He may have been signing off from one of the most successful TV shows in American popular culture, but David Letterman could not resist mixing showbiz razzamatazz with a slew of typically self-deprecating gags.
His final 'Late Show' opened on Wednesday night with famous archive footage of President Gerald Ford intoning: "Our long national nightmare is finally over," only for his Watergate comments to be repeated by Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama, who added: "Letterman is retiring."
It was trademark Letterman humour. In a world of glitzy, sycophantic hosts, he was sticking to his own brand of crankiness that helped him mould late-night US TV over 33 years and 6,028 broadcasts.
His final show featured Hollywood stars Steve Martin and Tina Fey, comedians Chris Rock and Bill Murray and ran through some of his funniest archive clips.
While the show included thank-yous to his staff and guests, there was plenty of time to joke about the disappointments and mistakes that helped shape his distinctive career first on NBC and then CBS.
"I'll be honest with you, it's beginning to look like I'm not going to get the 'Tonight Show'," said the 68-year-old star in a reference to losing out to Jay Leno for Johnny Carson's chair on 'The Tonight Show' in 1992.
One of his most-watched moments came six years ago when he used his show to admit that he had been involved with female staffers on his show.