TV Trivia: Late Show With David Letterman

Q1. Who was David Letterman’s first guest when the Late Show with David Letterman premiered 33 years ago?

Q2. Who has David Letterman credited for having the most influence on his career?   

david letterman 2009, the late show with david letterman, senior citizen, septuagenarianYesterday, May 20 2015, David Letterman ended a 33 year run as a late night talk show host. His late night journey began back in February 1982 on NBC with Late Night with David Letterman (1982-1993). When Letterman failed to be given the retiring Johnny Carson’s timeslot by NBC in 1992, David departed for CBS. The current Late Show with David Letterman premiered August 30, 1993 on CBS.

Right, David Letterman in 2009. (Photo: Rubenstein | Flickr CC)

Letterman was born in Indianapolis, Indiana and began his show biz career as a radio talk show host, then moved to television to star in a kiddie show, a Saturday morning talk show host, and local television anchor and weatherman. His weather reports showed his comedy slant:

From space you can see the border between Indiana and Ohio has been erased. I’m not in favour of this“.

He moved to Los Angeles in 1975, began performing at L.A.’s famous The Comedy Store, and wrote jokes for comedian Jimmie Walker’s stand-up act. In 1980 he had his own short-run morning comedy show on NBC, The David Letterman Show. Two years later he was back on NBC with Late Night with David Letterman.

To woo Letterman away from NBC, CBS doubled his Late Night salary and signed him to a $14 million/year contract for 3 years, and renovated the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City (to the tune of another $8 million). Popular recurring segments on both Late Night shows (under different names) included stupid pet tricks, top 10 lists, reading viewers mail, etc. Canadian bandleader Paul Shaffer also appeared on both shows.

Why did David Letterman retire? He said many times he wanted to spend more time with his 2nd wife Regina Lasko and their 11 year old son Harry. And tellingly, in a recent interview with Alexandra Klausner (, he implied that he was feeling increasingly out of touch with today’s younger generations; the demographic that at one time, fueled the Late Show fires when the baby boomer generations were younger and could still stay awake after 11pm:

There’s no cure to being 68…the number of people who are wildly popular on television or music or the Internet that I don’t have any knowledge of is endless. I’m constantly going, ‘Who is so-and-so? Who LIKES so-and-so?’ It’s like I’m the drifter who’s wandered into town and doesn’t know anybody…

Although now a senior citizen at age 68 and retiring from Late Show with David Letterman, Letterman has other irons already in the fire that he may choose to play with in his retirement. He owns Worldwide Pants, a film and television production company known primarily for comedies and talk shows such as Everybody Loves Raymond, The Late Late Show, etc., and he has served as Executive Producer on many of their projects.

A2. Comedian Bill Murray was Letterman’s first guest in 1982 on Late Night with David Letterman, and again when the Late Show with David Letterman debuted in 1993.

A2. Letterman was first invited to appear on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1977, and in 1978 became a regular guest host for Carson. When Johnny decided to retire, he made it clear he wanted Letterman to take over his time slot/show at NBC. Carson also appeared as a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman. Letterman has said Carson was the person that had the most influence on his career.

Anita Hamilton

50+ World editor & baby boomer writer Anita Hamilton has always been interested in the "real people" stories behind the characters that create and inhabit the world of music, books, movies, television shows, current events, history, etc. A lifelong love of research (ok, nosiness) and writing, combined with a loving and supportive family complete with 3 mini-dachshund minions, keeps her busy.

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