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David Michael Letterman

David Letterman's big break came when he began appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He was eventually offered his own late-night show. His humor was well suited to the late-late hour, and the show became widely popular. When NBC gave Carson's spot to Jay Leno, Letterman moved to CBS to host Late Show. In April 2014, Letterman announced his plans to retire from the show in 2015.

Background

  • Ethnicity: His mother is of German descent, and his father had English, Scots-Irish, and German ancestry.

  • Television personality and talk show host David Letterman was born on April 12, 1947, in Indianapolis, Indiana, to Harry Joseph Letterman, a florist, and Dorothy, a church secretary who appeared regularly as a correspondent on his late-night talk show. Letterman is best known for his gap-toothed self-mockery, and his brash, wry, somewhat cynical sense of humor. His unconventional demeanor and sense of humor attracted a cult following, which has gone on to inspire countless comedians and talk show hosts who have followed him.

  • Education

    • Letterman attended his hometown's Broad Ripple High School at the same time as Marilyn Tucker (future wife of Dan Quayle) and worked as a stock boy at the local Atlas Supermarket.

      According to the Ball State Daily News, he originally had wanted to attend Indiana University, but his grades were not good enough, so he instead attended Ball State University, in Muncie, Indiana. He is a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, and he graduated in 1969 from what was then the Department of Radio and Television. A self-described average student, Letterman later endowed a scholarship for what he called "C students" at Ball State.

    Career

    • Early Career

      Letterman is best known for his gap-toothed self-mockery, and his brash, wry, somewhat cynical sense of humor. His unconventional demeanor and sense of humor attracted a cult following, which has gone on to inspire countless comedians and talk show hosts who have followed him.

      Letterman studied radio and television at Ball State University, in Muncie, Indiana (B.A.,1969). He worked in Indianapolis as a radio talk-show host, the host of a children's program and a late-night movie show, a news anchor and as a television weatherman, where his brand of humor was already evident, if not necessarily appreciated. One night he reportedly upset his bosses when he congratulated a tropical storm on being upgraded to a hurricane.

      Big Break

      In 1975, Letterman moved to Los Angeles and wrote material for popular sitcoms, including Good Times. His big break came when he began appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, whom he has since referred to as his mentor. In 1978, he became Carson's regular guest host, and in 1980, he was offered his own daytime show, the David Letterman Show. The show only lasted for three months, but was a critical success, and convinced NBC-TV to give the young comedian a late-night show following Carson's The Tonight Show.

      'Late Night with David Letterman'

      The late-late show hour was well-suited to Letterman's brash and quirky humor. Late Night with David Letterman soon became popular with a young audience by mixing the usual talk-show ingredients of celebrity guests and music with his irreverent manner and zany comic stunts.

      Letterman's signature features include The Top Ten List, Stupid Pet Tricks (along with its companion, Stupid Human Tricks), Viewer Mail and pencils tossed at the camera and at the set behind him, "breaking" the non-existent glass with a cued crash sound. He is also known for his parody sketches that targeted the obviously weak acting abilities of his bandleader Paul Schaffer (and other members of The World's Most Dangerous Band), stage-hand Biff Henderson and general odd-ball Larry "Bud" Melman.

      'The Tonight Show' Controversy

      After NBC chose Jay Leno as the replacement for the retiring Johnny Carson in 1993 -- a position Letterman had publicly desired -- Letterman moved to CBS. He signed a lucrative deal to host The Late Show with David Letterman, which airs opposite The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He also founded his own production company, Worldwide Pants, that same year, which bought a stake in his new show.

      His displeasure with NBC executives was fodder for his monologues, and when they blocked him from transferring regular features of his show to CBS (claiming it was NBC's "intellectual property") that, too, was mocked on air. The years that followed this head-to-head competition spawned a book and cable movie documenting the late-night talk show "wars." Letterman has received several Emmys for both writing and for his talk show hosting duties.

      On January 14, 2000, fans were shocked to learn that Letterman underwent quintuple heart bypass surgery. In typical Letterman fashion, the recovering patient joked that "in addition to rerouting the arteries, they also installed an E-Z pass." Letterman's first post-op show aired on February 21, 2000, featuring Regis Philbin, Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams (wearing medical scrubs) and eight members of the team who took care of Letterman during his stay in the hospital.

      CBS' 'Late Show'

      In December 2006, Letterman renewed his contract with CBS, agreeing to host The Late Show with David Letterman through the fall of 2010. In 2007, he was ranked as No. 17 on the Forbes list of richest men in the entertainment industry, making an estimated $40 million that year. In 2009, Forbes also listed Letterman as No. 14 on their list of most powerful personalities in entertainment.

      The magazine cited Letterman's Peabody Award-winning company, Worldwide Pants, as one of the secrets behind his wealth and power; in addition to Letterman's show, the company has produced successful comedies such as Everybody Loves Raymond and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

      In April 2014, David Letterman announced his plans to retire in 2015, and Stephen Colbert was named as his replacement. “I just want to reiterate my thanks for the support from the network, all of the people who have worked here, all of the people in the theater, all of the people on the staff, everybody at home, thank you very much,” Letterman announced on-air to his studio audience.

    Works

    • Fast Friends
    • Peeping Times
    • Eddie
    • Beavis and Butt-head Do America

    Politics

    Letterman is a registered Independent. However, this is likely because of the unwritten rule that talk show hosts, like newscasters or economic advisers, are supposed to be objective and non-partisan. Letterman is much more likely a Democrat in reality.

    Letterman has given $7,100 to Democratic Minnesota senator Al Franken–and nothing to anyone else.

    Is it just that he and Al Franken are pals? They’re both comedians and all. Maybe you’re right, but here’s pretty conclusive evidence that Letterman sure didn’t like the Republican power structure from 2000 to 2008. He said:

    "My feeling about Cheney and also Bush, but especially Cheney, is that he just couldn’t care less about Americans… And all they really want to do is somehow kiss up to the oil people so they can get some great annuity when they’re out of office. ‘There you go Dick, nice job! There’s a couple of billions for your trouble.’I mean he pretty much put Halliburton in business, and the outsourcing of the military resources to private mercenary groups and so forth. Is there any humanity in either of these guys?"

    Religion

    Letterman was raised a devout Presbyterian and is still a believer, but perhaps not very religious.

    Letterman was brought up Presbyterian and his mother even worked as a secretary for the Second Presbyterian Church of Indianapolis. Letterman was, then, brought up rather devout. It is a matter of question whether or not Dave is still religious as an adult, and it seems unlikely, but Dave regularly expresses his respect for all religious views.

    Perhaps the most outward display of religious advocacy from Dave came in response to opinion polls showing that 67% of Americans were unhappy with the way the country was headed and the debate over the separation of church and state. He said, in all seriousness:

    "We [Americans] are among the most blessed people on Earth and should thank God several times a day, or at least be thankful and appreciative. With hurricanes, tornadoes, fires out of control, mudslides, flooding, severe thunderstorms tearing up the country from one end to another, and with the threat of bird flu and terrorist attacks. Are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?"

    Views

    Quotations: “There's only one requirement of any of us, and that is to be courageous. Because courage, as you might know, defines all other human behavior. And, I believe -- because I've done a little of this myself -- pretending to be courageous is just as good as the real thing.”

    Personality

    Letterman is for cat people. Dog people, who seek out affability and enthusiasm in their late-night hosts, gravitate toward Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon, hosts who tumble down the driveway, eager to please. Cat people, by contrast, like Letterman, because he’s prickly, indifferent, and mysterious. Staring down at his blue index cards, chuckling ominously to himself, Letterman doesn’t seem to care about being funny. Instead, he seems frustrated, distracted, and maybe even a little bored.

    Quotes from others about the person

    Jimmy Fallon: "He's always just there when you need him. I remember after 9/11, we needed somebody," Fallon recalls, getting a little choked up. "The city was in shock, we're all looking for answers. We wanted to see what Dave had to say and we looked at him to say something. ... He said, 'There is only one requirement for any of us and that is to be courageous, because courage, as you know, defines all other human behavior.' We needed that. David Letterman is courageous. Have a nice retirement, Dave."

    Interests

    Music & Bands: Foo Fighters

    Connections

    • father: Harry Joseph Letterman - florist
      His father, Harry Joseph Letterman (April 15, 1915 – February 13, 1973), had English, Scots-Irish, and German ancestry
    • mother: Dorothy Marie Hofert - church secretary
      His mother, Dorothy Marie (Hofert)(born July 18, 1921), has been an occasional figure on the show, usually at holidays and birthdays. His mother is of German descent.
    • child: Harry Joseph Letterman
      He was born on November 3, 2003
    • Sister: Janice
    • Sister: Gretchen
    • 1-st wife: Michelle Cook
      In 1969, Letterman married Michelle Cook; the marriage ended by divorce in 1977
    • 2-nd wife: Regina Lasko
      David and Regina Lasko started dating in 2001. Regina was once a "Late Show" staff member, but no longer works for the show. In March 2009 the couple got married in a private ceremony in Choteau, Montana.
    • fan: Margaret Mary Ray
      Beginning in May 1988, Letterman was stalked by Margaret Mary Ray, a woman suffering from schizophrenia. She stole his Porsche, camped out on his tennis court, and repeatedly broke into his house. Her exploits drew national attention, with Letterman occasionally joking about her on his show, although he never referred to her by name. After she committed suicide in October 1998, Letterman told The New York Times that he had great compassion for her. A spokesperson for Letterman said: "This is a sad ending to a confused life."
    David Letterman
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    Born April 12, 1947
    (age 70)
    Nationality
    • 1965
      Broad Ripple High School
    • 1969
      Ball State University
    • 1975
      regular guest host, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson
      Los Angeles
    • 1980
      host, daytime show, the David Letterman Show, NBC-television
    • 1982 - 1993
      host, Late Night with David Letterman, NBC-television
    • 1993 - 2015
      Late Show with David Letterman, CBS

    Contributor  

    Vika Krivenia

    last changed 09/07/2015 view changes
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