy, but the absurdity of the screen grab -- goggle-wearing vice president wielding hammer -- did not help politically.

Feb. 14, 1994 Dave's mom, Dorothy Letterman, joins the show as, umm, Dave's mom, and interviews Hillary Clinton.

March 31, 1994 Madonna discusses sex and the various parts of her body that are used to that end. She is heavily edited throughout -- 13 times, in fact -- which may be why the only recollection I have is of one long bleep.

May 13, 1994 After a week of airing the show from L.A., Johnny Carson, in his last TV appearance, closes it all down. He walks out, presumably to do a Top 10, but takes Dave's seat. He says not a word for 30 seconds, then leaves. "That was great," Letterman said. "That was great."

April 12, 1995 Drew Barrymore hops on desk, dances and flashes Letterman, who doesn't seem to mind in the least.

Oct. 28, 1996 That salute to manager Joe Torre and the Yankees after their first World Series win in 15 years.

June 5, 1997 Farrah Fawcett meanders aimlessly through the byways of her mind, confounding all while establishing herself as a late-night TV legend.

Jan. 12, 2000 Hillary Rodham Clinton, after enduring six years of Letterman torments and taunts, submits to an interview (she was running for senator).

Feb. 21, 2000 Dave made a triumphant return after his quintuple bypass and had his medical team in attendance, in what may be the most memorable show of them all.

Sept. 17, 2001 The return after 9/11, with a succinct summation of the horror: "We're told that they were zealots fueled by religious fervor. ... And if you live to be a thousand years old, will that make any ... sense to you?"

Oct. 30, 2002 The entire edition is devoted to musician Warren Zevon -- then diagnosed with mesothelioma -- who performed and spoke of what he'd learned in life. (He died in 2003.) Still probably the best hour of "Late Show."

Nov. 4, 2003 "Last night at 11:58, I became a father."

Jan. 31, 2005 The Johnny Carson tribute edition; per Dave, "At the end of the day, that's who you wanted to be there" -- which is how, come to think of it, I feel about Dave.

Dec. 1, 2005 How could any list exclude the Super Bowl of Love -- in which Oprah Winfrey finally appeared, ending what popular culture had decided was a "feud." Dave was even nice: calling her "the most beloved woman in America -- despite the fact she gave us Dr. Phil."

June 6, then June 15, 2009 Letterman makes a pair of lame jokes about Bristol Palin.(Example: She was "knocked up" by A-Rod at a game.) He's forced to apologize.

Sept. 21, 2009 President Barack Obama becomes the first sitting president to do the show. Letterman hits 5,000 shows in late-night TV mark three days later.

Oct. 1, 2009 The night a few million jaws clattered noisily to the floor, when Dave admits to multiple office affairs and relays a wild story about an extortion plot gone bad. Later in the week came the apologies.

Oct. 29, 2012 There was no audience because of uninvited guest superstorm Sandy. Eerie silence pervades the Ed Sullivan Theater.

April 9, 2013 Lindsay Lohan is asked, "How will this time be different? What are they rehabbing?" She responds: "We didn't discuss this in the pre-interview, I'm just saying to everyone."