Jeff Neira/ABC via Getty Images
Shirley Li
May 14, 2015 AT 03:02 PM EDT

Jimmy Kimmel is a David Letterman devotee. He used to watch Late Night on school nights, cut a Late Night birthday cake when he turned 16, and even ordered “L8NITE” vanity plates for his first car. Now, he’s written a tribute for TIME, explaining why he couldn’t stop watching Letterman.

“For me, Late Night With David Letterman wasn’t just a show. It was a problem,” Kimmel writes. “Every school night, I watched with the kind of simmering fervor described in newspaper profiles of teens who run away from home to fight for ISIS. First period started at 7:35 AM, but Dave was more important than sleep.” Letterman hosted NBC’s Late Night from 1982 to 1993, when he moved to CBS for Late Show with David Letterman; his final episode of late-night TV airs next Wednesday, May 20.

The Jimmy Kimmel Live host continues by writing about how he adopted Letterman’s tics as he grew up, fell in love with the show’s “intentionally to unintentionally ridiculous” recurring characters, regretted missing Letterman’s interview with Shirley MacLaine, and eventually met Letterman in person in 1984. “None of us who discovered Dave on our own and claimed him as our own will ever be able to satisfactorily explain to the younger people who didn’t waht he did, what he meant and what he means,” he concludes. “I guess it doesn’t matter. It’s only an exhibition, not a competition.”

Head over to TIME to read the rest of his tribute.

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