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Letterman’s legacy in late night

by AirTalk®

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Comedian David Letterman attended the Kennedy Center Honors reception at the White House on December 2, 2012 in Washington, DC. The Kennedy Center Honors recognizes individuals for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts. Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Starting out as a radio talk show host and weatherman in Indianapolis, a young David Letterman was known for his goofy on air antics (once predicting hail stones “the size of canned hams”) and dry sense of humor.

This keen sense of comedy would ultimately vault Letterman into the host seat of three iterations of his own talk show, culminating in the last 20 years as host of “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

Over the course of his career, Letterman interviewed pretty much everyone worth interviewing and became well-known for his opening monologues and nightly “Top 10” lists. From his iconic first interview with Bill Murray that set the tone for the rest of the show, to Crispin Glover’s strange antics during a 1987 interview that caused Letterman to walk off his own show, to Joaquin Phoenix’s bizarre and now-famous interview with Letterman in 2009, there have been few who have had as profound an impact on late night talk shows.

In its final week, Letterman will interview some of his favorite guests, including actor Tom Hanks, Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder, musician Bob Dylan, and of course, Bill Murray, ending with Letterman’s final broadcast this evening.

Comedian Steven Colbert, formerly the host of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” has been tapped to take Letterman’s place as host. CBS says “The Late Show with Steven Colbert” begins September 8th.

How will you remember David Letterman’s legacy? How big was his impact on late night talk shows? What are your favorite Letterman interviews/bits? How big are the shoes Steven Colbert has to fill? Can he fill them?


Robert Lloyd, TV critic for the Los Angeles Times who has been covering Letterman’s wind-down.

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