Watch the final Late Show with David Letterman, Tonight at 11:30 on KPIX Channel 5

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – A Bay Area comedian and frequent guest on The Late Show with David Letterman says Letterman’s longevity and success can be credited to being himself.

San Francisco resident and actor Bob Sarlatte said first met Letterman when they were both doing standup comedy in Los Angeles, back in 1977.

“We became instant buddies. I was his announcer on his first pilot in 1978, which never saw the light of day, called ‘Leave it to Dave,’” Sarlatte said.

Along with being Letterman’s first announcer on those shows, Sarlatte also did comedy bits. “The first thing we ever did was, ‘And now, the man for whom NBC cancelled three game shows, David Letterman,’” he said. “That was the very first one of those.”

The show was a flop, but Letterman became a hit two years later, with “Late Night” on NBC, a show on which Sarlatte appeared 20 times. Sarlatte said Letterman was a more than worthy heir to Johnny Carson as the king of late night comedy.

“Johnny was great and much more cordial than Dave is. But Dave was much more quick on the uptick than anybody in conversation, in the arena. The best,” Sarlatte said.

Now after 33 years combined on NBC and CBS, the Letterman legacy is clear, Sarlatte calling him a folksy throwback to classic TV who put on a great show, night after night, without hiding behind some false schtick.

“He was himself more than the others,” Sarlattes said. “It’s hard to be yourself or a fake version of yourself for that long a time and keep it up. I don’t think anybody out there is the persona that he is. Dave was the personality for that generation.”

Sarlatte said Letterman really wanted to break Johnny Carson’s record as longest-running late night host, which he has done, but now, he’s had enough, and likely won’t be seen much in the public eye.

David Letterman will sign off on CBS on Wednesday night, ending the longest run of any late night host in TV history.

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