Hillary visit a big boost to ‘Letterman’

First Lady's chat rates highest since '93

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s appearance Wednesday on “The Late Show With David Letterman” got out the Nielsen vote in a big way, producing the highest Letterman rating on a non-Olympics night since Dave’s second broadcast for CBS back on Aug. 31, 1993.

With Mrs. Clinton as the primary attraction, Wednesday night’s “Late Show” polled an 8.0 rating, 23 share, in households — Letterman’s biggest vote count since the night Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding squared off in the 1994 Winter Olympics figure skating finals.

The first lady, a challenger to New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for a U.S. Senate seat and a frequent target of Letterman’s acerbic monologues, delivered the boost Letterman needed to more than double Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show” Wednesday numbers in homes (8.0/23 vs. 3.6/10) and total viewers (11.00 million vs. 4.64 million).

“Late Show” also enjoyed a commanding 9-share bulge in adults 18-49 (3.7/18 vs. 2.0/9). ABC’s “Nightline” looks to have dumped “Tonight” into third in homes with a 3.9/10, though prelim nationals are somewhat unreliable for that latenight newscast.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Leno-vs.-Letterman race was closer in New York City, where the Gotham-based “Late Show” prevailed by 5 shares (9.0/20 vs. 6.9/15 in homes), but Letterman tripled Leno in Washington, D.C. (10.5/26 vs. 3.5/9).

That huge lead-in from “Letterman” helped “The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn” (a record 2.4/10 in metered markets) inch ahead of NBC’s “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” (2.3/9) for the first time, though O’Brien may still edge out Kilborn when final nationals are released next week.

In other latenight results, NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” reported a season-high 9.4 million viewers for its Jan. 8 edition, hosted by Jamie Foxx.

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