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After 33 years as host of the Late Show with David Letterman David Michael Letterman is saying farewell. He holds the title for the longest late-night tenure ever and on Wednesday night, will walk off the set for the last time as host, after 6,028 episodes. Letterman’s influence as a comedian and talk show host is substantial. During his tenure as the host he has given birth to many careers, innovatively revamped the show and become a role model for many comics.
Letterman’s 33 years have not all been glorious; there have been some low moments. In the 90s the show suffered par-standard ratings which caused a downward spiral of self-criticism for the actor. His harsh interview style would sometimes make guests visibly uncomfortable and notably intimidated. The talk show host rarely gave interviews, hates television politics and is extremely private. During one uncomfortable moment, Letterman admitted to having sexual relations with a female member of his staff.
Although a leader in the world of comics, Letterman has also experienced some serious moments during the Late Show run. After the 911 attack, the host maintained a serious, even angry demeanor when hosting the first show to follow the terroristic tragedy. There have been episodes where he berated people who, for one reason or another, cancelled. None of his dark moments outshine the overall rating of the show, instead they have helped him establish a magnetic presence in nighttime television.
Howard Stern, a well-known radio host who made 43 appearances on Letterman’s show, called the Late Show host a broadcaster, not simply a host. Stern said Letterman had the ability to make people stay up and even sit through commercials when they had to get up early in the morning. The provocative radio host said it is not only about jokes, only a broadcaster knows how to be a compelling leader who causes people to hang on to every word. When speaking of Letterman and his success with the Late Show show Howard Stern said:
Though Mr. Letterman started out as a stand-up comic, he was not purely a comedian on his show. He stayed true to himself and adjusted the form to make it work for him.
Prior to the comedian hosting the Late Show, CBS had no impression in the world of nighttime television. Letterman joined the CBS network in 1993, after spending 11 years with NBC. By dominating the time slot, he has laid a strong foundation for Stephen Colbert, who is set to succeed him beginning in September 2015. The chief executive of CBS, Leslie Moonves, said Letterman’s show has been an important part of the network’s makeup.
Letterman is no stranger to success, he leaves an indelible imprint in the world of comedy as television as a comedian, television host, producer, writer and actor. At 33 years, he is the longest-serving late night talk show in television history. Prior to his run, his mentor and friend Johnny Carson, held the title at 31 years. Letterman has maintained a presence in late night television since 1982.
Recently, the 68-year-old comedian has been the recipient of much applause for his stint of success. In preparation for his farewell bid, Letterman has entertained some of his favorite repeat guests along with a prime-time special. For his final episode to be aired tonight, the network has promised a night full of surprises. After 33 years and a lasting legacy, The nighttime host bids the Late Show with David Letterman farewell.
by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
NY Times: David Letterman, Prickly Late-Night Innovator, Counts Down to His Exit
Image Courtesy of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – Flickr License