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David Letterman

David Letterman (born April 12, 1947) is an American comedian and talk show host. Letterman's comedy is heavily influenced by comedians Ernie Kovacs and Johnny Carson.

Letterman was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. After attending Ball State University[?], in Muncie, Indiana, Letterman began work as a local weekend television weather announcer and radio talk show host. He received local recognition for his unpredictable on-air behavior, which included erasing state borders from the weather map and predicting hail stones "the size of canned hams". In 1969, Letterman married his college sweetheart, Michelle Cook. The couple divorced in 1977.

In 1975, Letterman moved to California, with hopes of becoming a comedy writer. He began performing at The Comedy Store[?], a famed Los Angeles comedy club and proving ground for young comics. His dry, sarcastic humor caught the attention of talent scouts for The Tonight Show, and soon Letterman was a regular guest and cohost on Johnny Carson's talk show.

After stints as a cast member on Mary Tyler Moore's variety show and guest appearances on sitcoms such as Mork And Mindy[?], Letterman was given his own morning comedy show on NBC. The show was critical success, winning two Emmys and receiving 5 nominations, but ended up being a ratings disappointment, and was cancelled after a brief run during the summer of 1980. However, NBC kept Letterman under contract, and in 1982, his Late Night with David Letterman first appeared on the network.

Letterman's show, which ran very late on weeknights after The Tonight Show, quickly established a reputation as being dangerous or unpredictable, and soon developed a cult following. A number of celebrities have even stated that they are afraid of appearing on the show. This reputation was born out of moments like Letterman's verbal sparring match with Cher, Madonna (described by comedian Robin Williams as a "battle of wits with an unarmed woman"), and Shirley MacLaine. The show often featured quirky regular features, such as "Stupid Pet Tricks" and a facetious letter-answering segment on Fridays. Other memorable moments included Letterman using a bullhorn to interrupt the Today Show TV program, which was on the air conducting a live interview at the time, and announcing that he was not wearing any pants; interupting the local news by walking into their studio; and the outrageous appearances by comedian Andy Kaufman. In one highly publicized appearance, Kaufman appeared to be slapped and knocked to the ground by professional wrestler Jerry Lawler[?]. (Lawler and Kaufman friend Bob Zmuda later revealed that the event was staged).

In 1985, Letterman established the Letterman Telecommunications Scholarship[?] at Ball State University[?], to provide financial assistance to Department of Telecommunications students, based solely on his or her creativity, and not on grades.

For a time, Letterman was engaged to Late Night head writer, Merrill Markoe[?], but the relationship eventually fell apart. Markoe moved to California soon after to pursue a writing career.

In 1988, Margaret Mary Ray was arrested while driving letterman's Porsche near the Lincoln Tunnel in New York City. Ray claimed to be Letterman's wife. Ray went on to be arrested repeatedly in subsequent years on trespassing and other counts. In one instance, police found her sleeping on Letterman's private tennis court at his home in New Canaan, Connecticut. Ray spent nearly 10 months in prison and 14 months in a state mental institution for her numerous trespassing convictions. On October 7, 1998, Ray was struck and killed by a train in an apparent suicide in Colorado.

Letterman remained with NBC for 11 years. When Johnny Carson announced that he would retire in May of 1992, executives at NBC announced Carson's frequent guest-host Jay Leno as his replacement. Letterman, who had frequently credited Carson with boosting his career, was reportedly bitterly disappointed and angry at not having been given the Tonight Show job which he was promised many years earlier. In 1993, after receiving advice from Carson, Letterman moved to CBS, as host of The Late Show with David Letterman. The Late Show competes in the same 11:30pm time slot as Leno's The Tonight Show. In 1996 U.S. pay television service HBO produced a made-for-television movie called "The Late Shift" based on the book by Bill Carter chronicling the battle between Letterman and Jay Leno for the coveted Tonight Show hosting spot.

Letterman started his own production company, Worldwide Pants Incorporated, which has produced the popular TV series for CBS Everybody Loves Raymond and several critically acclaimed (but short lived) television series for Bonnie Hunt.

In January of 2000, Letterman underwent quintuple heart bypass surgery at New York Presbyterian Hospital[?] after an angiogram[?] revealed one of his arteries was seriously constricted. Friends of Letterman guest hosted reruns of the Late Show (which was called The Late Show Back Stage) in his absence, including Drew Barrymore Ray Romano, Robin Williams, Bill Murray, Kathie Lee Gifford[?], Regis Philbin, Charles Grodin, Julia Roberts, Bill Cosby, Bruce Willis, Jerry Seinfeld, Martin Short[?], Danny DeVito, Steve Martin and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Upon his return on February 21, 2000, Letterman brought all of the doctors that had performed the operation out on stage with him, including Dr. O. Wayne Isom and Physician Louis J. Aronne[?], who makes frequent appearances on the show. In an unusual show of emotion, Letterman was nearly in tears as he thanked the doctors. The episode earned an Emmy nomination. Letterman's father died of a heart attack while still in his 50s.

On September 17, 2001, David Letterman returned to the television airways six days after the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack in the United States. In his opening monologue a very emotional Letterman said, "We're told that they were zealots fueled by religious fervor... religious fervor... and if you live to be a thousand years old will that make any sense to you? Will that make any goddamn sense?"

In March 2002, ABC expressed the intention to let Letterman to take over the spot for Nightline with Ted Koppel. It was said that the Nightline news program has much more audience than the Letterman show, but Ted Koppel generates less than half the advertisement revenue that Letterman does. It is not the size of the audience that counts, but the older demographic of the Nightline news program attracted less advertisement revenue as older audiences are less attractive to advertisers.

Letterman, along with bandleader Paul Shaffer and Late Show stage hand, Biff Henderson[?], celebrated Christmas 2002 in Afghanistan with United States and international military forces stationed in the country.

In late February 2003 Letterman had been diagnosed by his doctor has having a severe case of the Shingles and as a result and for the first time since having quintuple heart bypass surgery in 2000 Letterman handed the reigns of the show to several guest hosts including actor Bruce Willis, former professional tennis player John McEnroe[?], Morning talk host Regis Philbin and several other prominent Hollywood performers.

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