David Letterman’s run on late night television is nearing its end. The ionic talk show host, who started his successful run in 1982 on Late Night with David Letterman, will be turning out the lights for the last time on May 20, 2015. Succeeding him at The Late Show is Stephen Colbert.
David’s first show as a regular late night television host featured Bill Murray, whose movie, Stripes, had been released the previous year. The number one song in the U.S. on the day Late Night debuted was “Centerfold” by the J. Geils Band, and gasoline was 92 cents per gallon. Letterman hosted Late Night with David Letterman for 11 years before moving in 1993 to another network, where he began hosting The Late Show with David Letterman.
Letterman’s 33-year tenure as a late night talk show host gives him the record as the longest-serving late night host. In second place is Letterman’s beloved mentor, Johnny Carson, who hosted The Tonight Show for thirty years before retiring in 1992. Conan O’Brien is currently third on the list of longest-serving late night television show hosts, having hosted various late night shows for more than 20 years.
Letterman, who was born in Indianapolis and attended Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, began his television career as a weatherman on a local channel in Indianapolis. One of Letterman’s most infamous weather reports included a description of hail stones the “size of canned hams.” He left his career as a weatherman behind when he moved to Los Angeles in 1975. He was a writer and featured performer on several television shows before his first appearance on The Tonight Show, which led to his career as a late night talk show host.
Letterman’s curmudgeonly antics became notorious and caused him to be disliked by some. One of his most well-known feuds was with Bryant Gumbel, when Gumbel was the host of The Today Show. The feud began when Letterman disrupted an outdoor segment of The Today Show by shouting at Gumbel through a bullhorn. Gumbel’s ire over the prank lasted for four years, when they reconciled on Letterman’s show.
David Letterman seems to have mellowed with age, and the curmudgeonly prankster has evolved into a beloved icon of American culture. As the clock winds down on his legendary television career, the tributes will begin.
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