Rolling Stone

44 Late Night With David Letterman

NBC 1982-93


Letterman’s version of Late Night was defined as much by what it wasn’t as what it was. It was a talk show hosted by a man with only a passing interest in talking with celebritie­s (even though he had memorable interviews over the years, like the time Crispin Glover nearly kicked him in the face). It featured comedy bits that still defy explanatio­n, like Letterman climbing into a vat of liquid while wearing a suit filled with Alka-Seltzer tablets. But his disdain for talk-show and comedy norms only made every segment funnier, and helped define the ironic sensibilit­ies of generation­s of comedy writers who grew up watching him. When Letterman lost the post-Carson Tonight Show job to Jay Leno, he left NBC to start over under the old Late Show title. His CBS years were ever so slightly more traditiona­l, but Letterman’s trademark comic indifferen­ce could still appear when you least expected it.

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