New York Times comedy critic Jason Zinoman delivers the definitive story of the life and artistic legacy of David Letterman, the greatest television talk show host of all time and the signature comedic voice of a generation.
In a career spanning more than thirty years, David Letterman redefined the modern talk show with an ironic comic style that transcended traditional television. While he remains one of the most famous stars in America, he is a remote, even reclusive, figure whose career is widely misunderstood. In Letterman, Jason Zinoman, the first comedy critic in the history of the New York Times, mixes groundbreaking reporting with unprecedented access and probing critical analysis to explain the unique entertainer’s titanic legacy. Moving from his early days in Indiana to his retirement, Zinoman goes behind the scenes of Letterman’s television career to illuminate the origins of his revolutionary comedy, its overlooked influences, and how his work intersects with and reveals his famously eccentric personality.
Zinoman argues that Letterman had three great artistic periods, each distinct and part of his evolution. As he examines key broadcasting moments—"Stupid Pet Tricks" and other captivating segments that defined Late Night with David Letterman—he illuminates Letterman’s relationship to his writers, and in particular, the show’s co-creator, Merrill Markoe, with whom Letterman shared a long professional and personal connection.
To understand popular culture today, it’s necessary to understand David Letterman. With this revealing biography, Zinoman offers a perceptive analysis of the man and the artist whose ironic voice and caustic meta-humor was critical to an entire generation of comedians and viewers—and whose singular style ushered in new tropes that have become clichés in comedy today.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Once upon a time, there were only two big late-night talk shows, and a guy named David Letterman hosted one of them. In Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night, the former Indianapolis weatherman is revealed in all his grouchy, groundbreaking glory. New York Times comedy critic Jason Zinoman delivers a sharply observed character sketch and a juicy, behind-the-scenes peek at the tumultuous business of TV comedy.
Zinoman, the comedy critic for the New York Times, expertly toggles between keen analysis and dogged reporting in escorting readers down David Letterman's lengthy path to greatness. Letterman's retirement in 2015 devastated the comedy world. Jimmy Kimmel called the late-night talk show host "my Jesus" and Jon Stewart deemed him "an epiphany." The author breaks down the counterculture humor that made the landmark Late Night with David Letterman special, and he examines how success corroded the rapport between the neurotic star and his collaborators, including Merrill Markoe, his creative muse and longtime (and long-suffering) girlfriend. Comedy aficionados will savor the numerous behind-the-scene stories and tales of how Letterman evolved from an acquired taste to a mainstream star. After he became CBS's face of late-night TV in 1993, Letterman spent less time skewering talk-show conventions and became broad and splashy. But Letterman also showed more of himself, using his show to vent his confusion over the 9/11 terrorist attacks, confess his adultery, and embrace fatherhood. Zinoman's ambitious work succeeds in capturing Letterman's cultural impact while unearthing the human being behind the frequently inscrutable television icon.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Couldn't finish the book
Very disappointed. I couldn't even finish this book. I really thought this was going to be about David lettermans life as a whole but this book was just about the details of his show and back stories I found boring. If u want a book about the show this book would probably be great for you but if you are looking to read a book about the man this won't be for you.