The Late Show with David Letterman is an Emmy Award-winning American late-night talk show hosted by David Letterman on CBS. The show debuted on August 30, 1993. It is produced by Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants Incorporated. The show's music director and bandleader of the house band, the CBS Orchestra, is Paul Shaffer. The head writers are brothers Justin Stangel and Eric Stangel. The announcer is Alan Kalter, who replaced Bill Wendell in 1995.
In most American markets the show airs at 11:35 pm Eastern/Pacific time, but is recorded Mondays at 4:30 PM and 7:00 PM, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 5:30 PM, and Thursdays at 4:30 PM. The second Monday episode usually airs on Friday of that week (the show had previously recorded the Friday episodes on Thursdays). Each show is recapped in The Wahoo Gazette by production coordinator Mike McIntee on CBS.com's Late Show page
Letterman was previously the host of Late Night with David Letterman on NBC from 1982 to 1993. The show was co-produced by Carson Productions, Worldwide Pants Incorporated, and NBC Productions. Shaffer, Wendell, and several members of the band were also with the NBC show.
Many erroneously still refer to Letterman's current show as Late Night, often resulting in Letterman or fans pointing out that while Late Night still exists, it airs on NBC and is hosted in its current incarnation by Conan O'Brien, whom Letterman has often publicly supported as his successor (Late Night is now co-produced by Lorne Michaels' Broadway Video and O'Brien's Conaco).
When Letterman moved to CBS and began the Late Show, several of Late Night's long-running comedy bits made the move with him. Letterman renamed a few of his regular bits to avoid legal problems over trademark infringement (NBC cited that what he did on Late Night was "intellectual property" of the network). "Viewer Mail" on NBC became the "CBS Mailbag", and Larry "Bud" Melman began to use his real name, Calvert DeForest. Paul Shaffer's "World's Most Dangerous Band" became "The CBS Orchestra," a not-so-subtle jab at NBC regarding the show's new home, and a play on the NBC Orchestra of the long running The Tonight Show. Letterman's signature bit, the Top Ten List, was perfunctorily renamed the "Late Show Top Ten List" (over time it was simply referred to again by its original name).
After Letterman was introduced on the Late Show's very first episode, NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw accompanied him on stage and wished him luck "within reason". As part of a pre-arranged act, Brokaw then proceeded to retrieve a pair of cue cards while stating that "These last two jokes are the intellectual property of NBC!" After he carried them off stage, Letterman then responded, "Who would have thought you would ever hear the words 'intellectual property' and 'NBC' at the same time."
Ratings-wise, Letterman's Late Show would enjoy a consistent domination over Leno's Tonight Show in its first few years. Leno won the audience back on July 10 1995, starting with a Hugh Grant interview, after Grant's much-publicized arrest for picking up an LA prostitute.
At times Letterman would even come in third in the late night timeslot behind Nightline (most recent occurrence happened in August 2006), prompting him at one point to arrange for a Manhattan billboard proudly declaring himself and his show to be "#3 in Late Night," aping an older, nearby billboard which promoted Leno and The Tonight Show as #1. Despite ratings, the Late Show remains one of CBS's most profitable programs.
In recent years, Letterman and the Late Show have openly made jokes in reference to Leno, although it is often done in a self-deprecating manner. Such jokes usually refer to The Tonight Show's consistent (and perhaps frustrating) lead in the ratings, a common example being where a guest presenter of the Top Ten List will use one of the entries to declare his or her preference for Leno, resulting in Letterman feigning humiliation or surprise. In a "What Things Cost" sketch in 2000, Letterman explained that it cost $10,000 to keep an open phone line with actor Leonard Nimoy. Upon thanking Nimoy for his help, Nimoy tersely admitted that he was unable to talk because "I'm watching Leno."
When John McCain announced he was running for president, he said that the "official" announcement would come later. Shaffer then remarked that he was "saving it for Leno."
From November 11, 2002 to February 14, 2003, the show was simulcast on several CBS-owned radio stations. The show's Top Ten List continues to be syndicated as a short-form feature.
During the summer of 2008, the "Great Moments in Presidential Speeches" segment was moved to the end of the monologue.Act 2
In 1996, Letterman reluctantly fired long-time producer Robert Morton as the result of various professional disputes, including an apparent botched attempt to move the show to ABC in place of Nightline. Head writer Rob Burnett was promoted to executive producer.
Director Hal Gurnee and producer Peter Lassally left the show soon after to pursue other interests. Gurnee was replaced by Jerry Foley. Burnett was absent from the day-to-day operations from 2000 to 2004, and was replaced by Barbara Gaines and Maria Pope, both of whom continue to serve as executive producers, with Gaines currently acting as on-air producer. In 2003, producer Jude Brennan was added to the team of executive producers.
Lassally, who had served as an executive producer for Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show, was invited back to the Late Show in January 2005 as a guest to discuss the recent death of Carson. Lassally currently serves as executive producer for Worldwide Pants' The Late Late Show (dating back to its years under original host Tom Snyder) as well as the Tony Mendez Show, an online webcast featuring the Late Show's "cue card boy."
The biggest challenge in the HD conversion was to renovate and upgrade our old control room, audio room, videotape room, and edit room while still doing five shows a week... This entailed pulling a remote production truck on 53rd Street running somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 feet of video and audio cable just to tie the truck to the existing technical plant...
The coolest piece of equipment is our new control room Virtual Wall. We have done away with the conventional monitor for every video source and replaced it with four 70-inch rear projection screens and within those screens we can "virtually" place as many video images as we want, anywhere we want them, and when we want it.Kennedy and his crew won an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video for a Series" during the nearly-four-month-long transition to HDTV.
Though Letterman is typically well-attired and neat, a common 'Dave gag' is pretending to eat or drink excessive amounts of both edible and non-edible items, for instance, eating mayonnaise straight from the jar, allowing it to slop onto his face and onto the front of his suit. During a cooking segment with Martha Stewart there was a table set up with ingredients to demonstrate how to prepare some sort of meal. Letterman feigned clumsy disinterest, measuring the wrong amounts, throwing raw eggs at the band, gulping down bottles of wine, eating half a stick of butter, and generally wreaking havoc in an attempt to fluster his guest. Stewart tried to nonchalantly continue her cooking presentation, until finally, in an apparent "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" moment, succumbed to the fun, taking a big bite of butter herself. A similar situation occurred during a cooking segment featuring British chef Jamie Oliver, beginning with Letterman eating raw onions and resulting in he, Oliver and the episode's first guest Tom Cruise, and later Paul Shaffer all drinking from a bottle of olive oil.
Other notable guests include Bonnie Hunt (with whom Letterman co-produced two short-lived sitcoms), Bill Murray (who has the distinction of appearing on the first episodes of both Late Night and the Late Show), Marv Albert (who had the most Late Night appearances), musical group Foo Fighters (whom Letterman had personally requested to perform during his first show after heart bypass surgery in 2000), and Warren Zevon (who was featured as the only guest in his final appearance prior to his death in 2003).
Some guests, particularly Bill Murray, Tom Hanks, Steve Martin, and Bruce Willis, will often take the effort to accompany their appearances on the show with a pre-arranged routine or bit (such as when Willis put dots on his face to satirize Dick Cheney's recent hunting incident and Hanks' wearing one of Letterman's sport jackets and a pair of his loafers, claiming his wife was to blame for the accidental clash of fashions), or will appear elsewhere in the show in a skit. Martin Short will often conclude his interviews with a comedic musical number on stage.
Other favorite guests who have frequently appeared include Drew Barrymore, Ricky Gervais, Matthew Broderick, Tom Brokaw, Richard Simmons, Frank Caliendo (sometimes in character as John Madden or George W. Bush), Harry Connick, Jr., Penn & Teller, Johnny Depp, Elvis Costello, Billy Crystal, Jack Hanna, Jennifer Lopez, Paul Newman, Sarah Jessica Parker, Tony Randall, Julia Roberts, Ray Romano, Isabella Rossellini, Amy Sedaris, Jerry Seinfeld, Martha Stewart, Howard Stern and Robin Williams.
R.E.M., who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2007, made their international television debut on Late Night on October 6, 1983, just three years into their career. To date, they have appeared on Letterman's show six times.
Since 1986, Letterman has invited musician Darlene Love to perform "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" on the final new episode of the Late Show with David Letterman before Christmas. The song is always performed with Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra, with the band being augmented by additional strings and other instruments, as well as a full choir. Love first performed the song on Late Night with David Letterman in 1986. Letterman has stated that the annual performance is his favorite part of Christmas, and that Love's rendition is " the only Christmas song anyone needs."
Letterman will often dedicate a segment to toy expert Shannon Eis, who demonstrates many of the newer toys that will be available during the upcoming season. The main appeal of the segment is Letterman's tendency to engage in horseplay with the various toys on display.
Paul Shaffer will often perform a brief rendition of Cher singing "O Holy Night" from an episode of her 1970s variety show. Shaffer sets up the bit with a straight-faced introduction before breaking into a humorous impersonation. This has been performed on-and-off since the Late Night years.
Letterman will also have local pizza-maker Joe G, gift shop proprietors Mujibur & Sirajul, and Hello Deli proprietor Rupert Jee top the Late Show Christmas tree with a pizza, Statue of Liberty miniature, and meatball, respectively.
Each Christmas, Letterman and comedian Jay Thomas will then throw footballs at the tree from across the stage, attempting to knock the meatball off the top. This tradition began in 1998 when Letterman and NFL quarterback Vinny Testaverde threw footballs at a pastrami sandwich from the top of a tree but failed repeatedly. This prompted Thomas - who had been a guest earlier - to run out and take a shot, succeeding on his first try. The tradition of Thomas and Letterman throwing footballs at the tree (along with Thomas' retelling of his encounter with The Lone Ranger) has continued every year since then.
During the September 1994 MTV Video Music Awards, Madonna was a presenter and was escorted onstage by Letterman who kissed her hand and stated, "I'll be in the car. Just... watch your language.", and walked off stage to applause.
The reason we were attacked, the reason these people are dead, these people are missing and dead … They weren't doing anything wrong, they were living their lives, they were going to work, they were traveling, they were doing what they normally do. Uh, as I understand it—and my understanding of this is vague, at best—another smaller group of people stole some airplanes and crashed them into buildings. And 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 goddamned sense?
His first guest that night was then-CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather, who was also very emotional and spoke with feeling about the courage of firefighters as well as reading verses from the song, America the Beautiful. Dave got his first laugh when, at the end of his monologue, he said, "And thank God Regis is here so we have something to make fun of." His musical guest that night was Tori Amos, who performed a cover of Tom Waits' "Time." She was one of the few major artists willing to perform in such a public venue so soon after 9/11. Letterman was visibly affected by her performance after he went over to greet her when she finished.
Before September 11, various mocking and self important descriptions were affixed to New York City at the beginning of the show, but starting with the September 17, 2001 show and continuing to the present announcer Alan Kalter introduces the show as being "From New York, The Greatest City in the World, it's The Late Show with David Letterman!" (Whenever there is a guest host, Alan Kalter omits "The Greatest City in the World.") Also, the opening shot of the credits, a view of Battery Park and the World Trade Center, was changed to an aerial shot of the Empire State Building.
Letterman returned sporting a full beard which he grew during his hiatus and opened the show by declaring that "It's been two months but I'm finally out of rehab." The Top 10 List consisted of demands by striking writers. Robin Williams was the first guest for the show's return.
Throughout the show, and especially during the monologue, Letterman made various jokes about the situation. During Olbermann's interview, Letterman cut to a live internal feed of that night's CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, when Couric was taping an interview with McCain during the same time of Letterman's show. When it came apparent to Letterman that McCain was not on his way back to Washington as he said he was, Letterman became visibly irritated. Although he knew McCain could not hear him, Letterman publicly said to McCain, "Hey John, I got a question, do you need a ride to the airport? McCain spokeswoman Nicole Wallace later stated McCain canceled his appearance on Letterman because it "wasn't a night for comedy." A video of the incident has reached over 3 million views on YouTube, as of September 27, 2008 .
The episode also seemed to have an effect on internal CBS operations: both The Late Show and the CBS Evening News are aired on the network. According to the New York Post, unidentified CBS News executives were reportedly "aggravated" about the use of the feed. Also according to the report, CBS had no knowledge of the use of the feed until the finished Late Show episode was being fed internally for distribution
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