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Letterman is best known for his gap-toothed self-mockery, and his brash, wry, somewhat cynical sense of humor, which was, at first, unconventional, attracting a cult following, but which has gone on to define the young, hip, media-savvy generation that is his main audience, and inspire countless comedians and talk show hosts who have followed him.
Letterman studied radio and television at Ball State University, in Muncie, Indiana (B.A. 1969). He worked in Indianapolis as a radio talk-show host; the host of a children's program and a late-night movie; a news anchor; and as a television weatherman, where his brand of humor was already evident, if not necessarily appreciated. One night he reportedly upset his bosses when he congratulated a tropical storm on being upgraded to a hurricane.
In 1975 Letterman moved to Los Angeles and wrote material for popular sitcoms, including Good Times. His big break came when he began appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, whom he has since referred to as his mentor. In 1978, he became Carson's regular guest host, and in 1980, he was offered his own show, the daytime David Letterman Show. The show only lasted for three months, but was a critical success, and ...