As the host of two award-winning late night talk shows, David Letterman and his ironic style were powerful influences on the changing comedy landscape of the 1980s, 1990s and beyond. From the start of...
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
|Fast Friends||Actor||Matt Morgan||7|
|Late Show With David Letterman Video Special 3||1996 1995 - 1996||Actor||Host||19967|
|Late Night With David Letterman||1992 1980 - 1992||Actor||Host||19927|
|Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee||2013 2010 - 2013||Guest||n/a||1|
|The David Letterman Show||1980 1978 - 1980||Actor||Host||19807|
|David Letterman's 2nd Annual Holiday Film Festival||1986 1985 - 1986||Actor||Host||19867|
|Jimmy Kimmel Live||2013 2001 - 2013||Actor||Guest||20137|
|The 67th Annual Academy Awards||1994 1993 - 1994||Actor||Host||19947|
|Late Night With David Letterman: 10th Anniversary||1991 1990 - 1991||Actor||Host||19917|
|The Late Show With David Letterman 5th Anniversary Special||1998 1997 - 1998||Actor||Host||19987|
|Late Night With David Letterman Seventh Anniversary Show||1988 1987 - 1988||Actor||Host||19887|
|Late Night Film Festival||1985 1984 - 1985||Actor||Host||19857|
|The Late Show With David Letterman Video Special||1994 1993 - 1994||Actor||Host||19947|
|The 38th Annual Emmy Awards||1986 1985 - 1986||Actor||Co-Host||19867|
|David Letterman's Old-Fashioned Christmas||1987 1986 - 1987||Actor||Host||19877|
|Late Night With David Letterman Sixth Anniversary Show||1987 1986 - 1987||Actor||Host||19877|
|The Late Show With David Letterman||2013 1992 - 2013||Actor||Host||20137|
|Late Night With David Letterman Eighth Anniversary Special||1990 1989 - 1990||Actor||Host||19907|
|The Late Show With David Letterman Video Special 2||1995 1994 - 1995||Actor||Host||19957|
|Late Night With David Letterman Fifth Anniversary Show||1986 1985 - 1986||Actor||Host||19867|
|Paul Shaffer: Viva Shaf Vegas||1986 1985 - 1986||Actor||n/a||19867|
|Celebrity Cooks||1978 1977 - 1978||Actor||n/a||19787|
|Peeping Times||1977 1976 - 1977||Actor||Dan Cochran||19777|
|Merrill Markoe's Guide to Glamorous Living||1987 1986 - 1987||Actor||n/a||19877|
|Intimate Portrait: Mary Tyler Moore||1997 1996 - 1997||Actor||Interviewee||19977|
|Sunday Night With Larry King||1990 1989 - 1990||Actor||n/a||19907|
|A Barbara Walters Special: A Matter of Life and Death||2010 2009 - 2010||Actor||n/a||20107|
|The 35th Annual Kennedy Center Honors||2012 2011 - 2012||Actor||Honoree||20127|
|The Barbara Walters Special (01/29/92)||1991 1990 - 1991||Actor||n/a||19917|
|The Comedy Store's 20th Birthday||1992 1991 - 1992||Actor||n/a||19927|
|The Comedy Store 15th Year Class Reunion||1988 1987 - 1988||Actor||n/a||19887|
|The 12 Most Fascinating People of 1993||1993 1992 - 1993||Actor||n/a||19937|
|Skyscraper||1989 1988 - 1989||Actor||n/a||19897|
|The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson 26th Anniversary Special||1988 1987 - 1988||Actor||n/a||19887|
|It's Just a Ride||Actor||n/a||7|
|Johnny Carson: King of Late Night||Actor||Interview Subject||7|
|2 Years... Later||1990 1989 - 1990||Actor||n/a||19907|
|The Television Academy Hall of Fame||1985 1984 - 1985||Actor||n/a||19857|
|D Tour: A Tenacious Documentary||2007||Actor||n/a||20077|
|The Starland Vocal Band||1976 1975 - 1976||Actor||Regular||19767|
|Action Family||1986 1985 - 1986||Actor||n/a||19867|
|Mary||1978 1977 - 1978||Actor||n/a||19787|
|Regis Philbin: Made For TV||1998 1997 - 1998||Actor||Interviewee||19987|
|The NBC All-Star Hour||1985 1984 - 1985||Actor||n/a||19857|
|Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope's Super Birthday Special||1983 1982 - 1983||Actor||n/a||19837|
|The 39th Annual Emmy Awards||1987 1986 - 1987||Actor||n/a||19877|
|The Jay Leno Show||1986 1985 - 1986||Actor||n/a||19867|
|Donahue: The 25th Anniversary||1992 1991 - 1992||Actor||n/a||19927|
|Hollywood Salutes Bruce Willis: An American Cinematheque Tribute||2000 1999 - 2000||Actor||n/a||20007|
|Steve Allen's 75th Birthday Celebration||Actor||n/a||7|
|The Dana Carvey Show||1995 1994 - 1995||Actor||Himself||19957|
|A Comedy Salute to Andy Kaufman||1994 1993 - 1994||Actor||n/a||19947|
|Julia Roberts: American Cinematheque Tribute||2007 2006 - 2007||Actor||Presenter||20077|
|VH1 Inside Out Warren Zevon: Keep Me In Your Heart||2002 2001 - 2002||Actor||n/a||20027|
|Billy Crystal: The Mark Twain Prize||2007 2006 - 2007||Actor||Presenter||20077|
|Battle of the Network Stars V||1978 1977 - 1978||Actor||CBS Team Member||19787|
|The Comedy Awards||2010 2009 - 2010||Actor||Honoree||20107|
|Mouthing Off: 51 Greatest Smartasses||2003 2002 - 2003||Actor||Honoree (Archival Footage)||20037|
|Cabin Boy||1994||Actor||Old Salt in Fishing Village||19947|
|CBS: The First 50 Years||1997 1996 - 1997||Actor||Guest Host||19977|
|The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts||1993 1992 - 1993||Actor||n/a||19937|
|Comic Relief VII||1995 1994 - 1995||Actor||n/a||19957|
|The American Television Awards||1992 1991 - 1992||Actor||n/a||19927|
|Spin City||2001 1995 - 2001||Actor||Himself||20017|
|Cosby||1999 1995 - 1999||Actor||Himself||19997|
|100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time||2003 2002 - 2003||Actor||Honoree (Archival Footage)||20037|
|Ed||2003 1999 - 2003||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|Carol Doesn't Leifer Anymore||1987 1986 - 1987||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|Late Night With David Letterman: 10th Anniversary||1991 1990 - 1991||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|Late Night With David Letterman Seventh Anniversary Show||1988 1987 - 1988||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|David Letterman's Old-Fashioned Christmas||1987 1986 - 1987||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|Late Night With David Letterman Fifth Anniversary Show||1986 1985 - 1986||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|David Letterman's 2nd Annual Holiday Film Festival||1986 1985 - 1986||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|The Building||1992 1991 - 1992||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|Late Night With David Letterman Eighth Anniversary Special||1990 1989 - 1990||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|The High Life||1996 1995 - 1996||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|Untitled Letterman Election Documentary||2013||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|Late Night With David Letterman Sixth Anniversary Show||1987 1986 - 1987||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|The Knights of Prosperity||2006 2005 - 2006||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|Late Night With David Letterman||1992 1980 - 1992||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|The Bonnie Hunt Show||1995 1994 - 1995||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|Strangers with Candy||2006||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope's All-Star Comedy Special From Australia||1977 1976 - 1977||Writer||n/a||1|
|The Starland Vocal Band||1976 1975 - 1976||Writer||n/a||1|
|David Letterman's 2nd Annual Holiday Film Festival||1986 1985 - 1986||Writer||n/a||1|
|The Paul Lynde Comedy Hour||1976 1975 - 1976||Writer||n/a||1|
|Late Night With David Letterman||1992 1980 - 1992||Writer||n/a||1|
|Late Night With David Letterman Sixth Anniversary Show||1987 1986 - 1987||Writer||n/a||1|
|The Late Show With David Letterman 5th Anniversary Special||1998 1997 - 1998||Writer||n/a||1|
|The David Letterman Show||1980 1978 - 1980||Writer||n/a||1|
|Late Night With David Letterman Eighth Anniversary Special||1990 1989 - 1990||Writer||n/a||1|
|Late Night With David Letterman Fifth Anniversary Show||1986 1985 - 1986||Writer||n/a||1|
|Late Night With David Letterman Seventh Anniversary Show||1988 1987 - 1988||Writer||n/a||1|
|Late Night With David Letterman: 10th Anniversary||1991 1990 - 1991||Writer||n/a||1|
|Late Show With David Letterman Video Special 3||1996 1995 - 1996||Writer||n/a||1|
|The Late Show With David Letterman Video Special||1994 1993 - 1994||Writer||n/a||1|
|The Late Show With David Letterman Video Special 2||1995 1994 - 1995||Writer||n/a||1|
|The Starland Vocal Band||1976 1975 - 1976||Other||announcer||1|
|First appeared on "The Tonight Show" (NBC); was a regular guest host|
|Offered $14 million annually to host a late night show for CBS that would compete with "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (NBC)|
|Moved to CBS to produce and star in the "Late Show with David Letterman"; received consecutive Emmy nominations from 1994-2009 for Performance, Writing and/or Producing|
|Moved to Los Angeles; made stand-up comedy debut at The Comedy Store|
|Formed production company, Worldwide Pants Incorporated|
|Began broadcasting career as an announcer and newscaster at Ball State University's student-run radio station, WBST|
|Debuted "Late Night with David Letterman" (NBC) which aired immediately following "The Tonight Show" (NBC); received consecutive Emmy nominations from 1984-1993 for Writing and/or Producing|
|Hosted the 67th Academy Awards ceremony|
|After much speculation and wooing by ABC, re-signed with CBS to continue hosting "Late Night with David Letterman" (March)|
|Hosted the radio talk show WXLW (AM) in Indianapolis|
|Landed a full-time job with Indianapolis television station WLWI (later called WTHR) as a local anchor and weatherman|
|Worked as an announcer and regular on the short-lived CBS variety series "Starland Vocal Band Show"; also wrote for the series|
|Produced first feature film "Strangers with Candy," a prequel to the Comedy Central series created by and starring Amy Sedaris|
|Appeared as a regular on the short-lived CBS variety series "Mary," starring Mary Tyler Moore; also wrote for the series|
|Signed a contract with CBS to stay on the air until at least 2010; expected to make a reported $38 million a year|
|Made a cameo appearance in the feature "Cabin Boy" (billed as Earl Hofert)|
|Produced the NBC dramedy series "Ed"|
|Hosted the morning show, "The David Letterman Show" (NBC); was canceled after four months|
|Produced the Emmy Award-winning sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond" (CBS), starring Ray Romano|
David Michael Letterman was born on April 12, 1947, growing up in Indianapolis, IN. Father Harry Joe owned a florist shop and mother Dorothy was a secretary at a Presbyterian church. By Letterman's own account, family life was middle-class and picturesque, complete with little league baseball games, a tree house in the yard, and when Letterman was eight years old, the addition of a television set to the family room. As the gap-toothed budding comic grew into a teenager at Broad Ripple High School, his academics failed to impress, moving the self-proclaimed "goofball" increasingly toward broadcasting. He often hung around a storefront radio station in downtown Indianapolis, watching the DJ at work and imagining himself cueing up records, answering the phone, and announcing the station call letters. He landed his first job as a stockboy at the Atlas supermarket, but it did not take long for him to decide that this kind of working world was not for him. He graduated from high school in 1965 and enrolled in Ball State University's telecommunications department.
At Ball State, Letterman immediately began learning the ropes at the college's 10-watt powerhouse, WERK AM. Letterman again was not a great student but he began evolving socially as a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity and challenged his inherent shyness with a spot on the debate team. He also spent time lurking around local TV station WLWI with a friend whose brother worked there. The summer between Letterman's sophomore and junior years, the station had an opening for a temporary announcer. Letterman landed the job, which was an ideal opportunity to learn the business from the inside. He began filling in as a news announcer and weather man before hosting the local 4-H kids' show called "Clover Power" and breaking into his future time slot as the host of a late night movie show called "Freeze Dried Movies." Meanwhile, he continued to gain experience on air in local radio and landed a girlfriend, music major Michelle Cook who shared Letterman's sense of humor. The two married young in 1969 - the same year Letterman graduated from Ball and was given a full-time job at WLWI.
Even then, Letterman had already begun earning a reputation for his unpredictable antics on air - most notably, as a weather man who erased state borders and congratulated a tropical storm on being upgraded to a hurricane. As the host of "Freeze Dried Movies," he blew up a cardboard model of the set during the show. What would someday be nationally recognized as the distinct "Letterman" sense of humor was already fully formed and searching for an audience. He began doing stand-up, but soon understood that Indy was not the town for taking comedic risks. In 1975, with almost 10 years of valuable TV and radio experience under his belt, he and his wife moved to Los Angeles. At The Comedy Store, a hallowed venue for aspiring comedians, Letterman perfected his stage persona and joined the ranks of several dozen regulars - including future rival Jay Leno - all hoping to hit it big. He landed comedy writing work with "Good Times" (CBS, 1974-79), "The Paul Lynde Show" (ABC, 1972-73) and Afternoon Delighters "The Starland Vocal Band" (CBS, 1977), where he was also an occasional performer. Several 1978 appearances on Mary Tyler Moore's variety series, "Mary" (CBS, 1978) paled in comparison to his appearance on "The Tonight Show" that same year, when he would meet his comic idol Johnny Carson. Carson recognized a kindred spirit in Letterman and his role quickly evolved from idol to mentor, championing the young talent and helping him get his foot in the door of Hollywood.
Carson gave Letterman his first big boost by offering him slots as a guest host on "The Tonight Show," a duty shared with others including Joan Rivers and Leno. In 1980, Carson's production company put Letterman in the spotlight as the star of "The David Letterman Show" (NBC, 1980). The quirky talk/variety show had echoes of "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) and reflected a new breed of younger, edgier comedy. It was unlike anything else on the air - certainly anything on at 10 a.m. Morning audiences did not embrace Letterman's ironic take on the morning programming genre and "The David Letterman Show" lasted only three months, but it was critically well-received and garnered a handful of Daytime Emmy Awards. Around this time Letterman, whose first marriage ended in 1979, became involved with comedy writer Merrill Markoe, who had worked with him on the morning show. She would go on to play a crucial role as the head writer of Letterman's breakthrough program, "Late Night with David Letterman." Despite being justified, NBC had not lost heart in their comic after the "The David Letterman Show;" instead calling him back to retool his morning show for hipper late night audiences. On Feb. 1, 1982, "Late Night with David Letterman" joined the network in the post-"Tonight Show" slot of 12:30 a.m.
While "The Tonight Show" had incorporated some sketch comedy elements like the famous "Carnac the Magnificent" routine, most late night fare like Tom Snyder and Dick Cavett adhered closely to the revered one-on-one interview format. Packed with remote stunts, audience participation, many flying pencils and regular breaking of "the fourth wall," "Late Night" represented a marked shift in late night television that would eventually be felt across the networks and the schedule. Not only would the show's popularity draw attention to the lucrative potential of the time slot and inspire every network to launch its own competitor - including such spectacular hits-or-misses as Arsenio Hall, Joan Rivers, Whoopi Goldberg and Pat Sajak - but in the long-run, the cult status of "Stupid Pet Tricks," the "Top Ten List" and snarkily answered "Viewer Mail" segments helped usher in a whole new era of comedy irony. Letterman took television, which was supposed to be the sacred territory of "stars," and devoted much of it to the humor he found in every day people and places. Viewers ate up such guests as the lady who dressed her parrot like Cyndi Lauper or loved such bits as when Dave hit the streets to visit a lighting store called "Just Bulbs," and trying to buy something other than bulbs. Meanwhile, stars who visited the show did not receive their usual blind adoration but rather had to attune themselves to Letterman's almost combative interview style. Being able to "roll" with Letterman definitely lent a star street cred with viewers; Teri Garr was willing to be interviewed wrapped in a bath towel while Natassja Kinski stormed offstage after having her spiked hair mocked by the host.
Letterman's willingness to mock himself first and foremost helped him break down the status barriers and prepared guests for the Late Night attitude that "hey, we're all just people trying to be entertaining - go with it." In addition to endlessly making fun of his own crooked teeth, thinning hair, inherent dorkiness, or the low production values of the show, Letterman was always willing to make himself look unbelievably foolish, whether dumping mayonnaise on his head, leaping onto a Velcro wall in a Velcro suit, or lowering himself into a giant bowl of milk while covered in Rice Krispies. Playful sidekick and bandleader Paul Shaffer, plus a crack writing staff including Markoe and many former "SNL" writers, rounded out a team whose innovations outshone anything else on TV at the time. And their work did not go unnoticed. The show won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing 1984-87. In a gesture of recognition as well as an atypical acknowledgment of his own success, Letterman established a scholarship in his name at Ball State University, to which he contributed $20,000 per year for the remainder of his career. But Letterman's high profile and increasing fan base was not without its drawbacks. Beginning in the late eighties, he was the target of a schizophrenic stalker who was found numerous times trying to break into the host's New Canaan, CT, home and was once stopped while driving his Porsche, claiming to be his wife. The woman was hospitalized off and on before eventually committing suicide in a sad episode that even the comic genius found hard to laugh off. In fact, unlike most stars with stalkers, Letterman appeared to have more than enough sympathy for the mentally ill lady and seemed genuinely sad at her passing, even extending condolences to her family.
When Johnny Carson made a surprising retirement announcement in 1992, Letterman seemed the heir apparent to his mentor's chair at "The Tonight Show" desk. He had served as guest host 50 times and already had a long-term relationship with the network; not to mention a complete and highly functioning production staff. As a unit, the team was ready to head to Los Angeles, but the offer never came and Jay Leno was given the job. Speculation about the decision was endless, with the press building up a real or imagined rivalry between the two comics and fueling rumors about the Leno management's cutthroat tactics to win the crown. Questions about NBC's loyalty abounded. Were they unwilling to let go of the excellent ratings Letterman earned them in the traditionally difficult time slot, or were they fearful of how Letterman's edginess would fare in the 11:30 p.m. ratings and passed him over in favor of Leno's broader, red state appeal? Whatever the reason, Letterman took this opportunity to review his relationship with NBC and entered into a highly-publicized deal with CBS to develop a show for their 11:30 p.m. time slot, as well as several other primetime comedies, essentially thumbing his nose at the peacock.
On June 23, 1993, Letterman bid his audience and the National Broadcasting Corporation farewell, returning to television on August 30 with a revamped "Late Show with David Letterman" on CBS. Letterman held on to his perennial favorites by slightly tweaking them to avoid "intellectual property" infringements with NBC; the "Top Ten List" became "The Late Show Top Ten," "Viewer Mail" became "CBS Mailbag," and Paul Shaffer's "World's Most Dangerous Band" became the "CBS Orchestra." The host who was known for carelessly wearing sneakers also now wore loafers, albeit with white gym socks. But the show format remained relatively untouched and even benefited from its rebirth with a bounty of new material to work with within the large Ed Sullivan Theater. There was a bounty of new neighbors to play with, including the proprietor of Hello Deli and a duo who operated a gift shop next door. Letterman introduced his mother Dorothy as a recurring player, mining her emotionally flat demeanor for big laughs as a correspondent at the Olympics and other events. New recurring pieces showed that he and his team had not lost their ability to keep coming up with fresh material, launching new bits like "Will it Float?" and "Is this Anything?" as well as having staffers reverently read aloud transcripts from "Oprah" shows.
The former bit contributed to a long-running feud between Letterman and Winfrey, who felt uncomfortable being the butt of Letterman's jokes and repeatedly turned down offers to appear as a guest on the show. His mentor Carson, however, who rarely appeared in public at all made a surprise appearance during a week of Los Angeles tapings and never managed to get a word out due to an endlessly applauding crowd. Carson consistently faxed material for Letterman to use in his monologues, right up until the end of his life in 2005, with Letterman subtly crediting the master for his jokes by following them with his signature golf swing. Overall, it was business as usual and Letterman's late night production seemed to thrive following its network migration. For the first 18 months it steadily led the ratings. In 1995, however, Letterman hosted the 67th annual Academy Awards and failed so spectacularly, that it appeared viewing audiences held a grudge against him for besmirching the pomp with his flip sarcasm (i.e., "Uma, Oprah Oprah, Uma "). As the ratings began to slip, "The Tonight Show" scored a winning hand with Leno's post-prostitute bust Hugh Grant interview, and apparently many of the record number of viewers who tuned in that night never returned to Letterman. It appeared the network wanted Letterman to re-tool the show, and several of his key staff including director Hal Gurnee and executive producer Robert Morton left under unclear circumstances.
The series never fully regained its foothold, but still remained popular with Emmy voters, garnering top prize for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series in 1998-2002. His production company Worldwide Pants also used its production deal to develop a hit prime time sitcom for the network, "Everybody Loves Raymond" which jettisoned stand-up comic Ray Romano into star status. In 2000, Worldwide Pants also debuted the modestly successful dramedy about a New York lawyer returning to small town life with "Ed" on NBC. Letterman was a professional workhorse who was known for never missing a show until 2000, when the host had to undergo emergency quintuple bypass surgery. His recovery took six weeks, during which time friends like Regis Philbin, Bill Murray, Julia Roberts, Robin Williams and Janeane Garofalo took over hosting duties. In typical Letterman Humor fashion, he welcomed the staff responsible for his health onto the show afterwards and attempted to get a section of Indiana freeway renamed the David Letterman Bypass. Some maintain that this was a turning point for the comedian, who began to mellow with age, drop some of the sarcastic armor, and be a little more gracious and forthcoming. Paul Shaffer bluntly stated in an interview that his boss just stopped caring about doing a good show, but it could be argued that it was a welcome evolution for the comic and a respite from the world of sarcastic, ironic television that he had helped to create.
Never had the Teflon host offered a glimpse into his personal feelings as he did on Sept. 17, 2001. As one of the first shows to return to the airwaves following the terrorist attacks of September 11, he spoke compellingly and compassionately about New York City's loss and shared an emotional segment with guest Dan Rather, both men seemingly on the verge of tears. Thereafter, "The Late Show" opening announcement touted New York City as "The greatest city in the world" and replaced its former shot of Battery Park City with one of the Empire State Building. Whether the pair of humbling episodes had anything to do with a change in lifestyle, Letterman moved in with girlfriend Regina Lasko in 2001 and became a first time father in 2003, naming his son after his father. In 2007, Letterman further came out of his shell; this time to bury the hatchet with Winfrey, and was slated to tape an interview for her show in September, following an appearance Winfrey had made first on his show the previous year.
Throughout 2009, the spotlight-shunning comedian found himself making headlines for various reasons. His March wedding to Regina Laskoe after 23 years together allowed the public a rare glimpse of Letterman the man in all his vulnerability as he humorously recounted for his audience the reasons he decided to finally take the plunge. The rest of the headlines, however, were not so sweet. After over a year of taking comical swipes at former vice presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, she first leveled accusations of sexism against the "Late Show" host for likening her public appearances to that of a "slutty flight attendant" during one of his famous Top Ten lists. She stirred up outcry by airing her grievance on "Today," and received more grist for the mill when several weeks later, Letterman's opening monologue included an off-color joke whose intended punch line involved womanizing New York Yankee pitcher Alex Rodriguez "knocking up" Palin's 18-year-old daughter, Bristol, a notorious single teen mother. But it had not been Bristol at Yankee Stadium that day; it had been Palin's 14-year-old daughter, Willow. Armed with statutory rape insinuations to level Letterman's way, Palin again decried the talk show host in the media. Eventually she accepted the host's second on-air apology.
Despite Letterman's repeated and sincere on-air mea culpas for what he admitted was a poorly constructed joke with no malicious intentions, conservative media and women's groups picked up the story and ran with it. Protestors lobbied for Letterman's dismissal outside the Ed Sullivan Theater, while defenders produced six months' worth of examples of Jay Leno, Craig Ferguson and "Saturday Night Live" jokes that showed Palin's daughters clearly having been the butt of sexual punch lines since her arrival in the public eye, and that she had not only ignored these earlier jabs, but continued to appear as a guest on those shows during the campaign. While the story dominated entertainment news headlines for a few weeks, CBS never considered pulling Letterman from his post over the incident.
But the Palin controversy paled in comparison to Letterman's own bombshell that he voluntarily dropped during the Oct. 1, 2009 episode. He admitted that he had been a recent victim of an extortion attempt in which $2 million had been requested to keep Letterman's sexual relationships with female "Late Show" staffers under wraps. Copies of a diary and other proof Letterman could not dismiss were found in a folder in the back seat of his car. Though he nervously joked his way through the issue at hand, he made it clear in his monologue that it was a serious enough charge that the New York district attorney's office set into motion a sting operation to nab the extortionist, who was revealed to be a fellow CBS network staffer, Robert Halderman, a producer for "48 Hours Mystery." As the scandal erupted over the weekend, it was revealed that Halderman had recently broken up with Stephanie Birkitt, who had been Letterman's personal assistant for years and reportedly one of the women with whom he had been involved with for years. Not surprisingly, the man who made countless Monica Lewinsky jokes was now forced to be the butt of similar jokes. Pundits wondered if this was the end of Letterman. The only late night comic who would not make jokes at his friend's expense was Conan O'Brien, who simply said "no comment." Four days after he admitted his transgressions, he memorably spent a segment of his show apologizing to his wife as well as his staff.
All was forgotten in January 2010 when a fresh round of talk show wars broke out, this time between Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien over a scheduling move that pushed "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" back a half our to accommodate "The Jay Leno Show." The network's move soon led to O'Brien's departure amidst outrage from fans and fellow talk show hosts, most of whom favored O'Brien. But no one was more gleeful than Letterman, who took great pleasure in watching both Leno and NBC being raked over the coals in what was deemed a major public relations disaster. Night after night, Letterman skewered Leno and his former network while defending O'Brien. In a strange twist, Letterman appeared in a Super Bowl ad at the time of the debacle, sitting on a couch with Leno separated by Oprah Winfrey in the middle. The attempt by both was to repair their respective images; Leno wanted win people back to his side while Letterman sought to soften some of the cruel barbs he had hurled. Reportedly, Letterman wanted O'Brien to also be in the spot, but his wish never materialized. Meanwhile, in 2011, he was the subject of some sobering news when it was revealed that a Muslim militant made an Internet threat to cut Letterman's tongue out for a joke he made about the death of an Al-Qaeda leader in a drone strike. In typical Letterman fashion, he spent most of his show joking about the threat and even managed to put the blame on Leno. In September 2012, he received a prestigious honor when he was named a Kennedy Center honoree, the nation's highest honor bestowed upon influential cultural figures. Letterman was set to be inducted in December alongside Dustin Hoffman, bluesman Buddy Guy, Led Zeppelin and ballerina Natalia Makarova.
|Michele Cook||Wife||College sweethearts; Married on July 2, 1968; Divorced on Oct. 13, 1978|
|Regina Lasko||Wife||Together since 1996; Married on March 19, 2009 in a courthouse ceremony|
|Dorothy Letterman||Mother||Born on July 18, 1921; made occasional appearances on "Late Show with David Letterman" (CBS)|
|Harry Letterman||Father||Died in 1973|
|Harry Letterman||Son||Born Nov. 3, 2003; mother, Regina Lasko; was the namesake of Letterman's father Harry Joe Letterman|
|Gretchen Letterman||Sister||Worked for the St. Petersburg Times|
|Merrill Markoe||Companion||Had a long term relationship; Briefly engaged|
|Ball State University|
|Broad Ripple High School|
|"I like talking about things that happen in my life if I think I can make me the butt of the joke. But I'm not crazy about actually talking about real things in my life: the women in my life, or my own political feelings and beliefs, limited as they are. If something funny happens in the supermarket, I like trying to talk about that. Because I think - and this may be completely misguided - if I were at home watching a show, I'd like to hear about Johnny Carson getting a flat tire. But I don't want to start explaining in great detail what makes me happy, what makes me sad, that kind of crap." - Letterman to Time magazine, Feb. 6, 1989|
|"He feels he has an hour each night to talk, and he can do all the talking about himself that he wants to do there." - Rob Burnett (Letterman's Producer) on why Letterman hasn't given an interview since 1996, quoted in Entertainment Weekly, June 24, 2002|
|On Jan. 14, 2000, a routine check-up revealed that an artery in Letterman's heart was severely constricted. He was rushed to emergency surgery for a quintuple bypass. During his recovering from surgery, Letterman allowed Bill Cosby, Kathie Lee Gifford, Dana Carvey, Janeane Garofalo, and others to host new episodes of "The Late Show" (CBS).|
|Letterman again handed over the reins of the show to several guest hosts (including Bill Cosby, Brad Garrett, Elvis Costello, John McEnroe, Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell, Bonnie Hunt, Luke Wilson and bandleader Paul Shaffer) in February 2003, when he was diagnosed with a severe case of shingles.|
|"The Late Show" went off air for 8 weeks during the months of November and December due to the Writer's Guild of America strike. David Letterman's production company World Wide Pants was the first company to make an individual agreement with the WGA, thus allowing his show to come back on air on Jan. 2, 2008.|
|In 2005, police unfoiled a plot to kidnap David Letterman's son, Harry and ransom him for $5 million. Kelly Frank, a former painter of the Lettermans' was charged for the conspiracy.|
|On his Oct. 1, 2009 show, Letterman announced that he had been the victim of an extortion attempt by someone threatening to reveal that he had had sex with more than one of his female employees. He confirmed the relationships.
Letterman revealed that three weeks earlier (on Sept. 9, 2009) someone had left a package in his car with material he said he would write into a screenplay and a book if Letterman did not pay him $2 million. Letterman said that he contacted the District Attorney's office, ultimately cooperating with them to conduct a sting operation involving giving the man a phony check. The alleged extortionist, Robert J. Halderman, was subsequently arrested after trying to cash the check.
Stephanie Birkitt, one of Letterman's assistants who has been linked romantically to Letterman, had previously been a member of the CBS page program before joining Letterman's a staff. Birkett had until recently lived with Halderman, who is alleged to have copied Birkitt's personal diary and to have used it, along with private emails, in the blackmail package.
On his October 5 show, Letterman devoted a segment to a public apology to his wife and staff.
|On Oct. 3, 2009, a former CBS employee, Holly Hester, announced that she and Letterman had engaged in a year-long affair in the early 1990s while she was his intern.|
|In 2012, Letterman was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors, the nation's top award for those who have influenced culture through the arts.|
|Founded a charitable organization bearing the comic moniker, The American Foundation for Grooming and Courtesy, which donated millions of dollars to charitable organizations including the Muscular Dystrophy Family Foundation, the Indiana School for the Deaf, the Special Olympics, the Nature Conservancy, the Larry King Cardiac Foundation, Doctors without Borders and the American Cancer Society|
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