1. Entertainment
Send to a Friend via Email

Your suggestion is on its way!

An email with a link to:


was emailed to:

Thanks for sharing About.com with others!

You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Who is David Letterman? A brief biography about the talk show host


Who is David Letterman? A brief biography about the talk show host

Photo courtesy Getty Images

Getty Images

David Letterman was born ...:

... On April 12, 1947, in Indianapolis, Indiana. His father, a florist, died in 1974. His mother, Dorothy, is a church secretary and frequent guest on his program, Late Show with David Letterman. He has two sisters.

Growing up with Dave:

After high school, Dave ventured to Ball State University, where he graduated in 1969 with a degree in telecommunications. During his four years at Ball State, Dave got his first taste of broadcasting as a disc jockey on student-run radio station WAGO-AM 570.

Dave’s first job:

After graduation, Dave moved right into television and radio, working as both a radio deejay and as a weatherman on Indianapolis' WTHR. It;;s here, the legend goes, that Letterman famously referred to hail as "the size of canned hams."

The Early Years:

Creative juices flowing, Dave moved to Los Angeles in 1975 to pursue a career in show business. He worked various jobs: sit-com writer, stand-up comic, and as a cast member on Mary Tyler Moore's variety show, Mary. His unique, deadpan humor caught the attention of Johnny Carson, and Dave was soon a regular guest on The Tonight Show.

Becoming a talk show host:

Probably in 1978, when he started guest hosting The Tonight Show. His success in that enormous venue led to his own television program, The David Letterman Show, which aired, unsuccessfully, in the morning hours.

After its cancellation (it was on for just a summer), things moved forward with a revamped idea - same David Letterman, same sense of humor, different time slot. In 1982, Late Night with David Letterman debuted.

A key moment in his career:

His decision to leave NBC after 11 years, sparked by NBC’s announcement that Jay Leno would take over Carson's spot as host of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Though nothing is certain, the story suggests that Dave, bitter about the network's decision, was advised by Carson to leave the network altogether.

The "shift" saw Dave land at CBS with The Late Show, Jay on Tonight, and unknown Conan O'Brien taking over Late Night.

What does the future hold?:

More comedy, more antics, and a more subdued David Letterman. After quintuple bypass surgery in 2000, Dave has been a bit kinder and gentler. He seems more relaxed and comfortable in his role as king of late night, less concerned with ratings and whatnot. It's a good Dave, a better Dave, one that more closely resembles the Dave we fell in love with 25 years ago.

And Just For Fun:

  • Was a good friend of Johnny Carson. Carson often sent Dave jokes to use in his monologue. The day after Carson’s death, Dave filled his monologue with jokes written by Carson.

  • Dave is a racing fan - not unexpected having grown up in Indianapolis. He owns an Indy Racing League team, Rahal Letterman Racing, with racing legend Bobby Rahal.

  • Ended a "so-called feud" with Oprah Winfrey (neither admits to knowing what the feud was about) in 2005, when Oprah appeared on his show for the first time in 16 years.

  • In 1985, Letterman established the Letterman Telecommunications Scholarship at Ball State, which provides financial assistance to students, based solely on his or her creativity, and not high academic grades.

  • Celebrated 25 years in late night television in 2007.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.