In the final months of his first stint as host of The Tonight Show, Leno beat Letterman in the ratings by a 1.3 million viewer margin (5.2 million to 3.9 million), and Nightline and the Late Show were virtually tied.Letterman's shows have garnered both critical and industry praise, receiving 67 Emmy Award nominations, winning 12 times in his first 20 years in late night television.He hosted a late night television talk show for 33 years, beginning with the February 1, 1982, debut of Late Night with David Letterman on NBC, and ending with the May 20, 2015, broadcast of the Late Show with David Letterman on CBS.
Several late-night hosts have cited Letterman's influence, including Conan O'Brien (his successor on Late Night), Stephen Colbert (his successor on The Late Show), Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers.
In 2000 he told an interviewer for Esquire that, while growing up, he admired his father's ability to tell jokes and be the life of the party.
Letterman began his career as a radio talk show host on WNTS (AM) and on Indianapolis television station WLWI (which changed its call sign to WTHR in 1976) as an anchor, and weatherman.
He received some attention for his unpredictable on-air behavior, which included congratulating a tropical storm for being upgraded to a hurricane and predicting hail stones "the size of canned hams." He would also occasionally report the weather and the day's very high and low temps for fictitious cities ("Eight inches of snow in Bingree and surrounding areas") while on another occasion saying that a state border had been erased when a satellite map accidentally omitted the state border between Indiana and Ohio, attributing it to dirty political dealings.
Harry Joseph Letterman survived a heart attack at age 36, when David was a young boy.
The fear of losing his father was constantly with Letterman as he grew up.Letterman's reputation as an acerbic interviewer was borne out in verbal sparring matches with Cher all of which would eventually move with Letterman to CBS.Other memorable moments included Letterman using a bullhorn to interrupt a live interview on The Today Show, announcing that he was the NBC News president and that he was not wearing any pants; and staging "elevator races", complete with commentary by NBC Sports' Bob Costas.Additionally, because of intellectual property disagreements, Letterman was unable to import many of his Late Night segments verbatim, The main competitor of the Late Show is NBC's The Tonight Show, which was hosted by Jay Leno for 22 years, but from June 1, 2009, to January 22, 2010, was hosted by Conan O'Brien.In 19, the Late Show consistently gained higher ratings than The Tonight Show.("The higher-ups have removed the border between Indiana and Ohio making it one giant state. I don't know what to do about it.") He also starred in a local kiddie show, made wisecracks as host of a late night TV show called "Freeze-Dried Movies" (he once acted out a scene from Godzilla using plastic dinosaurs), and hosted a talk show that aired early on Saturday mornings called Clover Power, Jimmie Walker saw him on stage; with an endorsement from George Miller, Letterman joined a group of comedians whom Walker hired to write jokes for his stand-up act, a group that at various times would also include Jay Leno, Paul Mooney, Robert Schimmel, Richard Jeni, Louie Anderson, Elayne Boosler, Byron Allen, Jack Handey, and Steve Oedekerk.