To be in David Letterman's orbit is to be a prop for his talk show, whether you're on the staff (like long-time producer Biff Henderson, seen here in a clip from 1986) or just work nearby (like Hello Deli owner Rupert Jee or Pocket Books rep Meg Parsont). As Jee explained to Rolling Stone, "People tell me that when they're out of ideas, they call me." Incidentally, that's the same reason Letterman called the Simon & Schuster building facing his NBC offices and met "Meg from Across the Street."
And, of course, Letterman pioneered forays into the audience.
Involving staff, bystanders, and audience members brought the home audience into the show as well, giving them "characters" who existed as real people they could drop in on during their tourist trips to New York and reinforcing Letterman's standing as an everyman.
Turning the irony dial up to 11, the "real" bits of both shows were more real than audiences gave them credit for.
Tony Mendez, the angry cue-card guy, got fired from the show last year for being too angry over the cue cards.
Stephanie Birkitt, the droll intern who grudgingly tolerated Letterman's flirting and acted as a reluctant correspondent (occasionally snapping back as part of the joke), turned out to be his mistress. (If you click only one link in this section, click this one to read Amy Argetsinger's smart reflection on the role Birkitt played on The Late Show.)
What Andy Warhol's Factory stars were to the art world, Dave's extended cast were to America at large. Hats off to all of 'em.