It’s been David Letterman month here at UPROXX, with lots of buzz about the goings-on in the world of late night now that Letterman is leaving and Colbert is stepping in. Letterman has been a comedy staple for over three decades now, giving comics and bands a place to perform and share their talent with the world.
Here are seven facts you might not have known about David Letterman.
1. He paid some serious dues while vying for the Tonight Show spot. Johnny Carson was Letterman’s hero and would often call on Dave along with several other comedians to fill in as guest host when he was out. Over the years Letterman guest hosted for Carson on the Tonight Show 51 times before losing the coveted spot to Jay Leno in 1992.
2. World Wide Pants isn’t Letterman’s first production company. Letterman’s production company has produced the show since 1991, along with other shows like Strangers With Candy, Everybody Loves Raymond and Barbarian Chronicles, but it wasn’t his first. Before WWP, Letterman had production companies called Space Age Meat and Cardboard Shoe Productions.
3. The man never called out sick. Letterman’s quintuple bypass surgery back in 2000 was big news not just because of the procedure itself, but because it forced Dave to call out sick. Prior to the surgery, Letterman hadn’t missed a day of work due to illness in 18 years.
4. Pencil trick safety. No Late Show is complete without Dave tossing a pencil, and as precaution that nobody gets a No. 2 in the eye, the pencils Dave throws have erasers at both ends.
5. Almost had a part in Airplane! Letterman screen-tested for the part of Ted Stryker along with Bill Murray and Chevy Chase, but of course lost the role in the end to Robert Hays.
6. Warren Zevon’s death hit Letterman hard. The late singer was a regular guest on both Late Night and The Late Show and would often fill in as band leader when Paul Schaffer was out. Zevon’s final appearance on the show came in 2002, just 10 months before his death and was Letterman’s only guest for the entire hour. According to Rolling Stone, it was the interaction after the show that be one of Letterman’ most emotional moments on the job:
“After the show, it was heartbreaking -he was in his dressing room, and we were talking and this and that. Here’s a guy who had months to live and we’re making small talk,” Letterman said. “And as we’re talking, he’s taking his guitar strap and hooking it, wrapping it around, then he puts the guitar into the case and he flips the snaps on the case and says, “Here, I want you to have this, take good care of it.”
“And I just started sobbing. He was giving me the guitar that he always used on the show. I felt like, “I can’t be in this movie, I didn’t get my lines.” That was very tough.”
7. Some of the Larry Sanders Show storylines came from Late Night. When some of Letterman’s former writers went on to work over at Gary Shandling’s HBO late night show spoof, Letterman began to notice storylines that seemed a little too close to home.
“Every time I watch that show, I think: “Hey, wait a minute! That’s me!” But I don’t know if it really is me or if they have the talk-show machine so well assessed that it looks like me. During almost every episode, I think, “Boy, didn’t that happen here once?” They’ve all had an eerie effect on me.” Via RS