Letterman up for jabs with Kennedy Center Honors
2012 Kennedy Center Honoree Natalia Makarova, front row, second right, reacts to all the photos being taken during a group photo after the State Department Dinner for the Kennedy Center Honors gala Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012 at the State Department in Washington. From left are former President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Paul Johns, Buddy Guy, Jimmy Page, Makarova, Robert Plant, Dustin Hoffman and David Letterman. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
WASHINGTON (AP) — David Letterman's "stupid human tricks" and Top 10 lists are being vaulted into the ranks of cultural acclaim as the late-night comedian receives this year's Kennedy Center Honors with rock band Led Zeppelin and three other artists.
Stars from New York, Hollywood and the music world gathered Sunday in Washington to salute the comedian and the band, along with Dustin Hoffman, Chicago bluesman Buddy Guy and ballerina Natalia Makarova.
The honors are the nation's highest award for those who influenced American culture through the arts. President Barack Obama will host the honorees at the White House before they are saluted by fellow performers in a show to be broadcast Dec. 26 on CBS.
Meryl Streep introduced the honorees Saturday during a formal dinner at the U.S. State Department and noted that Letterman had surpassed his mentor, Johnny Carson, in sustaining the longest late-night television career for more than 30 years.
Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel joined in celebrating Letterman's influence on many other comedians.
2012 Kennedy Center Honoree comedian David Letterman shakes hands with his wife Regina as they arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors Gala Dinner on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
"I knew Johnny, and I loved Johnny. Johnny was beyond reproach," Colbert said in a toast to Letterman. "Dave was stupid. Dave was ours. Dave was like us.
"We wanted to throw things off of buildings. ... We would love to stick our heads out the window of 30 Rock and yell at passers-by, 'I'm not wearing any pants!'"
Colbert marveled at Letterman receiving such an award after he "corrupted the minds of a generation."
Paul Shaffer, Letterman's longtime band leader, said he knew his boss was uncomfortable hearing such accolades, but that he knew Letterman was enjoying every second of it.
To salute Led Zeppelin, big names from the rock world dressed in black tie for their music heroes as a string ensemble played the band's hit song "Kashmir" and other tunes at the State Department.
Foo Fighters singer Dave Grohl said he never took any music lessons when he was starting out because "my teachers were Led Zeppelin. ... They were the most powerful thing in my life."
Lenny Kravitz said their influential music, at its zenith in the 1970s, became a lasting part of the culture of rock and roll.