And for those who set their DVRs, the show went over by 21 minutes.
Before Letterman's monologue, theLate Show began with American leaders -- including President Barack Obama, former presidents George W. Bush, George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton -- reciting, "Our long, national nightmare is over."
While many wondered if Letterman would have any guests during his final show -- as all his regulars (Bill Murray, Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks and Regis Philbin) had appeared on the Late Show days prior-- the finale included cameos by Jerry Seinfeld, Barbara Walters, Tina Fey, Steve Martin, Chris Rock, Jim Carrey, Peyton Manning and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Leslie Moonves, CBS President and CEO, was also in attendance.
The celebrities showed up to participate in Letterman's final "Top 10" list, a staple segment from the 68-year-old host's 30-plus years on television. The topic: "Top 10 Things I've Always Wanted to Say to Dave."
Louis-Dreyfus took a jab at her former show Seinfeld during the Top 10, quipping, "Thanks for letting me take part in another hugely disappointing series finale."
Murray also returned to the show to deliver the No. 1 joke: "Dave, I'll never have the money I owe you."
Letterman made it a point to give his blessing to Late Show successor, Stephen Colbert. "I think he's going to do a wonderful job," he said. "I wish Stephen and his crew nothing but the greatest success."
Throughout the finale, a number of highlight reels of Letterman's shenanigans over the years were featured, including when he paid a visit to Taco Bell and his hilarious segments with kids and pets.
In a more sentimental segment, Letterman showed what goes on behind the scenes of the Late Show and his day-to-day routine for the past few decades.
"I can't tell you how flattering, embarrassing and gratifying it has all been," he said. "Of all this praise, do me a favor, save a little for my funeral."
Letterman then paid tribute to longtime Late Show musical director Paul Shaffer and the rest of the band, saying, "It's so obvious every night that they are so much better at their job than I am at my job."
"Thanks so much Dave," Shaffer replied. "You changed my life. I loved every second of it."
For the final musical act, the Foo Fighters, one of Letterman's favorite bands, performed their hit "Everlong." The group also performed the same song on the host's first day back to the Late Show following his heart attack.
In the end, the host managed to avoid the fanfare by exiting out of Angelo's Pizza next to the theater as fans and the media assumed he would be hopping into a limo parked by his office.
Letterman's final Late Show words, "Thank you and good night."