David Letterman: the man, the legend

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In light of the new announcement made about him leaving the late night show format, David Letterman is now an even bigger sensation on the web. Everyone knows who David Letterman is, at least from afar, most people know he is famous for his funny late-night shows, interviewing the likes of Madonna, Cher and even captain Kirk himself, William Shatner. Let’s state the most common things known about him:

  • He has been on the screen in the late-night format ever since 1982, which by now means 33 years.
  • For this careers he has included in the 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time, where he currently holds position 45.
  • In 2013 his show became the longest running late-night show ad 31 years. By now it is leader by far.
  • He has his own company through which he produces various shows like Everybody Loves Raymond. The company is called Worldwide Pants.

These are all common knowledge about David Letterman and his career. As of May 20 2015 he will be retiring from the show that made him famous and will be passing on the baton to Stephen Colbert. Some are sad about this, some are curious of what’s to come. However until then let’s take a look at the man that is David Letterman, taken out of the Late Night with context.

Life before the late nights

It takes a lot of hard and persistent work to become famous and popular. Letterman’s career started with a summer job as a temporary news announcer. As he began to like the thing we call TV, he stayed there looking to pursue higher dreams. He became the station’s weather man and just a little later he started his first talk show. It was broadcast Saturday mornings. Believe it or not, it was made for children! That’s something you wouldn’t expect from the Grinch looking Letterman.

The 4H-s and Letterman

I bet you could hardly imagine the showman presenting a serious topic. But let’s see some further facts.

In his Saturday morning show, Letterman interviewed 4H members, who could present their projects on empowering 12-years-old and elder children to become more engaged citizens, enthusiastic volunteers and committed leaders. Professional sportsmen, successful managers, politicians and even astronauts have grown up thanks to the confidence and innovative thinking which they learned as 4H members. The projects that they could present on air covered a wide range of topics from healthy eating to wall climbing, from teaching baby-sitting to learning about sustainable agricultural practices.

This first show-time appearance on television was really important both for the dissemination of 4H values, and for the popularity of David Letterman. As a host of this morning show, he could gain experience. Working for the channel also gave him the opportunity to try himself as a night-show moderator. His humor was slowly coming to the surface and he also appeared as a stand-up comedian. A decade later he was ready to start his comedy show at the same Saturday morning time, but now for adults.

What is 4-H

The title of the first Letterman show was Clover Power. Clover is the token of a nationwide program in the United States, which is aimed at mostly providing chances for young people via clubs, camps and various events organized by universities, made available by schools and parish communities. The green color of the clover refers to hope given to the targeted children and society, whereas the four leaves of the plant remind the members of the four most important values to be spread, namely: Head (thinking), Heart (caring), Hands (working), Health (living). So, in the US, talking about the 4H-s means talking about a mission.

The turn of the century and health issues

David Letterman has gained popularity as well as several awards thanks to his surreal humor, which he has also shown as an actor in several films, a writer and a producer of his late night program. His career was going unbroken up until 2000, when, at the age of 53, he had to get heart surgery. The already loyal audience had to miss the showman for 34 days.

Another weird fact is that he missed 34 days again three years later due to shingles. You may be asking for a reason supposing that he was just too vain to appear with some blisters around his mouth – which is the usual symptom of a light herpes infection every fifth of us tends to get. Well, he was not that lucky. Continuous stress might have been the major cause of his rather serious disease, which occurred with severe pain in his eyes which were red due to the inflammation. As he put it, “I looked like somebody gave me a beating”.

Luckily, this did not mean the turn of Letterman’s career. Fourteen celebrities, whom he had invited as guests previously, would take up his role as host of the show until his full recovery. Upon his return, he thanked both his doctor and his friends for the help by interviewing all of them on the show. Referring to his earlier “break”, he greeted the audience saying “I am back from my annual bypass”.


It is funny to think of the fact that emblematic figures, like a forever-young comedian who always makes jokes, would like to retire. Of course, they cannot do that the same way as everyday people do. Letterman officially informed CBS, the channel of the Late Show that he intended to finish his career as a showman. His last show is planned to be on air in May 2015. It is strange to accept that someone, whom you can see regularly on your screen, will disappear.

It is good to know that it is not his health conditions that force him to give it up. Actually, the personal reason behind his decision is family: his second wife gave birth to a son in 2003, the same year when he suffered from shingles. The showman wishes to spend more time with his son and cut down on stress, which not only makes one ill, but also takes too much away from family life.

Most people have fun in front of a TV set just viewing his programs, however they leave out the fact that he is an intrinsically funny old man.