David Letterman
* April 12, 1947
United States
Television would never be the same after David Letterman made his second attempt at a television show in 1982. But his career up to becoming host of the show was quite an interesting and long one. David Letterman was born in Broad Ripple, a neighborhood in Indianapolis. His childhood was relatively unremarkable, but he exhibited tendencies of the class clown, and showed a very strong independent streak as a child. Letterman went on to graduate from Ball State University in the late 1960s, and married Michelle Cook in 1969.

From 1970 to 1974 he worked as a weatherman and TV announcer and from 1974 to 1975 he worked as a radio talk show host. As the late 1970s approached David was working as a struggling stand up comic at the comedy store, and started writing for television shows. He wrote for the summer series the Peeping Times, and even for such shows as Good Times. David Letterman had become something of a minor celebrity in 1978. By this time he had appeared on the Gong Show, Mary Tyler Moore's variety series Mary, the Liar's Club, the 20,000 dollar pyramid, Password Plus, the variety series The Starland Vocal Band, and this prompted many appearances on the tonight show with Johnny Carson. He became so popular that he was permanent substitute host by the end of the decade. NBC saw great potential in the young irreverent comedian, so they gave David Letterman his own daytime talk show, which was a disaster, and off the air as of 1980.

About this time Tom Snyder, who was having problems with his late night show, which aired after Johnny Carson. His problems were mostly with his co-host Rona Barrett, and Snyder was forced off air in late 1981. David Letterman, who was permanent co-host of the Tonight Show took over the post Johnny Carson slot. The show was extremely unconventional. For starters David Letterman was very political, whereas the standard Johnny Carson steered away from political jokes. Letterman's early antics changed talk shows. He would often stage elevator races in Radio City Music hall. He often made random calls to strangers and talked about the strangest subjects. At one point David Letterman got his associate Larry 'Bud' Melman to go outside of the Russian Embassy and hand out pamphlets encouraging defection. He would often make his guests feel uncomfortable with his intelligent and abrasive style, and his guests often participated in funny and unusual skits with them. David became almost an instant success, and some say surpassed Johnny Carson in popularity.

As the late nineteen eighties approached David Letterman was becoming more and more of a household name, often at odds with the censors over his show, and never was one to curtail to guests wishes. But that only made him more popular, and he garnered more and more status as a world class talk show host. Among the more classic moments on the early part of his show was the time he covered his suit with alka seltzer, and jumped in a vat of water. Also David Letterman helped Andy Kaufman with his wrestling saga, as Kaufman and Jerry Lawler pretended to get in a fight on Late Night with David Letterman. He became known for his reclusiveness on screen. Where Johnny Carson at one point often would make cameos and guest appearances, David Letterman would often shy away from cameos and stuck almost solely to doing his Late Night Show.

In 1992 Johnny Carson made a landmark announcement: he was retiring. Many thought that David Letterman would be the natural choice, but many at NBC were leaning toward current substitute host Jay Leno. The battle was very public and very vicious, but in the end Jay Leno won out, and David Letterman was going to continue to be host of the post Tonight Show slot. But in 1993 David Letterman made a big announcement as well: He was leaving NBC for a lucrative contract with CBS, as of 1993. The battle almost intensified even more. NBC claimed that many of Letterman's gimmicks and jokes, including throwing the pencil through the window joke, the top ten list, Larry Bud Melman, among many others were 'intellectual properties.' NBC lost, but Larry 'Bud' Melman would now be called Calvert DeForest on the CBS show. In the head to head with Jay Leno, as well as Chevy Chase, Arsenio Hall and Ted Koppel, David Letterman won, almost every time over all of his competition, until the summer of 1995. Jay Leno had guest Hugh Grant on his show, and Grant cried on screen. The ratings were tremendous, and Letterman has consistently been beaten by Leno ever since.

In recent years Letterman has toned down his act. He tends to dress more conservatively, and tends to go the more traditional route of talk shows. It can often be said that every talk show since, including Jay Leno, Craig Kilborn ,and especially Conan O'Brien have been inspired a great deal, if not near completely by David Letterman's unconventional and irreverent, not to mention off the wall style. It was thought for a little while that David Letterman was going to retire in the mid- nineties, but an impressive 14 million dollar a year deal has kept Letterman with CBS. But tragedy struck, in January of 2000 David Letterman underwent quintuple bypass surgery. The operation was successful, and David Letterman received countless get well cards and a great deal of publicity.

As of the new century Letterman still is second to Jay Leno, but it is becoming increasingly evident that Jay is greatly inspired by Dave, and that Dave has much more critical acclaim than does his main Rival Jay Leno. Also it was revealed on the Game Show Network that David Letterman hosted a pilot of a Game Show in the seventies called the Riddlers. It was not made into a series. Among David's better known incidents in his later years are Drew Barrymore's infamous table dance, his interview with the apparently ditsy Uma Thurman, his appearance in the movie Cabin Boy, his great but doomed stint as host of the Oscars, his appearance on the Andy Kaufman Bio Man on the Moon, and many other incidents.

When Politically Incorrect was cancelled in 2002, David Letterman was sought after to leave CBS for ABC, but Letterman declined to do so, and stayed with CBS, where he will probably remain for quite awhile. Aside from being a talk show host Letterman is an active producer. His production company is called WorldWide Pants, and over the years he was executive producer of his original show, his new show, Everybody Loves Raymond, the Building, the Bonnie Hunt Show, the High Life, The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, and Ed. These days Letterman looks like he is only getting started.

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