David Letterman Announces His Retirement From The Late Show

regular in theory

 David Letterman is an All American Success Story – by making it big through a series of comedic set backs!

DAvid Letterman started out as a C student from Indiana who wanted to do Johnny CArson's job, but eventually carved out his own place via Mary Tyler Moore and the long way round

David Letterman started his career as a c student fresh out of college in Indiana. He didn’t know what he wanted to do, so he decided to go into television. He got the idea from a popular Cincinnati TV personality named Paul Dixon. He was the host of a quirky TV show called The Paul Dixon Show. Letterman figured that it would be fun to do something like that. The only question was would those slick Cincinnati moves play in Indiana? Those two states have a Texas Oklahoma thing goin’ on and I don’t have to tell you which is Tex and which is Okie. Letterman got a chance to try as a local Indiana weather man. It was during that time he predicted “hail he size of canned hams”, and erased the border between Indiana and Ohio. I’m not sure which state took over which, or whether it was a mutual joining – like Germany & Austria prior to WW2. The only thing that was missing from his routine was an annual Thanksgiving Turkey Drop!

Now anyone who’s ever watched WKRP in Cincinnati knows that the American Mid West can be a pretty funky place. It wasn’t quite funky enough to hold Letterman. So with the help of his wife and a pick up truck he made his way to California. There he worked in stand up and as a writer for Jimmie “JJ” Walker. Dave, along with aspiring young comedians like Jay Leno, wrote zingers and one liners for JJ’s stand up routine. Dave was quick to move up and was soon appearing as a regular on the short lived Mary Tyler Moore variety show called MARY! Regular might not be the right word since the show lasted for 1 episode (or maybe three). He was a regular in theory anyway. Mary did get another variety show later that year, which lasted for about 11 episodes this time.

Dave was never the kind to let any kind of regularity stop him, so he landed on his feet again. He got a 90 minute morning show, which got shortened to 60 minutes. Eventually it got canceled for poor ratings. Seems that large numbers of people weren’t tuning in. One person who was tuning into Dave was late night TV kingpin Johnny Carson! Carson was kind of a big deal back then, and for those who don’t remember he even had his own line of men’s clothing! Carson liked Letterman’s smart alecky style and so had him on the Tonight Show. That went over so well that Carson had him back as a semi regular guest, and eventually as a guest host! That was back at the dawn of the Age of Reagan, or maybe even a year or two before – in the Age of Malaise. Eventually he landed his own late nite gig, following directly after Carson.

Letterman took off as a late nite host. Hos dry sarcastic wit, acerbic interviews, and pranks caught on with the college set. After he gained a following things took off. He got into a 16 year feud with TV titan Oprah Winfrey. He bagged a bunch of Emmy Awards, and eventually went on to host the Oscars. That didn’t go over too well. Dave’s humour came off too sophomoric for the upscale Academy Awards. Especially the bits where he made fun of celebrities names, like Keanu Reeves, Uma Thurman, and of course Oprah Winfrey! Incidentally Oprah has made computer spell check, as opposed to ‘Kean’ Reeves and ‘Una’ Thurman! So you can get an idea of how big she is! Dave never made it back to Xanadu, but did recycle his appearance in a number of self deprecating jokes, like “In retrospect I don’t think I realized that the cere3mony was being televised!”.

Dave’s big ambition was to host the Tonight Show. He’d had the heady experience of subbing for Johnny back in the late 70’s. He was till young enough for the experience to make an impression on him. However when johnny eventually retired the late night throne passed on to Jay Leno. Dave decided to jump ship and headed over to CBS. Situated in New York’s Ed Sullivan Theater, which had got $14 million in renovations just to house the new Letterman Show, Big Dave went head to heads with the show he had once hoped to host. For the first several years he consistently beat Leno in the rating but by the mid to late 90’s his rating were in decline. Maybe still shy from his Oscar appearance, Dave had toned down the show for the earlier time slot. The World’s Most Dangerous Band became the CBS Orchestra. Sneakers and Khaki’s were traded in for shiny shoes and tailored suits. By the end of Leno’s late nite reign he was besting letterman by as much as 1.5 million in viewer rating, though Dave was consistently besting him in viewer popularity poles.

Despite the Leno rivalry Letterman enjoyed a long and lucrative relationship with CBS. At his peak he earned over $40 million per year! His Worldwide Pants production company also did some prime time projects, like Everyone loves Raymond! It also produced the Amy Sedaris Strangers With Candy film, based on the Comedy Central series about a 46 year old juvenile delinquent, played by Sedaris. He’s also influenced a number of famous wise guys like Jimmy Kimmel and Jon Stewart. So now, as he announces his retirement in 2015, when his current contract runs out, he walks away as a TV icon, and as the pioneer of his own late nite TV slot, & not merely the successor to Johnny Carson. That’s not bad for a former C student who set out to bring zany Cincinnati ways to Indiana!