David Letterman’s Top Ten List: Origins Of The T.V. Icon’s Long-Running Bit

David Letterman is ending his iconic 33-year run on late night TV, and some of his classic comedy bits seem destined to retire with him. Wednesday night will be the last “Top Ten” list read, or introduced, by Letterman. While some outlets, such as Deadline, have already leaked the topic of the last list, some fans are preserving the mystery by waiting for Late Show With David Letterman‘s final broadcast.

The “Top Ten” list was created in the Late Night writers’ room, while the show was still housed at NBC. It came in response to David Letterman’s desire for recurring bits on the program. Steve O’Donnell, Letterman’s head writer from 1983 to 1992, wrote earlier this month in the New York Times about its unlikely source of inspiration.

“[The Top Ten was] largely prompted by the ridiculous ‘eligible bachelor’ lists in a local New York paper that included the 84-year-old Bill Paley. ‘Why, we can put such nonsense together ourselves!’ we exclaimed. And we did.”

People reported back in 1990 that the first “Top Ten” list was read on September 18, 1985, and was called “Top 10 Things That Almost Rhyme With Peas.” Each item on the list was one word: “Heats, rice, moss, ties, needs, lens, ice, nurse, leaks, and—No. 1—meats.”

O’Donnell told People that they thought the “Top Ten” would end its run after a couple of weeks. The bit has endured for nearly 30 years, even surviving Letterman’s transition from Late Night at NBC to The Late Show at CBS.

According to Deadline, the taping of Letterman’s final show ran 17 minutes over time. CBS Marketing President George Schweitzer tweeted throughout, dropping names of some celebrity guests who came to pay tribute to the comedy legend.

Leading up to David Letterman’s last broadcast, many celebrities have sat down for one last interview. He’s also paid tribute to some of the show’s most memorable characters, such as Hello Deli owner Rupert Jee, who appeared on the second-to-last show.

David Letterman recently told the New York Times that upon his retirement, he plans to spend more time with his wife, Regina, and 11-year-old son, Harry.

[Photo: Andrew Burton / Getty Images News]