Best known as a television personality and talk show host, David Letterman was born April 12, 1947, in Indianapolis, Indiana and came up in very humble surroundings. His father, Harry Joseph Letterman, was a florist and Dorothy, his mother, was a church secretary who now makes regular appearances on his late-night talk show. He has two sisters, Janice and Gretchen. His first job was as a grocery bagger in a local supermarket after school while he attended high school.
Letterman studied radio and television at Ball State University, in Muncie, Indiana and was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. While attending Ball State, he met and befriended future "Garfield" artist, Jim Davis. He had started his media career by working in Indianapolis as a radio talk-show host. He later moved on to hosting a children's program and a brief stint introducing the late-night movie. He worked for a time as a television weatherman, where his brand of sacastic humor was already evident, if not necessarily appreciated. During one broadcast, he upset his bosses when he congratulated a tropical storm on being upgraded to a hurricane. In 1975 Letterman left Indiana and moved to Los Angeles to write for popular television sitcoms, including Good Times, and to polish his standup comedy routine. His big break came when he began appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. After meeting Carson, Letterman came to view him as a mentor and took many cues from him when it came to his comedic stylings and presentation. In 1978, he became one of Carson's regular guest host, joining the ranks of comedians like Bill Cosby and Joan Rivers. In 1980, he was offered his own show, the daytime David Letterman Show. The show only lasted for three months, but was a critical success, and convinced NBC-TV to give the young comedian a late-night show following Carson's Tonight Show. The late-late show hour was tailor made for Letterman's brash and quirky humor. Late Night with David Letterman soon became popular with the younger demographic by mixing the usual talk-show staples of celebrity guests and music with his irreverent manner and zany comic stunts, like his signature The Top Ten List; Stupid Pet Tricks (along with its companion, Stupid Human Tricks); Viewer Mail; and pencils tossed at the camera and at the set behind him, "breaking" the non-existent glass with a cued crash sound. Along with his usual henchmen like bandleader Paul Schaffer, stage-hand Biff Henderson, and general odd-ball Larry Bud Melman, Letterman's late night talk show had developed a fan following that rivaled Johnny Carson's.
With Carson's retirement in 1993, Letterman was considered as a replacement for the talk-show legend, but so was regular guest host, Jay Leno. After NBC chose Jay Leno to take over for Carson, Letterman severed his ties to NBC and moved to CBS. With a lucrative deal to host The Late Show with David Letterman opposite The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Dave finally had the time slot he had always wanted and could prove to the executives at NBC that they had made a mistake in taking him for granted. He made his debut on CBS on August 30 1993 and even had Calvert DeForest make the introduction to the inaugural episode just as he had done for him in 1982 for his first NBC late night broadcast. His success as a late night talk show host is such that in 2006, his nomination for an Emmy Award was his 22th in a row. He unfortunely lost that streak by failing to be nominated in 2007.
On January 14, 2000, Dave's fans were shocked to learn that Letterman underwent quintuple heart bypass surgery. Prior to this incident, Dave had never missed a day on his show due to illness. In typical Letterman fashion, the recovering patient joked that "in addition to rerouting the arteries, they also installed an E-Z pass." Letterman's first post-op show aired on February 21, featuring Regis Philbin, Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams (wearing medical scrubs), and eight members of the team who took care of Letterman during his stay in the hospital. During his absence, a wide collection of guest hosts stepped in to cover for Dave. Some of them included Bill Cosby, Kathie Lee Gifford, Dana Carvey and Janeane Garofalo.
The Late Show with David Letterman is still a staple in the late night talk show line up and as of March 2, 2009, his network competition for the 11:35pm audience is the man who had replaced him when he left NBC, Conan O'Brien. The previous host of The Tonight Show, Jay Leno, will have a new show in the 10pm time slot.
Little is known about David Letterman's personal life. He was married to Michele Cook from 1969 to 1977. He has also been romantically involved with comedienne/writer Merrill Markoe and production manager Regina Lasko. It has been rumored that he and Regina were married in a secret ceremony in 2003, but on his show, Dave still claims to be single. In November 2003, David and Regina welcomed son Harry Joseph into the world. He was named after Dave's father who had passed away in 1973.