David Michael Letterman (born April 12, 1947) is a famous American television personality, late night talk show host, comedian, television producer, Indy Racing League car owner (Rahal Letterman Racing), and philanthropist. His first long-running hit in the 1980s was on NBC’s, Late Night with David Letterman before he transferred to CBS in the 1990s and began Late Show with David Letterman. He is once divorced, from Michelle Cook and had a long-term relationship with his current show’s writer, Merrill Markoe. His longtime fiance is Regina Lasko, and they have one son, Harry Joseph, born November 3, 2003. He is named for Letterman’s father.
Letterman’s ironic, often absurd comedy is heavily influenced by comedians Steve Allen and Johnny Carson.
Late Show (CBS)
Letterman remained with NBC for eleven years. Upon Johnny Carson’s unexpected announcement that he would retire in May 1992, a protracted, multi-lateral battle erupted over who would replace the long-time Tonight host. Eventually, executives at NBC announced Carson’s frequent guest-host Jay Leno as Carson’s replacement, despite Carson’s professed desire to see the torch passed to Dave. Letterman had ironically become a victim of his own success — NBC’s confirming Letterman’s high ratings in the 12:30 (EST) timeslot signaled that the network preferred to hold on to Letterman in the ‘Late Night’ gig. Letterman, a longtime protg of Carson’s who had frequently credited Johnny with boosting his career, was reportedly bitterly disappointed and angry at not having been given the job on the Tonight Show.
In 1993, reportedly on Carson’s advice, Letterman departed NBC to host his own show opposite Tonight on CBS at eleven-thirty Eastern, The Late Show with David Letterman. Three years later, HBO produced a made-for-television movie called The Late Shift, based on a book by New York Times reporter Bill Carter, chronicling the battle between Letterman and Leno for the coveted Tonight Show hosting spot. Letterman would mock the film for months afterward, specifically on how the actor playing him didn’t resemble him in the least. (“They took a guy who looked nothing like me and with makeup and special camera angles, turned him into a guy who looked nothing like me, with red hair.”) About a year after Late Show began, Carson made a surprise appearance during a ‘Top 10 list’ segment. The audience went wild as Letterman stood up and proudly invited Carson to sit at his desk. Such was the overwhelming applause that Carson was unable to deliver the joke (the applause having gone on too long) and he humbly returned backstage.