David Letterman Mourns Death of Friend Jay Thomas: ‘Nobody Could Throw a Football Like Jay’

“I loved Jay,” Letterman says about his frequent “Late Show” guest

Dave Letterman is among the many Hollywood figures sharing his grief following the death of Emmy-winning actor Jay Thomas.

Thomas, known for roles on “Cheers” and “Murphy Brown” and in films like “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” died Thursday after a battle with cancer. The comedian and radio personality was 69, and he is survived by his wife and three children.

Thomas was a guest on CBS’ “The Late Show With David Letterman” during every holiday season, where he and the host would take turns tossing footballs at the show’s Christmas tree in an effort to knock down a meatball resting atop the tree. The annual tradition dated back to December 1998.

Letterman made it clear during Thomas’ appearances that he particularly enjoyed getting the “Mork and Mindy” alum to tell the story about a time he and a friend were giving a ride home to “Lone Ranger” actor Clayton Moore when they ended up chasing down another car that had collided with them.

“I loved Jay,” Letterman said in a statement provided to TheWrap. “His Lone Ranger story was the best I heard in 30 years. Plus, nobody could throw a football like Jay. Maybe Tina Fey, maybe.”

“My heart goes out to his family,” Letterman continued.