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David Letterman      

Host of the "Late Show with David Letterman" on CBS, Influential Television Personality

Letterman is best known for his gap-toothed self-mockery, and his brash, wry, somewhat cynical sense of humor, which was, at first, unconventional, attracting a cult following, but which has gone on to define the young, hip, media-savvy generation that is his main audience, and inspire countless comedians and talk show hosts who have followed him.

Letterman studied radio and television at Ball State University, in Muncie, Indiana. He worked in Indianapolis as a radio talk-show host; the host of a children's program and a late-night movie; a news anchor; and as a television weatherman, where his brand of humor was already evident, if not necessarily appreciated.

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 show, the daytime 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 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. He is also known for his parody sketches that play upon the obvious weak acting abilities of his bandleader and other members of the set.

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.

The years that followed this head-to-head competition between CBS and NBC 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.

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 current 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.


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David Letterman: A Late-Night Look Through Three Decades

“Everything he did seemed wrong. He didn’t look right. His manner, his affect, everything seemed wrong because he was so profoundly original.” That’s Conan O’Brien talking about David Letterman, the gap-toothed Indiana weathercaster who went on to become the longest-serving late-night talk show host in TV history, ending his run this week at more than three decades.

Bill Murray Brings Cake And Chaos To David Letterman’s Penultimate Show

Not coincidentally, Murray also was Dave’s very first guest when Letterman made his broadcast TV late-night hosting debut on NBC’s Late Night, back in February of 1982. Murray made good on his threat to Dave back then to “make every second of your life from this moment on a living hell,” smearing Letterman and his snappy suit in a cake-infused hug (Letterman changed suits after Murray headed out to protest).

David Letterman's Finale Was Watched by 13.8 Million, His Largest Audience Since 1994

David Letterman's final Late Show was watched by 13.76 million viewers, making it the Late Show's largest audience since Feb. 25, 1994, on a night that saw CBS' coverage of the Lillehammer Olympics.

David Letterman, John Oliver Snag Emmy Noms For Final And First Seasons

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