Letterman, David (1947–)

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David Letterman (1947–)

David Letterman revitalized television's late-night talk-show format beginning in the 1980s. His irreverent and ironic humor, sometimes abrasive celebrity interviews, and wild antics won Letterman the reputation as one of TV's most popular and innovative personalities. Born in Indiana, Letterman idolized Johnny Carson (1925–; see entry under 1960s—TV and Radio in volume 4) and dreamed of being a broadcaster from childhood. In 1975, he moved to Hollywood (see entry under 1930s—Film and Theater in volume 2) to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian and comedy writer.

NBC offered Letterman a late-night show in the 12:30 a.m. time slot. Late Night with David Letterman (1982–93) was a perfect showcase for its host's offbeat wit. Letterman continued the traditional talk-show format of a monologue (an opening series of jokes), followed by celebrity interviews. He also added an edgy sensibility to the traditional format. Audiences could expect all sorts of unusual activity on the show. He often tangled with guests, participated in outrageous stunts, and developed a series of routines like the Top Ten Lists and Stupid Pet Tricks that kept audiences glued to the set.

Disappointed over losing out to Jay Leno (1950–) as successor to Carson when he retired in 1992, Letterman moved to CBS in 1993. He has remained a strong television presence into the twenty-first century.

—Charles Coletta

For More Information

Carter, Bill. The Late Shift: Letterman, Leno, and the Network Battle for the Night. New York: Hyperion Books, 1994.

"Late Show with David Letterman." cbs.com.http://www.cbs.com/latenight/lateshow/ (accessed April 3, 2002).

Lennon, Rosemarie. David Letterman: On Stage and Off. New York: Windsor Publishing, 1994.

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Letterman, David (1947–)

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