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Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night


Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night

LETTERMAN takes readers through the 30-plus-year career of David Letterman as a late-night talk show host. More than 6,000 episodes later, Letterman’s influence has been carried forth into the new generation of late-night hosts, but fans would say that none match the original, oddball comedic delivery that made Dave a legend.

The book will add behind-the-scenes information to every reader, but with few stunning revelations. If you are a lifelong Letterman viewer, there is much you will already know. However, discussions on his relationships with writers, the late-night industry and even his own image make the book worthwhile for any reader. This goes without mentioning the opening of LETTERMAN, which places a spotlight on the struggles and motivations of his early years and formative experiences.

"For talk show fans longing for a reminder of a defining era in late-night television, I recommend introducing a copy of LETTERMAN to your coffee table..."

There was no television in Letterman’s house when he was born. In fact, it was radio that provided his first contact with broadcasting. Throughout his school years, it was apparent that radio, and then eventually television, held his interest. Performing household and basement shows with friends in his neighborhood from a young age, he would do mock talk shows using household items as props. When he went to college in the mid-1960s, he had a radio show at Ball State University, where he was known for doing funny things. This carried over into one of his first jobs as a weatherman, where he would incorporate bits of his own. In one instance, he claimed that “higher-ups” had made Ohio and Indiana into one big state. He said, “Personally, I’m against it.”

When Letterman was in his late 20s, he made the most challenging decision of his life: to leave his home state of Indiana for Los Angeles. A number of years went by working as a comedy writer and periodic stand-up comedian, before he was noticed by Johnny Carson and became a regular guest on “The Tonight Show.” His unreadable delivery and quirky phrasing became the trademark for the next 33 years as he earned his own show --- first titled “Late Night with David Letterman” on NBC, followed by “Late Show with David Letterman” on CBS.

May 20, 2015 marked Letterman’s last television broadcast, ending an era of a distinctive comedic style that incorporated segments like small town news, stupid pet tricks and viewer mail --- many of which have become fixtures on other late-night shows. Over the years, he often brought staff members on the air and made them a part of his show, and you can find much material about them throughout the book.

For talk show fans longing for a reminder of a defining era in late-night television, I recommend introducing a copy of LETTERMAN to your coffee table, where his signature wide grin with an added cigar will serve as a gesture to the sensational memories he created.

Reviewed by John Bentlyewski on April 28, 2017

Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night
by Jason Zinoman