Luis R. Agostini/MAI/Landov
12/27/2004 AT 08:00 AM EST
David Letterman played modern-day Bob Hope by entertaining the troops on Christmas Eve, taking his Late Show to the Americans serving in Iraq.
His opening line to the Marines of Camp Taqaddum: "Anybody here from out of town?" And the crowd, the majority of which has been deployed there since summer, ate it up.
Joining Dave for the holiday cheer-up were his CBS show's musical director, Paul Shaffer, stage manager Biff Henderson, comic Tom Dreesen and the band Off the Wall, the Associated Press reports.
When Letterman saw a sea of hands fly into the air when he asked for a volunteer to help deliver his opening monologue, he snapped: "Isn't that how you got here?"
Among his other quips were, "Iraqi elections are in January. Hurry up and pick somebody so we can get the hell out of here," and, "If I wanted to face insurgents I would've spent Christmas with my relatives."
Letterman wasn't the only entertainer from home cracking jokes for the troops. Robin Williams spent six days racing some 19,700 miles across Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf, the Horn of Africa and Northern Europe under the auspices of the U.S.O., whose World War II morale tours Hope initially made famous, The New York Times reports. Others traveling under U.S.O. banner this year included the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders and "Sopranos" star James Gandolfini.
"Paul and I were in Afghanistan three years ago, and last year we were in Baghdad," Letterman told his audience. "We wouldn't want it any other way. We're sorry we keep having to come back. If you ever come to New York City, come see us and we'll treat you like big shots."
Gunnery Sgt. Ronald Trignano, 32, a tech-controller with Communication Squadron 48, pretty much summed up the critical reaction to what Dave did. Said Trignano: "It almost makes you forget where you are for a little while."