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Record-breaking Letterman bows out

David Letterman retires from US TV tonight after a record-breaking stint behind his talk show desk.

The Indiana-born host has clocked up a total of 6,082 episodes since his debut on late night television in February 1982.

None of the other current hosts of networked late-night shows are close to equalling this number. The nearest is Jimmy Kimmel, whose show on ABC has lasted 2,258 episodes to date.

Letterman's total of 6,082 spans his two stints on late night television, first as host of Late Night from 1982 to 1993 on NBC, and then as presenter of the Late Show on CBS since 1993.

It's a total that has surpassed that of his friend and mentor, the late Johnny Carson, who was the host of the Tonight Show from 1962 to 1992 and who notched up 4,531 episodes.

It's also bigger than the total achieved by Letterman's sometime rival Jay Leno, who succeeded Carson as host of the Tonight Show and whose tenure lasted 4,610 episodes.

David Letterman's retirement could signal the end of an era in US television for long-serving hosts of late night shows.

Jimmy Kimmel would need to spend at least another 17 years fronting his show on ABC in order to equal Letterman's record.

Jimmy Fallon, the current host of NBC's Tonight show, would need to serve an even longer stint behind the desk: a minimum of 23 years.

Johnny Carson hosted the Tonight show for 30 years, but Letterman eclipsed this achievement in 2012.

In total, David Letterman's late night shows have been on air for 33 years and two months.

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