David Letterman : biography
David Michael Letterman (born April 12, 1947) is an American television host and comedian. He hosts the late night television talk show, Late Show with David Letterman, broadcast on CBS. Letterman has been a fixture on late night television since the 1982 debut of Late Night with David Letterman on NBC. Letterman recently surpassed friend and mentor Johnny Carson for having the longest late-night hosting career in the United States of America.
Letterman is also a television and film producer. His company Worldwide Pants produces his show as well as its network follow-up The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Worldwide Pants has also produced several prime-time comedies, the most successful of which was Everybody Loves Raymond, currently in syndication.
In 1996, David Letterman was ranked #45 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time.
Late Show with David Letterman
In 1992, Johnny Carson retired, and many fans believed that Letterman would become host of The Tonight Show. When NBC instead gave the job to Jay Leno, Letterman departed NBC to host his own late-night show on CBS, opposite The Tonight Show at 11:30 p.m., called the Late Show with David Letterman. The new show debuted on August 30, 1993 and was taped at the historic Ed Sullivan Theater, where Ed Sullivan taped his eponymous variety series from 1948 to 1971. For Letterman’s arrival, CBS spent $8 million in renovations. In addition to that cost, CBS also signed Letterman to a lucrative three-year, $14 million/year contract, doubling his Late Night salary. The total cost for everything (renovations, negotiation right paid to NBC, signing Letterman, announcer Bill Wendell, Shaffer, the writers and the band) was over $140 million.
But while the expectation was that Letterman would retain his unique style and sense of humor with the move, Late Show was not an exact replica of his old NBC program. Recognizing the more formal mood (and wider audience) of his new time slot and studio, Letterman eschewed his trademark blazer with khaki pants and white sneakers wardrobe combination in favor of expensive shoes, tailored suits and light-colored socks. The monologue was lengthened and Paul Shaffer and the "World’s Most Dangerous Band" followed Letterman to CBS, but they added a brass section and were rebranded the "CBS Orchestra" as a short monologue and a small band were mandated by Carson while Letterman occupied the 12:30 slot. Additionally, because of intellectual property disagreements, Letterman was unable to import many of his Late Night segments verbatim, but he sidestepped this problem by simply renaming them (the "Top Ten List" became the "Late Show Top Ten", "Viewer Mail" became the "CBS Mailbag", etc.)
The main competitor of The Late Show is NBC’s The Tonight Show, which was hosted by Jay Leno for nearly 16 years, but from June 1, 2009, to January 22, 2010, was hosted by Conan O’Brien. In 1993 and 1994, The Late Show consistently gained higher ratings than The Tonight Show. But in 1995, ratings dipped and Leno’s show consistently beat Letterman’s in the ratings from the time that Hugh Grant came on Leno’s show after Grant’s arrest for soliciting a prostitute.; Leno typically attracted about 5 million nightly viewers between 1999 and 2009. The Late Show lost nearly half its audience during its competition with Leno, attracting 7.1 million viewers nightly in its 1993–94 season and about 3.8 million per night as of Leno’s departure in 2009. In the final months of his first stint as host of The Tonight Show, Leno beat Letterman in the ratings by a 1.3 million viewer margin (5.2 million to 3.9 million), and Nightline and The Late Show were virtually tied. May 7, 2009 Once O’Brien took over Tonight, however, Letterman closed the gap in the ratings. O’Brien initially drove the median age of Tonight Show viewers from 55 to 45, with most older viewers opting to watch The Late Show instead.