David Letterman is an iconic figure in the world of late-night TV. He was the host of “The Late Show with David Letterman” for over 20 years, and during that time he became one of the most popular talk show hosts in history. He has also enjoyed a successful career as a comedian and producer. So how much money has David Letterman made over the course of his career? Let’s take a look at David Letterman net worth and find out!
David Micheal Letterman was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on April 12, 1947. He has an older and a younger sister. He is the child of Harry, a florist, and Dorothy Letterman, the secretary of a church. His father died at the age of 57 of a heart attack. He attended Broad Ripple High School and worked at a supermarket as a stock boy. He graduated from the Department of Television and Radio, Ball State University in 1969.
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Dave needed a quintuple bypass operation in January 2000 after doctors discovered a large blockage in one of his arteries during a routine examination. He utilized guest hosts for the show while he was recovering. Dave married Michelle Cook, a girl he met in college, back in 1968. They got divorced not long after moving to Los Angeles in October 1977.
He was married to Merrill Markoe from 1978-1988, who is a Late Night producer. According to sources, Letterman’s comedic approach was influenced by her. In February 1986, he began dating Regina Lasko and they had a son in 2003. The family resides in North Salem, New York and they got married in 2009. There was an attempted kidnapping of their son in 2005 where the perpetrators demanded a $5 million ransom. His former house painter was accused of being involved with the plot.
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In 2009, someone threatened to expose Letterman’s affairs with several of his female staff members if he didn’t pay them. When Letterman learned of these liaisons, he immediately apologized to his wife and workforce on a segment of his show. Letterman has also been candid about struggles with anxiety and alcohol addiction in the past but says he is now sober.
Letterman began his career at Ball State’s student-run radio, WBST. However, he was quickly fired for making sarcastic and humorous comments about classical music. Undeterred, after he graduated college he started working as a weatherman for an Indianapolis TV station.
His friends and family motivated him to move to Los Angeles in 1975 so he could pursue a career in comedy writing. While there, he performed stand-up at The Comedy Store. His on-air persona was known for being unpredictable and humorous; sometimes he would even give the weather forecast for fictional cities.
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By 1978, he was writing for and making small appearances on various TV shows and games by using his talent for stand-up. Additionally, he screen-tested 1980’s Airplane!, but the lead role went to Robert Hays.
Ultimately, his brand of sarcasm and dry humor captured the attention of talent scouts for The Tonight Show which Starred Johnny Carson. He fast became a favored comedian of Carson and was soon appearing regularly on the show. Letterman has always given the credit to Carson as being hugely influential in his career.
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Late Night Career
Dave’s comedy show on NBC started on June 23, 1980, but was canceled after a few months due to low ratings. Despite this, Dave persisted and his Late Night with David Letterman premiered in February 1982 with Bill Murray as the first guest.
Thursday through Monday nights at 12:30 AM EST, The Late Show with David Letterman followed The Tonight Show. His “type of humor” won him a place in the hearts of college students and young people alike. In addition to his humor, Dave was also known for his bits that were “quirky”. His fans appreciated his candor and bluntness.
The show also became popular for its borderline wacky sketches like “Stupid Pet Tricks” and Top 10 List segments. die-hard fans of Johnny Carson believed that Letterman would take over The Tonight Show when he retired in 1992. However, NBC gave the job to Jay Leno instead, which came as a huge surprise at the time.
After Letterman left NBC, he created The Late Show With David Letterman to compete with Jay Leno’s show on CBS. This 11:30 pm slot shaped the future for both talk shows. Letterman’s show debuted on August 30th, 1993 at the Ed Sullivan Theater. To get him away from NBC, CBS offered him a three-year contract worth $14 million per year; which was double his old salary.
Letterman slightly changed his comedic style to appeal more to a mainstream, conservative audience. To help with the transition, he added Paul Shaffer and his band as regulars on the show. Additionally, he increased the length of his opening monologue. Some of Letterman’s original signature segments remained; however, they often got new names (i.e., The Top Ten List became The Late Show Top Ten).
Both Letterman and Leno were very popular late-night show hosts who constantly competed for the top spot. Over the course of their careers, each one would take turns being more successful than the other depending on the year. In his first 20 years hosting a late-night show, 67 Emmy Award nominations and 12 wins.
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In April 2014, Letterman announced his retirement, and his last episode aired on May 20, 2015. It was watched by 13.76 million viewers. Stephen Colbert was announced as Letterman’s successor. In total, Letterman hosted 6,080 episodes of Late Night and Late Show. In American TV history, he surpassed Carson as the host who served the longest on the late-night talk show.
Since retiring, Letterman has largely stayed out of the public eye, instead choosing to focus his time and energy on causes close to his heart. To date, he has donated millions of dollars to charitable organizations like the American Cancer Society, Doctors Without Borders, and Ball State University through his private foundation – the Letterman Foundation for Courtesy and Grooming.
He established Worldwide Pants Incorporated in 1991 and still owns it today. Besides producing his show, the company has gone on to produce a number of other successful shows. In 2018, Letterman launched My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman – a long-form interview program that debuted with Barack Obama as the first guest. The second season premiered on May 31, 2019.
David Letterman Net Worth
David Letterman, an American comedian, and late-night talk show host is worth $400 million. In years past, he could earn up to $50 million from licensing and syndication fees annually; however, that number has decreased somewhat in recent times.
Property And Other Business Ventures
Dave’s fortune has allowed him to become a real estate mogul, with properties including a 2,700-acre farm around Chateau, Montana, a residence on Martha’s Vineyard, and another in St. Barth’s. His estate in Westchester County was bought for $5 million in 1994 and the other half of it in 2007. He is also co-owner of the Rahal Letterman Racing team in the Indy Racing League.