Longtime late-night funnyman, David Letterman, announced his plan to retire sometime in 2015 in front of a live studio audience Thursday.
The 66-year-old “Late Show With David Letterman” host has been a constant fixture in the world of late-night television since the debut of his first nightly talk show, “Late Night with David Letterman” in 1982. Many expected him to replace Johnny Carson in 1992. Instead, NBC hired newcomer Jay Leno. Letterman moved from NBC to CBS, and “Late Show” premiered on CBS in 1993. Last year, Letterman surpassed Carso as the longest serving late night talk show host — 2014 marks his 32nd year on the late night circuit.
Letterman, who was born in Indianapolis in 1947, was first a weatherman and morning show host before turning to comedy. Carson discovered Letterman in the late ‘70s and often had him on “The Tonight Show” as a regular guest. Letterman said that Carson was his biggest influence.
Though Letterman consistently earned less viewers than Leno’s “Tonight Show,” he garnered more industry and critical praise. He won nine Primetime Emmys over the course of “The Late Show.”
Although revered for his comedic talent, Letterman is no stranger to controversy either. In 2009, Letterman made headlines for making two rather crude jokes regarding two of former Governor Sarah Palin’s oldest daughters, one who was just 14 at the time. He later apologized, and said that the jokes were in reference to Palin’s oldest daughter, who was 18 at the time. Though, the crudeness had already done its damage.
Later that same year, Letterman made headlines once again and became the victim of an extortion attempt, which forced him to state publicly that he had affairs with multiple female employees. This was perhaps his biggest downfall.
His ratings have begun to fall as of late, averaging less than 3 million viewers a night, losing out to new “Tonight Show” host, Jimmy Fallon, who garners nearly twice as many.
Nonetheless, Letterman is an integral part of late night television. Every night, he is able to make an audience cry with laughter when not many can say the same. He’s certainly had his moments, and he’s obviously made more than a few mistakes. Still, though, he will be missed immensely from late night. His presence is unlike any other.