The David Letterman Show

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This article is about a past morning talk show. For David Letterman's first late night show, see Late Night with David Letterman. For his current show, see Late Show with David Letterman.
The David Letterman Show
Presented by David Letterman
Narrated by Bob Sarlatte
Bill Wendell
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 90
Executive producer(s) David Letterman
Jack Rollins
Producer(s) Barry Sand
Running time 90 mins.
(June 23 – August 1)
60 mins.
(August 4 – October 24)
Production company(s) Space Age Meats
in association with NBC
Original channel NBC
Original run June 23, 1980 (1980-06-23) – October 24, 1980 (1980-10-24)

The David Letterman Show is a live morning NBC talk show, hosted by David Letterman. It ran from June 23 to October 24, 1980. Originally, the series lasted 90 minutes, then 60 minutes from August 4 onward.


A precursor to 1982's Late Night with David Letterman, the series was a critical success but the edgy comedy did not go over well with morning television watchers, more used to talk shows, soap operas, game shows, and prime time reruns. The show had replaced High Rollers, Chain Reaction, and the daytime version of Hollywood Squares on NBC's schedule (NBC president Fred Silverman also considered canceling Wheel of Fortune as well, but he changed his mind upon discovering that the show was in fact one of the highest-rated programs on the network's morning schedule). The program also contained news breaks featuring NBC correspondent Edwin Newman.

The original producer was Bob Stewart, a veteran quiz-show creator who had enlisted Letterman as a panelist on Pyramid from 1978 onward. However, due to creative differences, Stewart left the show four days before its premiere. He was succeeded by H. Barry Sand, who remained at the helm for the rest of its run and re-joined Letterman for the first five years of Late Night.[citation needed] Michael McDonald of the Doobie Brothers wrote the opening theme of the show.

Behind the scenes were Hal Gurnee directing and Barry Sand producing. The writing staff consisted of Merrill Markoe (head writer), Valri Bromfield, Rich Hall, Gary Jacobs, Harold Kimmel, Edie McClurg, Gerard Mulligan, Paul Raley, Ron Richards, and Letterman.

Familiar bits that became staples of Letterman's comedy on his later shows were originally introduced on this show. They include: "Small Town News", "Stupid Pet Tricks", and an ever-changing non-sequitur opening introduction immediately before Letterman is seen on camera. (e.g., "And now, a man whose recipe for triple fudge brownies includes two quarts of vodka sauerkraut and a heaping tablespoon of love...David Letterman!")

The production staff consisted of George Callahan, Kim Carney, Lee B. Chernick, Barbara Gaines, Edd Hall, Tim Holton, Brian J. McAloon, Meg Mortimer, Dency Nelson, and David Reale.

The news producer was Alan Mohan, and the news writer was Nick Allen. Bill Kelley was the technical director.

The program was produced by Space Age Meats, a precursor to Letterman's later production company, Worldwide Pants Incorporated.


Valri Bromfield, Edie McClurg, Rich Hall, Gerard Mulligan, Merrill Markoe and Paul Raley all appeared on the show and served as writers. Edd Hall (later the announcer on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno) and current Late Show producer Barbara Gaines were both production assistants, while stage manager Biff Henderson and director Hal Gurnee would follow Dave to his next two shows. Announcer/comedian Bob Sarlatte was replaced partway through the run by Bill Wendell, who would also announce on Dave's next two shows. The music director was Frank Owens. Longtime NBC newsman Edwin Newman provided live news updates in the studio during each broadcast; studio audience members would often interrupt his reporting with laughter or groans, as if Newman were an anchor on Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update".

Among guests who appeared were Steve Allen, Andy Kaufman, Wil Shriner, Richard Lewis, Dinah Shore, Judy Collins, photojournalists Jon & Keiko Alpert, keyboardist Suzanne Ciani, and Jeff Greenfield, who reviewed the first show on the air and as it happened was rather apathetic toward the whole thing.

The show's musical guests included Tony-winner Nell Carter, Irene Cara, Tom Rush and Harve Mann.

Bill Maher can be seen in the audience of the first episode (though he was not an official guest), and Conan O'Brien claims he hitchhiked to New York just to see a broadcast in Studio 6A (which has also been home to some of Jack Paar's NBC programs, later Late Night with David Letterman and finally Late Night with Conan O'Brien).

Episode status[edit]

Approximately 83 episodes are held in the Late Show archives in New York; a brief clip from the finale was shown on Letterman's 15th anniversary show in 1997. Some episodes are available for on-site viewing at the Paley Center for Media in New York.[1]


  1. ^ "The Paley Center for Media". Retrieved 2013-10-09. 

External links[edit]