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Late Night with David Letterman

Late Night with David Letterman

Overview
Late Night with David Letterman is a nightly hour-long comedy talk show on NBC
NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

 that was created and hosted by David Letterman
David Letterman
David Michael Letterman 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...

. It premiered in 1982 as the first incarnation of the Late Night franchise
Late Night (NBC)
Late Night is an American late-night talk and variety show airing on NBC since 1982. Late Night has been hosted by David Letterman , Conan O'Brien , and Jimmy Fallon...

 and went off the air in 1993, after Letterman left NBC and moved to Late Show
Late Show with David Letterman
Late Show with David Letterman is a U.S. late-night talk show hosted by David Letterman on CBS. The show debuted on August 30, 1993, and is produced by Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants Incorporated. The show's music director and band-leader of the house band, the CBS Orchestra, is...

 on CBS
CBS
CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

. Late Night with Conan O'Brien
Late Night with Conan O'Brien
Late Night with Conan O'Brien is an American late-night talk show hosted by Conan O'Brien that aired 2,725 episodes on NBC between 1993 and 2009. The show featured varied comedic material, celebrity interviews, and musical and comedy performances. Late Night aired weeknights at 12:37 am...

 then filled the time slot. As of March 2, 2009, the slot has been filled by Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon is an American late-night talk show hosted by Jimmy Fallon on NBC. The show premiered on March 2, 2009, as the third incarnation of the Late Night franchise originated by David Letterman....

.

After his morning show
The David Letterman Show
The David Letterman Show was a live morning NBC talk show hosted by David Letterman from June 23 to October 24, 1980. The show originally ran for 90 minutes, then 60 minutes from August 4 onward.-Background:...

 on NBC got cancelled in October 1980 after only 18 weeks on the air, David Letterman was still held in sufficient regard by the network brass (especially NBC president Fred Silverman
Fred Silverman
Fred Silverman is an American television executive and producer. He worked as an executive at the CBS, ABC and NBC networks, and was responsible for bringing to television such programs as the series Scooby-Doo , All in the Family , The Waltons , and Charlie's Angels , as well as the...

) that upon hearing the 33-year-old comedian is being courted by a syndication
Television syndication
In broadcasting, syndication is the sale of the right to broadcast radio shows and television shows by multiple radio stations and television stations, without going through a broadcast network, though the process of syndication may conjure up structures like those of a network itself, by its very...

 company, NBC gave him a $20,000 per week deal to sit out a year and guest-host a few times on Johnny Carson
Johnny Carson
John William "Johnny" Carson was an American television host and comedian, known as host of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson for 30 years . Carson received six Emmy Awards including the Governor Award and a 1985 Peabody Award; he was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1987...

's Tonight Show
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson is a talk show hosted by Johnny Carson under the Tonight Show franchise from 1962 to 1992. It originally aired during late-night....

.

On 9 November 1981, NBC and Carson's production company Carson Productions
Carson Productions
Carson Productions is a television production company established by Johnny Carson in 1980 to primarily produce The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson from 1980 to 1992 and Late Night with David Letterman from 1982 to 1993....

 announced the creation of Late Night with David Letterman, set to premiere in early 1982 in the 12:30 a.m.
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Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Late Night with David Letterman is a nightly hour-long comedy talk show on NBC
NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

 that was created and hosted by David Letterman
David Letterman
David Michael Letterman 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...

. It premiered in 1982 as the first incarnation of the Late Night franchise
Late Night (NBC)
Late Night is an American late-night talk and variety show airing on NBC since 1982. Late Night has been hosted by David Letterman , Conan O'Brien , and Jimmy Fallon...

 and went off the air in 1993, after Letterman left NBC and moved to Late Show
Late Show with David Letterman
Late Show with David Letterman is a U.S. late-night talk show hosted by David Letterman on CBS. The show debuted on August 30, 1993, and is produced by Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants Incorporated. The show's music director and band-leader of the house band, the CBS Orchestra, is...

 on CBS
CBS
CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

. Late Night with Conan O'Brien
Late Night with Conan O'Brien
Late Night with Conan O'Brien is an American late-night talk show hosted by Conan O'Brien that aired 2,725 episodes on NBC between 1993 and 2009. The show featured varied comedic material, celebrity interviews, and musical and comedy performances. Late Night aired weeknights at 12:37 am...

 then filled the time slot. As of March 2, 2009, the slot has been filled by Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon is an American late-night talk show hosted by Jimmy Fallon on NBC. The show premiered on March 2, 2009, as the third incarnation of the Late Night franchise originated by David Letterman....

.

History


After his morning show
The David Letterman Show
The David Letterman Show was a live morning NBC talk show hosted by David Letterman from June 23 to October 24, 1980. The show originally ran for 90 minutes, then 60 minutes from August 4 onward.-Background:...

 on NBC got cancelled in October 1980 after only 18 weeks on the air, David Letterman was still held in sufficient regard by the network brass (especially NBC president Fred Silverman
Fred Silverman
Fred Silverman is an American television executive and producer. He worked as an executive at the CBS, ABC and NBC networks, and was responsible for bringing to television such programs as the series Scooby-Doo , All in the Family , The Waltons , and Charlie's Angels , as well as the...

) that upon hearing the 33-year-old comedian is being courted by a syndication
Television syndication
In broadcasting, syndication is the sale of the right to broadcast radio shows and television shows by multiple radio stations and television stations, without going through a broadcast network, though the process of syndication may conjure up structures like those of a network itself, by its very...

 company, NBC gave him a $20,000 per week deal to sit out a year and guest-host a few times on Johnny Carson
Johnny Carson
John William "Johnny" Carson was an American television host and comedian, known as host of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson for 30 years . Carson received six Emmy Awards including the Governor Award and a 1985 Peabody Award; he was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1987...

's Tonight Show
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson is a talk show hosted by Johnny Carson under the Tonight Show franchise from 1962 to 1992. It originally aired during late-night....

.

On 9 November 1981, NBC and Carson's production company Carson Productions
Carson Productions
Carson Productions is a television production company established by Johnny Carson in 1980 to primarily produce The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson from 1980 to 1992 and Late Night with David Letterman from 1982 to 1993....

 announced the creation of Late Night with David Letterman, set to premiere in early 1982 in the 12:30 a.m. time slot Monday through Thursday, with occasional specials every few Fridays, all aimed at young men. The network wanted to capitalize on catering to young males, feeling that there's very little late-night programming for that demographic. The newly announced show thus displaced the Tomorrow Coast to Coast
Tomorrow (TV series)
Tomorrow was an American late-night television talk show hosted by Tom Snyder...

 program hosted by Tom Snyder
Tom Snyder
Thomas James "Tom" Snyder was an American television personality, news anchor and radio personality best known for his late night talk shows The Tomorrow Show, on the NBC television network in the 1970s and 1980s, and The Late Late Show, on the CBS Television Network in the 1990s...

 from the 12:30 slot. NBC initially offered Snyder to move his show back an hour, but after refusing, he got cancelled. The final first-run Tomorrow episode aired on 17 December 1981.

Debut


The staff responsible for preparing Late Night consisted of Letterman's girlfriend Merrill Markoe
Merrill Markoe
Merrill Markoe is an author, an Emmy Award-winning television writer and a sometime standup comedienne.-Career:Markoe attended the University of California, Berkeley, receiving a B.A. in Art in 1970 and an M.A. in 1972...

 in the head writing role, in addition to seasoned TV veteran Hal Gurnee
Hal Gurnee
Hal Gurnee is an American television director who directed all of the television shows hosted by David Letterman on NBC. Gurnee directed the Emmy award-winning but short-lived NBC daytime program The David Letterman Show, then moved with Letterman to Late Night with David Letterman in 1982...

 directing the show, Robert Morton
Robert Morton (producer)
Robert "Morty" Morton is an American television producer most notable for his work as a producer and later co-executive producer of the NBC program Late Night with David Letterman....

 and Barry Sand as executive producers, and a group of young writers - most of them in their early twenties. The plan from the start was to resurrect the spirit of Letterman's morning show for a late-night audience, one more likely to plug into his offbeat humor. The show also got a house band, hiring prominent musician Paul Shaffer
Paul Shaffer
Paul Allen Wood Shaffer, CM is a Canadian musician, actor, voice actor, author, comedian, and composer who has been David Letterman's sidekick since 1982.-Early years:...

 to lead the group named The World's Most Dangerous Band.

Realizing NBC executives exhibited very little desire in micromanaging various aspects of the show, the staff felt confident they would be allowed to push outside of the mainstream talk-show boundaries and thus set about putting together a quirky, absurdest, and odd program. Snyder's Tomorrow re-runs continued until Thursday, January 28, 1982 and four days later on Monday, February 1, Late Night premiered with a cold opening
Cold open
A cold open in a television program or movie is the technique of jumping directly into a story at the beginning or opening of the show, before the title sequence or opening credits are shown...

 featuring Larry "Bud" Melman delivering lines as an homage to the prologue of Boris Karloff
Boris Karloff
William Henry Pratt , better known by his stage name Boris Karloff, was an English actor.Karloff is best remembered for his roles in horror films and his portrayal of Frankenstein's monster in Frankenstein , Bride of Frankenstein , and Son of Frankenstein...

's Frankenstein
Frankenstein (1931 film)
Frankenstein is a 1931 Pre-Code Horror Monster film from Universal Pictures directed by James Whale and adapted from the play by Peggy Webling which in turn is based on the novel of the same name by Mary Shelley. The film stars Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, John Boles and Boris Karloff, and features...

 followed by Letterman coming out on stage behind a group of female dancers - the peacock girls. After a brief monologue, the very first comedy segment was a sarcastic tour of the studio. The first guest Bill Murray
Bill Murray
William James "Bill" Murray is an American actor and comedian. He first gained national exposure on Saturday Night Live in which he earned an Emmy Award and later went on to star in a number of critically and commercially successful comedic films, including Caddyshack , Ghostbusters , and...

 came out in confrontational fashion, throwing jibes and accusations at the host as part of a knowing put-on. He remained for two more similarly sardonic segments in which he first presented footage of a Chinese zoo baby panda from as the home video of his newly adopted pet, before expressing his new found love for aerobics
Aerobics
Aerobics is a form of physical exercise that combines rhythmic aerobic exercise with stretching and strength training routines with the goal of improving all elements of fitness...

 and pulling a crew member onstage, making her do jumping jacks
Jumping Jacks
Jumping Jacks is a 1952 film starring the comedy team of Martin and Lewis. The movie was released by Paramount Pictures.-Plot:Chick Allen is a paratrooper. He invites his former partner, Hap Smith , to help out with a show that he and the other soldiers are preparing...

 along with him to Olivia Newton-John
Olivia Newton-John
Olivia Newton-John AO, OBE is a singer and actress. She is a four-time Grammy award winner who has amassed five No. 1 and ten other Top Ten Billboard Hot 100 singles and two No. 1 Billboard 200 solo albums. Eleven of her singles and 14 of her albums have been certified gold by the RIAA...

's "Physical
Physical (Olivia Newton-John song)
"Physical" is a song by Australian pop singer Olivia Newton-John, released in September 1981. The song was an immediate success, shipping 2 million copies in the United States, being certified Platinum, and spending 10 weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, ultimately becoming Newton-John's...

". The second comedy piece was a remote titled "The Shame of the City"; taking a general format of a local news
Local news
In journalism, local news refers to news coverage of events in a local context which would not normally be of interest to those of other localities, or otherwise be of national or international scope.-Television:...

 action segment, it featured Letterman touring several New York locations pointing out various civic problems with righteous indignation. The second guest was Don Herbert
Don Herbert
Donald Jeffrey Herbert , better known as Mr. Wizard, was an American television personality...

, TV's "Mr. Wizard", and the show ended with a young comic named Steve Fessler reciting aloud the script of an obscure Bela Lugosi
Béla Lugosi
Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó , commonly known as Bela Lugosi, was a Hungarian actor of stage and screen. He was best known for having played Count Dracula in the Broadway play and subsequent film version, as well as having starred in several of Ed Wood's low budget films in the last years of his...

 movie Bowery at Midnight
Bowery at Midnight
Bowery at Midnight is a horror film starring Bela Lugosi. Lugosi plays a psychology professor by day who, secretly and under an assumed name, runs a Bowery soup kitchen by night called the Bowery Friendly Mission...

.

The reviews were mixed - Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Times is a daily newspaper published in Los Angeles, California, since 1881. It was the second-largest metropolitan newspaper in circulation in the United States in 2008 and the fourth most widely distributed newspaper in the country....

 wrote: "Much of Letterman's first week did not jell" - but more importantly, the show drew 1.5 million viewers, 30% more than had tuned in for Snyder's Tomorrow.

On the third night, after baseball great Hank Aaron finished his interview segment with Letterman, a camera followed him backstage, where TV sporstcaster Al Albert conducted a post-interview chat with Aaron about how it had gone. Eccentric and awkward, the show immediately established a sensibility that's clearly different from The Tonight Shows. Carson, for his part wanted Late Night to have as little overlap with his show as possible. In fact most ground rules and restrictions on what Letterman could or couldn't do didn't come from the network, but from Carson's production company. Since Late Night followed The Tonight Show, Letterman couldn't have a sidekick like Ed McMahon
Ed McMahon
Edward Peter "Ed" McMahon, Jr. was an American comedian, game show host and announcer. He is most famous for his work on television as Johnny Carson's sidekick and announcer on The Tonight Show from 1962 to 1992. He also hosted the original version of the talent show Star Search from 1983 to 1995...

, and Paul Shaffer's band couldn't include a horn section like Doc Severinsen
Doc Severinsen
Carl Hilding "Doc" Severinsen is an American pop and jazz trumpeter. He is best known for leading the NBC Orchestra on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.-Early life:...

's. What's more, Letterman was told he couldn't book any of the old-school showbiz guests such as Don Rickles
Don Rickles
Donald Jay "Don" Rickles is an American stand-up comedian and actor. A frequent guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Rickles has acted in comedic and dramatic roles, but is best known as an insult comic....

, Bob Newhart
Bob Newhart
George Robert Newhart , known professionally as Bob Newhart, is an American stand-up comedian and actor. Noted for his deadpan and slightly stammering delivery, Newhart came to prominence in the 1960s when his album of comedic monologues The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart was a worldwide...

 and the like who were fixtures on Johnny's show. Letterman was also specifically asked by Carson's show not to replicate any of their signature pieces like "Stump the Band" or "Carnac the Magnificent". Carson's people also didn't want Letterman doing any topical jokes in his opening monologue. To make sure restrictions were obeyed, a Carson representative visited the set several times a week.

Upside Down Show


At one point later in the series, Peter Ustinov
Peter Ustinov
Peter Alexander Ustinov CBE was an English actor, writer and dramatist. He was also renowned as a filmmaker, theatre and opera director, stage designer, author, screenwriter, comedian, humourist, newspaper and magazine columnist, radio broadcaster and television presenter...

 was a guest on the one-shot "upside down" episode, during which the televised image was gradually rotated 360 degrees during the course of the hour; Ustinov appeared midway through and was photographed upside down in close-up as he spoke while his host only appeared in long shots.

Leaving NBC


After the battle for The Tonight Show
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson is a talk show hosted by Johnny Carson under the Tonight Show franchise from 1962 to 1992. It originally aired during late-night....

, when NBC gave it to comedian Jay Leno
Jay Leno
James Douglas Muir "Jay" Leno is an American stand-up comedian and television host.From 1992 to 2009, Leno was the host of NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Beginning in September 2009, Leno started a primetime talk show, titled The Jay Leno Show, which aired weeknights at 10:00 p.m. ,...

, Letterman decided to take an offer from CBS for a late night talk show to compete with The Tonight Show
The Tonight Show
The Tonight Show is an American late-night talk show that has aired on NBC since 1954. It is the longest currently running regularly scheduled entertainment program in the United States, and the third longest-running show on NBC, after Meet the Press and Today.The Tonight Show has been hosted by...

. So in 1993, Letterman and his crew moved to CBS and Late Show with David Letterman
Late Show with David Letterman
Late Show with David Letterman is a U.S. late-night talk show hosted by David Letterman on CBS. The show debuted on August 30, 1993, and is produced by Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants Incorporated. The show's music director and band-leader of the house band, the CBS Orchestra, is...

 was born, beginning on August 30, 1993, although NBC would air repeats of Late Night until September 10, 1993. Up until this, the three competing television broadcast networks tried to create talk shows to compete with the success of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, but all failed. A total of 1,819 shows were broadcast during its eleven and a half year run (an episode on January 16, 1991 went unaired due to pre-emption for coverage the beginning of the Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

; the program had already been shot before word came out of Baghdad that United States airstrikes were beginning).

Production and scheduling


Late Night originated from NBC Studio 6A at the RCA (later GE) Building
GE Building
The GE Building is an Art Deco skyscraper that forms the centerpiece of Rockefeller Center in the midtown Manhattan section of New York City. Known as the RCA Building until 1988, it is most famous for housing the headquarters of the television network NBC...

 at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. The program ran four nights a week, Monday to Thursday, from the show's premiere on February 1, 1982 until May 1987. Friday shows were added in June 1987 (NBC previously aired Friday Night Videos
Friday Night Videos
Friday Night Videos is an American music video show broadcast on the NBC television network from July 29, 1983 to December 30, 2000, and was the network's attempt to capitalize on the emerging popularity of music videos as seen on MTV...

 in the 12:30 a.m. slot with occasional Late Night specials and reruns). Starting in September 1991, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson is a talk show hosted by Johnny Carson under the Tonight Show franchise from 1962 to 1992. It originally aired during late-night....

 was pushed back from 11:30 p.m. to 11:35 p.m., with Letterman starting at 12:35 a.m., at the request of NBC affiliates who wanted more advertising time for their profitable late newscasts.

Syndication


In September 1991, the A&E Network
A&E Network
The A&E Network is a United States-based cable and satellite television network with headquarters in New York City and offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, London, Los Angeles and Stamford. A&E also airs in Canada and Latin America. Initially named the Arts & Entertainment Network, A&E launched...

 began airing reruns. The reruns lasted only until the summer of 1992. This first syndication deal was done against Letterman's wishes and he frequently made his displeasure known on-air (he felt having reruns air five nights a week, earlier in the evening and on another network, diluted the value of the first-run shows). Because of this the syndication run was ended early and not attempted again until he had left NBC.

In mid-1993, E!
E!
E! Entertainment Television is an American basic cable and satellite television network, owned by NBCUniversal. It features entertainment-related programming, reality television, feature films and occasionally series and specials unrelated to the entertainment industry.E! has an audience reach of...

 Entertainment Television purchased broadcast rights to Late Night. The network aired complete shows from various years five days per week from 1993 until 1996. Then Trio
Trio (TV network)
Trio was an American cable and satellite television network.Trio went on the air in 1997, then originally owned and operated jointly by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Power Broadcasting Inc. as a venue for airing the CBC's arts, culture and entertainment programming in the U.S...

 (owned by NBC) picked up reruns and showed them from 2002 until the channel went off the air in 2005.

A number of programs were sold by GoodTimes Entertainment
GoodTimes Entertainment
GoodTimes Entertainment, Ltd. was a home video company that originated in 1984 under the name of GoodTimes Home Video. Though it produced its own titles, the company was well-known due to its distribution of media from third parties and classics...

 in 1992–93. These episodes were stripped of the series theme, open and close. No DVD release is currently scheduled (GoodTimes went bankrupt in 2005; the company's assets are now owned by Gaiam
Gaiam
Gaiam is a "lifestyle company" that sells products catered toward healthy and sustainable living.Gaiam is probably best known for fitness media, such as its award-winning yoga routine videos taught by well-known instructors such as Rodney Yee....

, which does not typically distribute general-interest programming).

Letterman moves to CBS


Letterman, who had hoped to get the hosting job of The Tonight Show
The Tonight Show
The Tonight Show is an American late-night talk show that has aired on NBC since 1954. It is the longest currently running regularly scheduled entertainment program in the United States, and the third longest-running show on NBC, after Meet the Press and Today.The Tonight Show has been hosted by...

 following Johnny Carson's retirement, moved to CBS in 1993, when the job was given to Jay Leno
Jay Leno
James Douglas Muir "Jay" Leno is an American stand-up comedian and television host.From 1992 to 2009, Leno was the host of NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Beginning in September 2009, Leno started a primetime talk show, titled The Jay Leno Show, which aired weeknights at 10:00 p.m. ,...

. This was done against the wishes of Carson, who had always seen Letterman as his rightful successor, according to CBS senior vice president Peter Lassally
Peter Lassally
Peter Lassally is a former Carson Productions executive who served as the executive producer of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Late Night with David Letterman, and the Late Show with David Letterman...

, a onetime producer for both men. On April 25, 1993, Lorne Michaels
Lorne Michaels
Lorne Michaels, CM is a Canadian-American television producer, writer, and comedian best known for creating and producing Saturday Night Live and producing the various film and TV projects that spun off from it.-Early life:...

 chose Conan O'Brien
Conan O'Brien
Conan Christopher O'Brien is an American television host, comedian, writer, producer and performer. Since November 2010 he has hosted Conan, a late-night talk show that airs on the American cable television station TBS....

, who was a writer for The Simpsons
The Simpsons
The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series is a satirical parody of a middle class American lifestyle epitomized by its family of the same name, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie...

 at the time and a former writer for Michaels at Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live is a live American late-night television sketch comedy and variety show developed by Lorne Michaels and Dick Ebersol. The show premiered on NBC on October 11, 1975, under the original title of NBC's Saturday Night.The show's sketches often parody contemporary American culture...

, to fill Letterman's old seat directly after The Tonight Show. O'Brien began hosting a new show
Late Night with Conan O'Brien
Late Night with Conan O'Brien is an American late-night talk show hosted by Conan O'Brien that aired 2,725 episodes on NBC between 1993 and 2009. The show featured varied comedic material, celebrity interviews, and musical and comedy performances. Late Night aired weeknights at 12:37 am...

 in Letterman's old timeslot, taking over the Late Night name.

When Letterman left, NBC asserted their intellectual property
Intellectual property
Intellectual property is a term referring to a number of distinct types of creations of the mind for which a set of exclusive rights are recognized—and the corresponding fields of law...

 rights to many of the most popular Late Night segments. Letterman easily adapted to these restrictions for his CBS show
Late Show with David Letterman
Late Show with David Letterman is a U.S. late-night talk show hosted by David Letterman on CBS. The show debuted on August 30, 1993, and is produced by Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants Incorporated. The show's music director and band-leader of the house band, the CBS Orchestra, is...

: the Viewer Mail segment was continued under the name CBS Mailbag, and the actor playing Larry "Bud" Melman continued his antics under his real name, Calvert DeForest
Calvert DeForest
Calvert Grant DeForest , also known by his character Larry "Bud" Melman, was an American actor and comedian, best known for his appearances on Late Night with David Letterman and the Late Show with David Letterman.-Early life:Little has been published about his early life...

. Similarly, the in-house band was unable to use the name "The World's Most Dangerous Band" so they instead called themselves the CBS Orchestra
CBS Orchestra
The CBS Orchestra is the house band, led by Paul Shaffer, that plays for David Letterman's CBS late-night talk show, Late Show with David Letterman...

starring Paul Shaffer. Both "The Late Show" and the "CBS Orchestra" are also resurrections of older franchises: "The Late Show
The Late Show (1986 TV series)
The Late Show is an American late-night talk show and the first series broadcast on the then-new Fox Network. Originally hosted by comic actress Joan Rivers, it first aired on October 9, 1986 under the title The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers...

" was originally a FOX
Fox Broadcasting Company
Fox Broadcasting Company, commonly referred to as Fox Network or simply Fox , is an American commercial broadcasting television network owned by Fox Entertainment Group, part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Launched on October 9, 1986, Fox was the highest-rated broadcast network in the...

 attempt at a late night talk show, and CBS Orchestra was also the name of the band that played on CBS Radio Network on occasion.

Format


Like other talk shows, the show featured at least two or three guests each night, usually including a comedian or musical guest.

Letterman frequently used crew members in his comedy bits, so viewers got to know the writers and crew members of the show. Common contributors included bandleader
Bandleader
A bandleader is the leader of a band of musicians. The term is most commonly, though not exclusively, used with a group that plays popular music as a small combo or a big band, such as one which plays jazz, blues, rhythm and blues or rock and roll music....

 Paul Shaffer
Paul Shaffer
Paul Allen Wood Shaffer, CM is a Canadian musician, actor, voice actor, author, comedian, and composer who has been David Letterman's sidekick since 1982.-Early years:...

, Chris Elliott
Chris Elliott
Christopher Nash "Chris" Elliott is an American actor, comedian and writer. He is best known for his comedic sketches on Late Night with David Letterman, starring in the cult comedy series Get a Life and for his recurring role as Peter MacDougall on Everybody Loves Raymond...

, Calvert DeForest
Calvert DeForest
Calvert Grant DeForest , also known by his character Larry "Bud" Melman, was an American actor and comedian, best known for his appearances on Late Night with David Letterman and the Late Show with David Letterman.-Early life:Little has been published about his early life...

 as "Larry 'Bud' Melman," announcer
Announcer
An announcer is a presenter who makes "announcements" in an audio medium or a physical location.-Television and other media:Some announcers work in television production , radio or filmmaking, usually providing narrations, news updates, station identification, or an introduction of a product in...

 Bill Wendell
Bill Wendell
Bill Wendell was an NBC television staff announcer for almost his entire professional career.-Biography:...

, writer Adam Resnick
Adam Resnick
Adam Resnick is an American comedy writer from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He is best known for his work writing for Late Night with David Letterman....

, scenic designer Kathleen Ankers
Kathleen Ankers
Kathleen Ankers was an American scenic designer. Born in Ealing, London, she moved to the US in the late 1940s. She did occasional Broadway costume design and set design Kathleen Ankers (22 October 1919 - 24 October 2001, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City) was an American scenic designer. ...

, stage manager Biff Henderson
Biff Henderson
James Jackson "Biff" Henderson, Jr. is an American comedian and television personality best known for his work on The Late Show with David Letterman. He is the show's stage manager and appears in occasional humorous segments, often involving interviewing people he meets in public places or at...

, producer
Television producer
The primary role of a television Producer is to allow all aspects of video production, ranging from show idea development and cast hiring to shoot supervision and fact-checking...

 Robert Morton
Robert Morton (producer)
Robert "Morty" Morton is an American television producer most notable for his work as a producer and later co-executive producer of the NBC program Late Night with David Letterman....

, director Hal Gurnee, associate director Peter Fatovich, stage hand Al Maher, camera operator Baily Stortz and the "production twins," Barbara Gaines and Jude Brennan.

Letterman's show established a reputation for being unpredictable. A number of celebrities had even stated that they were afraid of appearing on the show. This reputation was born out of moments like Letterman's verbal sparring matches with Cher
Cher
Cher is an American recording artist, television personality, actress, director, record producer and philanthropist. Referred to as the Goddess of Pop, she has won an Academy Award, a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award, three Golden Globes and a Cannes Film Festival Award among others for her work in...

, Shirley MacLaine
Shirley MacLaine
Shirley MacLaine is an American film and theater actress, singer, dancer, activist and author, well-known for her beliefs in new age spirituality and reincarnation. She has written a large number of autobiographical works, many dealing with her spiritual beliefs as well as her Hollywood career...

 and Harvey Pekar
Harvey Pekar
Harvey Lawrence Pekar was an American underground comic book writer, music critic and media personality, best known for his autobiographical American Splendor comic series. In 2003, the series inspired a critically acclaimed film adaptation of the same name.Pekar described American Splendor as "an...

.

Recurring Late Night segments


  • The Top Ten List, from various "home offices"
  • Stupid Pet Tricks
    Stupid Pet Tricks
    "Stupid Pet Tricks", and, subsequently, "Stupid Human Tricks", are well-known segments on Late Night with David Letterman, and, later, The Late Show with David Letterman....

  • Stupid Human Tricks
  • Viewer Mail
  • Supermarket Finds
  • Velcro Suit
  • Suit of Rice Krispies
    Rice Krispies
    Rice Krispies is a breakfast cereal that was created by Clayton Rindlisbacher for the Kellogg company, and later marketed by Kellogg's in 1927 and released to the public in 1928...

  • Dumb Ads
  • "Lucky Numbers"
  • Small Town News
  • Ask Mr. Melman (Larry "Bud" Melman)
  • Dave's Record Collection
  • Short plays presented by the Peace Through Dramatization Players (featuring Chris Ellott, Gerard Mulligan and other Late Night writers)
  • A series of "Guy" characters portrayed by Chris Elliott. Each of these characters made numerous appearances over the course of a year or two before being retired, amidst much mock fanfare. Then Elliott would appear a few episodes later playing the next in his series of "Guy" characters.
    • The Panicky Guy : Elliot would pretend to be an audience member who panics and runs from the studio at the slightest threat of danger (similar to doomed characters in disaster movies
      Disaster film
      A disaster film is a film genre that has an impending or ongoing disaster as its subject...

      ). Once in the hallway he would be run over and crushed by an advancing floor waxer, with his hands raised in terror. In one variation, he played a German Panicky Guy in Lederhosen, who was run over by a hand dolly full of cheese wheels.
    • The Conspiracy Guy: Elliott would again pretend to be an audience member, this time asking Dave a question. Things would quickly devolve into his character shouting and making crazy accusations about Dave before being forcibly removed from the set by two goons.
    • The Guy Under the Seats: a short character-comedy bit by Elliott who emerges from a hatchway underneath the seats in the studio audience. Immediately followed thereafter by Elliott as himself (portraying himself as living under the seats, that is) chatting amiably with Letterman. At some point Letterman would make an innocuous comment or innocent joke causing Elliott to overreact, threaten Letterman with some metaphorically articulated future comeuppance and withdraw back under the seats with the admonition "But until that day, I'm gonna be right here, making your life ..a living hell."
    • The Fugitive Guy: Every so often, Letterman would introduce "Roger Thompson" (Elliott, wearing an extremely bad toupée), a new member of the Late Night crew. In each appearance, "Thompson" would have a different low-level job (e.g., cue card holder, tambourine player for the band), and would grow increasingly nervous as Letterman amiably asked Thompson innocuous questions about his job and his life. Fairly quickly, Thompson would break down under the "grilling," and would then hear the approach of "the one-legged man" and flee. This sketch was a parody of The Fugitive
      The Fugitive (TV series)
      The Fugitive is an American drama series produced by QM Productions and United Artists Television that aired on ABC from 1963 to 1967. David Janssen stars as Richard Kimble, a doctor from the fictional town of Stafford, Indiana, who is falsely convicted of his wife's murder and given the death...

      , and eventually included a title sequence that parodied the original Quinn Martin
      Quinn Martin
      Quinn Martin was one of the most successful American television producers. He had at least one television series running in prime time for 21 straight years , an industry record.-Early life:...

       TV series theme. The Fugitive Guy sketches concluded with a final episode where Thompson confronted the one-legged man on a water tower.
    • The Regulator Guy: A series of expensive-looking promos for a Terminator
      Terminator (character concept)
      In the Terminator film series, a terminator is an autonomous robot, typically humanoid, originally conceived as a virtually indestructible soldier and assassin, as well as an infiltrator....

      -like action character aired on "Late Night" over a period of several months, with Elliott playing the super-cool half-human, half-mechanical "Regulator Guy," even speaking with a bad Schwarzenegger-esque accent. Repeatedly promoted during "Late Night" as "Coming soon to NBC!" the "Regulator Guy" appeared only once in a sketch on the show, but this appearance was a (deliberately) cheap and poorly-done affair, which ended with Letterman interviewing the new sidekick character, Ajax, while completely ignoring Elliott (much to his faux-chagrin).
    • The New Regulator Guy: Shortly after "The Regulator Guy" was retired, Elliott came back with a re-tooled version called "The New Regulator Guy." This character similarly did not last long.
  • Crushing Things With A Steamroller
  • Throwing Things Off A Five-Story Building
  • Crushing Things With An 80-Ton Hydraulic Press
  • Poetry with My Dog Stan
  • Charlie
    Lee Charles Kelley
    Lee Charles Kelley is an American novelist and dog trainer living in Manhattan.Kelley is the author of six detective novels featuring Jack Field, an NYPD homicide cop who loves dogs and hates people, so he takes early retirement, moves to Maine, and buys a boarding and training kennel, hoping to...

     the Bubble-Eating Dog (who never actually ate bubbles)
  • Visits with Meg Parsont in the Simon and Schuster Building
    • A camera would zoom in on the office of Parsont, an employee in the nearby Simon and Schuster Building, while Letterman spoke with her on the phone. Parsont also made an appearance on Letterman's CBS show in 1993.
  • Elevator Races
  • NBC Bookmobile
  • Peaboy (played by intern Dave Ellner wearing green tights and green Adidas, blowing athletic whistle, throwing frozen peas at audience)
  • Visits with Dave's Mom
    Dorothy Mengering
    Dorothy Marie Mengering , better known to Late Show viewers as Dave's Mom, is the mother of late-night talk show host David Letterman and frequent guest on his show....

     (Dorothy Mengering via remote from Carmel, Indiana
    Indiana
    Indiana is a US state, admitted to the United States as the 19th on December 11, 1816. It is located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. With 6,483,802 residents, the state is ranked 15th in population and 16th in population density. Indiana is ranked 38th in land area and is...

    )
  • Young Inventors
  • Marv Albert
    Marv Albert
    Marv Albert is an American television and radio sportscaster. Honored for his work as a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, he is commonly referred to as "the voice of basketball." From 1967–2004, he was also known as "the voice of the New York Knicks."Including Super Bowl XLII, Marv has called...

     with The Wild and the Wacky from the World of Sports
  • Visits with Jack Hanna
    Jack Hanna
    John Bushnell "Jack" Hanna is an American zookeeper who is the Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. He was Director of the zoo from 1978 to 1993, and is viewed as largely responsible for elevating its quality and reputation. His media appearances have made him one of the most...

  • Hal Gurnee's Network Time Killer
  • What's Hal Wearing?
  • Various 'cam' shots: Late Night Thrill Cam, Late Night Monkey Cam
  • Darlene Love's annual performance of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
    Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
    "Christmas " is a Christmas holiday song originally sung by Darlene Love and included on the 1963 Christmas compilation album, A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records. The song was written by Phil Spector, along with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, with the intentions of being sung by Ronnie...

    ". Love has performed the song live on the final new episode before Christmas every year since 1986 (continuing in 1993 on the CBS Late Show with David Letterman
    Late Show with David Letterman
    Late Show with David Letterman is a U.S. late-night talk show hosted by David Letterman on CBS. The show debuted on August 30, 1993, and is produced by Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants Incorporated. The show's music director and band-leader of the house band, the CBS Orchestra, is...

    ) except 2007: due to the Writers' Strike, the 2006 performance was replayed.

Memorable shows

  • February 1, 1982 – Dave's first show with guests Bill Murray
    Bill Murray
    William James "Bill" Murray is an American actor and comedian. He first gained national exposure on Saturday Night Live in which he earned an Emmy Award and later went on to star in a number of critically and commercially successful comedic films, including Caddyshack , Ghostbusters , and...

     and Don Herbert
    Don Herbert
    Donald Jeffrey Herbert , better known as Mr. Wizard, was an American television personality...

     aka "Mr. Wizard."
  • July 28, 1982 – Andy Kaufman
    Andy Kaufman
    Andrew Geoffrey "Andy" Kaufman was an American entertainer, actor and performance artist. While often referred to as a comedian, Kaufman did not consider himself one...

     and Jerry Lawler
    Jerry Lawler
    Jerry O'Neil Lawler is an American professional wrestler, wrestling commentator, musician, businessman, commercial artist and film actor, known throughout the wrestling world as Jerry "The King" Lawler. He is currently signed to WWE, working on its Raw brand as the color commentator and occasional...

     are guests. The two appear to get in a fight on the show with Lawler knocking Kaufman out of his chair. It is later revealed to have been staged.
  • October 6, 1983 - The American rock group R.E.M. made its debut American network television appearance on Late Night. The band performed a new unnamed song that eventually was titled "So. Central Rain", and became the first single from the band's second album, Reckoning
    Reckoning (R.E.M. album)
    Reckoning is the second album by the American alternative rock band R.E.M., released in 1984 by I.R.S. Records. Produced by Mitch Easter and Don Dixon, the album was recorded at Reflection Sound Studio in Charlotte, North Carolina over 16 days in December 1983 and January 1984...

    . After their performance, singer Michael Stipe
    Michael Stipe
    John Michael Stipe is an American singer and lyricist. He was the lead vocalist of the alternative rock band R.E.M.Stipe is noted and occasionally parodied for the "mumbling" style of his early career as well as his social and political activism. He was in charge of R.E.M.'s visual image; often...

     sat down on the drum riser, forcing Letterman to interview the other band members.
  • August 19, 1985 - Letterman used a bullhorn to interrupt NBC's The Today Show outdoor primetime taping in the Rockefeller Center
    Rockefeller Center
    Rockefeller Center is a complex of 19 commercial buildings covering between 48th and 51st streets in New York City, United States. Built by the Rockefeller family, it is located in the center of Midtown Manhattan, spanning the area between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue. It was declared a National...

    's lower plaza. Yelling from the RCA Building, he introduced himself as "the president of NBC News" and announced, among other things, that he was not wearing any pants. This incident became the cause of a long-time feud between Letterman and Today Show host Bryant Gumbel
    Bryant Gumbel
    Bryant Charles Gumbel is an American television journalist and sportscaster. He is best known for his 15 years as co-host of NBC's The Today Show. He is the younger brother of sportscaster Greg Gumbel.-Early life:...

    .
  • May 13–16, 1985 – The show travels to Los Angeles for a week of shows.
  • April 8, 1986 – A visit by Letterman with a camera crew to the GE Building
    GE Building
    The GE Building is an Art Deco skyscraper that forms the centerpiece of Rockefeller Center in the midtown Manhattan section of New York City. Known as the RCA Building until 1988, it is most famous for housing the headquarters of the television network NBC...

     shortly after General Electric
    General Electric
    General Electric Company , or GE, is an American multinational conglomerate corporation incorporated in Schenectady, New York and headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut, United States...

     purchased RCA
    RCA
    RCA Corporation, founded as the Radio Corporation of America, was an American electronics company in existence from 1919 to 1986. The RCA trademark is currently owned by the French conglomerate Technicolor SA through RCA Trademark Management S.A., a company owned by Technicolor...

     with a fruit basket results in the "G.E. Handshake", in which shortly before shaking hands with Letterman, a G.E. Security officer has his hand stretched for a handshake, but pulls it away before Letterman can grasp his hand while telling Letterman and the crew to get out of the building.
  • May 22, 1986 – Singer Cher
    Cher
    Cher is an American recording artist, television personality, actress, director, record producer and philanthropist. Referred to as the Goddess of Pop, she has won an Academy Award, a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award, three Golden Globes and a Cannes Film Festival Award among others for her work in...

     made an appearance where she got into a verbal sparring match with Letterman. At one point she called Letterman an "asshole
    Asshole
    The word asshole, a variant of arsehole, which is still prevalent in British and Australian English, is a term used pejoratively to describe the anus.-History:...

    ", which had to be bleeped.
  • May 18–21, 1987 - The show travels to Las Vegas for a week of shows.
  • July 28, 1987 – Actor Crispin Glover
    Crispin Glover
    Crispin Hellion Glover is an American film actor, director and screenwriter, recording artist, publisher, and author. Glover is known for portraying eccentric people on screen such as George McFly in Back to the Future, Layne in River's Edge, unfriendly recluse Rubin Farr in Rubin and Ed, the...

     appeared as a guest and gave one of the most bizarre interviews in the history of the show. At one point, the actor kicked at Letterman's head while wearing giant platform shoes, after which Letterman ended the segment, walking off the stage and saying "I'm going to go check on the Top Ten." Crispin later mentioned being in a character
    Rubin and Ed
    Rubin and Ed is an American independent comedy-buddy film written and directed by Trent Harris and released in 1991. It is about an eccentric, unsociable young man who is forced by his mother to make some friends before she'll return his stereo to him...

     during the interview.
  • November 13, 1987 – Sonny & Cher
    Sonny & Cher
    Sonny & Cher were an American pop music duo, actors, singers and entertainers made up of husband-and-wife team Sonny and Cher Bono in the 1960s and 1970s. The couple started their career in the mid-1960s as R&B backing singers for record producer Phil Spector....

     reunite and sing, for the last time together, "I Got You Babe
    I Got You Babe
    "I Got You Babe" is a 1965 #1 single by American pop music duo Sonny & Cher.-Background and composition:Sonny Bono, a songwriter and record producer for Phil Spector, wrote the lyrics to and composed the music of the song for himself and his then-wife, Cher, late at night in their basement. Session...

    ."
  • July 1, 1988 - Late Night's 1,000th show.
  • May 1–5, 1989 – The show travels to Chicago
    Chicago
    Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

     for a week of shows. Among the guest that week were Oprah Winfrey
    Oprah Winfrey
    Oprah Winfrey is an American media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer and philanthropist. Winfrey is best known for her self-titled, multi-award-winning talk show, which has become the highest-rated program of its kind in history and was nationally syndicated from 1986 to 2011...

     and Michael Jordan
    Michael Jordan
    Michael Jeffrey Jordan is a former American professional basketball player, active entrepreneur, and majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats...

    .
  • May 23, 1991 - Johnny Carson
    Johnny Carson
    John William "Johnny" Carson was an American television host and comedian, known as host of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson for 30 years . Carson received six Emmy Awards including the Governor Award and a 1985 Peabody Award; he was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1987...

     makes a surprise walk-on appearance on the show, only hours after announcing his decision to leave the Tonight Show in a year.
  • June 28, 1991 – Late Night's 1,500th show.
  • February 6, 1992 – Primetime 10th Anniversary Special
  • June 25, 1993 – Dave's last show with guest Tom Hanks
    Tom Hanks
    Thomas Jeffrey "Tom" Hanks is an American actor, producer, writer, and director. Hanks worked in television and family-friendly comedies, gaining wide notice in 1988's Big, before achieving success as a dramatic actor in several notable roles, including Andrew Beckett in Philadelphia, the title...

     and special musical guest Bruce Springsteen
    Bruce Springsteen
    Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen , nicknamed "The Boss," is an American singer-songwriter who records and tours with the E Street Band...

     performing "Glory Days".

Primetime Emmy Awards

  • 1982–83 Outstanding Writing in a Variety, Comedy or Music Program
  • 1983–84 Outstanding Writing in a Variety, Comedy or Music Program
  • 1984–85 Outstanding Writing in a Variety, Comedy or Music Program
  • 1985–86 Outstanding Writing in a Variety, Comedy or Music Program
  • 1989–90 Outstanding Directing in a Variety, Comedy or Music Program


The show was nominated as Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Series
The Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Series is a category in the Primetime Emmy Awards. It is awarded annually to the best variety show or similarly formatted program of the year....

 for 10 consecutive seasons, from its 2nd full season in 1983–84 through its final season in 1992–93. Including the nominations for the CBS Late Show variant, the Letterman team has been nominated 26 consecutive times in this category.

Peabody


In 1991, the show's three production companies — Carson Productions
Carson Productions
Carson Productions is a television production company established by Johnny Carson in 1980 to primarily produce The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson from 1980 to 1992 and Late Night with David Letterman from 1982 to 1993....

, Worldwide Pants
Worldwide Pants
Worldwide Pants Incorporated is an American television and film production company owned by comedian and talk show host David Letterman. Its ongoing productions are Late Show with David Letterman and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson...

, and NBC Productions — were awarded a Peabody Award
Peabody Award
The George Foster Peabody Awards recognize distinguished and meritorious public service by radio and television stations, networks, producing organizations and individuals. In 1939, the National Association of Broadcasters formed a committee to recognize outstanding achievement in radio broadcasting...

, which cited the following:

External links