Monday, April 10, 2017


Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night by Jason Zinoman
HarperCollins: 4/11/17
eBook review copy; 368 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062377210

Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night by Jason Zinoman is a highly recommended biography for anyone who was a fan of Letterman. Zinoman looks at the legacy left by Letterman's career which spanned more than thirty years, beginning with his college broadcasting career, to Late Night with David Letterman, the Late Show with David Letterman, and up to his retirement in 2015. Rather than focusing extensively on his personal life, which is mentioned as it relates to his career, this account concentrates on his career and how he redefined talk shows.

 It has never been in doubt that Letterman shaped the humor and the format of current talk shows. Although much has been said or speculated about Letterman's personal life and reclusive nature, Letterman is the quintessential originator of the current talk show model. Pulling no punches, Zinoman covers the difficulties between Letterman and the show's employees and writers, especially Merrill Markoe, who shared a long professional and personal connection with Letterman. He mentions the recurring characters written into (especially) the early shows. Letterman also does not shy away from noting the personal toll fame extracted on the iconic talk show host.

During the beginning of his national broadcasting career I was in college and a perfect audience for his irreverent, mocking, sarcastic humor. After watching some of his morning show in 1980, I started watching Late Night with David Letterman (1982-92) almost nightly during the beginning of his career and through his switch in 1993 from NBC to CBS, although my viewing began to taper off toward the later years. I vividly remember many of the early shows or stunts shared in Letterman, and how I laughed uncontrollably over a stunt or sarcastic comment/joke, which was the talk of all the (dare I say) hip, young crowd the next day. In fact, David Letterman is an integral part of popular culture over several generations.

Zinoman did plenty of research and interviews for the book and has notes for each chapter. He includes quotes in the text from many inside sources and personalities associated with Letterman's career.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

No comments: