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And Now...An Oral History of "Late Night with David Letterman," 1982-1993

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In the early 1980s, before the dawn of cable television, the fresh and ironic obsessions of a charismatic young standup comic named David Letterman transformed comedy forever. In this definitive oral history of "Late Night," Letterman’s NBC 12:30 am talk show that aired from 1982 to 1993, writers, producers, executives and actors share revealing stories — from the origins In the early 1980s, before the dawn of cable television, the fresh and ironic obsessions of a charismatic young standup comic named David Letterman transformed comedy forever. In this definitive oral history of "Late Night," Letterman’s NBC 12:30 am talk show that aired from 1982 to 1993, writers, producers, executives and actors share revealing stories — from the origins of the "Top 10" lists and "Stupid Pet Tricks" to the battle over who would replace Letterman’s mentor, Johnny Carson, as host of "The Tonight Show," to Letterman’s final days at 30 Rock before moving to CBS for "The Late Show." Brian Abrams has been described as "the Ken Burns of presidential alcoholism." His first book, "Party Like a President: True Tales of Inebriation, Lechery, and Mischief from the Oval Office" (Workman Publishing), is scheduled for release in February 2015. He has written for Playboy, Heeb, High Times, Mental_Floss and other publications, and has contributed to the books "I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski: Life, The Big Lebowski, and What Have You" and "Reefer Movie Madness: The Ultimate Stoner Film Guide." He lives in New York City. Cover design by Adil Dara.


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In the early 1980s, before the dawn of cable television, the fresh and ironic obsessions of a charismatic young standup comic named David Letterman transformed comedy forever. In this definitive oral history of "Late Night," Letterman’s NBC 12:30 am talk show that aired from 1982 to 1993, writers, producers, executives and actors share revealing stories — from the origins In the early 1980s, before the dawn of cable television, the fresh and ironic obsessions of a charismatic young standup comic named David Letterman transformed comedy forever. In this definitive oral history of "Late Night," Letterman’s NBC 12:30 am talk show that aired from 1982 to 1993, writers, producers, executives and actors share revealing stories — from the origins of the "Top 10" lists and "Stupid Pet Tricks" to the battle over who would replace Letterman’s mentor, Johnny Carson, as host of "The Tonight Show," to Letterman’s final days at 30 Rock before moving to CBS for "The Late Show." Brian Abrams has been described as "the Ken Burns of presidential alcoholism." His first book, "Party Like a President: True Tales of Inebriation, Lechery, and Mischief from the Oval Office" (Workman Publishing), is scheduled for release in February 2015. He has written for Playboy, Heeb, High Times, Mental_Floss and other publications, and has contributed to the books "I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski: Life, The Big Lebowski, and What Have You" and "Reefer Movie Madness: The Ultimate Stoner Film Guide." He lives in New York City. Cover design by Adil Dara.

30 review for And Now...An Oral History of "Late Night with David Letterman," 1982-1993

  1. 4 out of 5

    Randee

    I breezed through this in almost one sitting. It only gets 3 stars, however, because it was so short. I've watched Letterman all my life and he is my idea of what is truly funny. Dry, acerbic, sharp tongued and not suffering fools gladly...there is also a streak of silly and whimsy that makes him one of my all time favorites. He always makes me laugh. I loved reliving some of the past; reading what his writers and producers had to say about their time served working on his shows. I just wish it I breezed through this in almost one sitting. It only gets 3 stars, however, because it was so short. I've watched Letterman all my life and he is my idea of what is truly funny. Dry, acerbic, sharp tongued and not suffering fools gladly...there is also a streak of silly and whimsy that makes him one of my all time favorites. He always makes me laugh. I loved reliving some of the past; reading what his writers and producers had to say about their time served working on his shows. I just wish it had been twice as long. It seemed like I had just begun and it was over. I would have loved to hear more about Chris Elliot's tenure since I always liked his appearances on Letterman. And, of course, Larry 'Bud' Melman whose appearances often made my stomach hurt from laughing so hard...especially Dave's reaction to Melman's flubs and confusion. Ah..how I am going to miss Letterman after he retires in approximately two weeks. There's no one like him.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paul Lyons

    Decent, engaging short book ("Kindle Single") featuring behind-the-scenes quotes from the director, performers, producers, and writing staff of both of Dave Letterman's NBC shows : "The David Letterman Show" and "Late Night With David Letterman." Strictly for fans only, author Brian Abrams assembles the interview quotes in chronological order of what time period it it covering. Beginning in the late 1970's and ending with Letterman's last NBC broadcast in 1993, "AND NOW...An Oral History of "Lat Decent, engaging short book ("Kindle Single") featuring behind-the-scenes quotes from the director, performers, producers, and writing staff of both of Dave Letterman's NBC shows : "The David Letterman Show" and "Late Night With David Letterman." Strictly for fans only, author Brian Abrams assembles the interview quotes in chronological order of what time period it it covering. Beginning in the late 1970's and ending with Letterman's last NBC broadcast in 1993, "AND NOW...An Oral History of "Late Night with David Letterman," 1982-1993" doesn't reveal much you didn't already know, yet serves more as a fun walk-through of what it was like to work in and around the Letterman show back when it was a subversive, late-night free-for-all.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Raymond

    While the oral history format lends itself well to the Kindle Single, reading this was something I could have just as easily (and more enjoyably) read on an AV Club multiparter and gotten the same experience from. It's not to say it's a bad read, but it's awfully light for the format. As someone who "grew up" watching Letterman when I would be allowed/able to stay up late, but only knew his CBS show, reading this was a bit illuminating as to how zany Letterman's earlier show could be at times, so While the oral history format lends itself well to the Kindle Single, reading this was something I could have just as easily (and more enjoyably) read on an AV Club multiparter and gotten the same experience from. It's not to say it's a bad read, but it's awfully light for the format. As someone who "grew up" watching Letterman when I would be allowed/able to stay up late, but only knew his CBS show, reading this was a bit illuminating as to how zany Letterman's earlier show could be at times, so I did get something out of this. With his show finally over, I would now love to read a similar treatment on his CBS years. Maybe someday. If you have a spare Lending Library borrow or looking for something short, this is worth it, anyway. Format issues aside, I'm glad I read it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ronnie Cramer

    In the late 1970s I saw a very amusing parody film entitled 'King of the Z's' (about a fictional poverty row movie studio). A few years later I heard that the two guys who made it (Stephen Winer and Karl Tiedmann) were writers on a new show called 'Late Night with David Letterman' so I tuned in. I didn't think much of the host (I still don't), but I thought the writing was inspired. Which brings me to this short book: it is a history of the Late Night program told mostly from the writers' perspe In the late 1970s I saw a very amusing parody film entitled 'King of the Z's' (about a fictional poverty row movie studio). A few years later I heard that the two guys who made it (Stephen Winer and Karl Tiedmann) were writers on a new show called 'Late Night with David Letterman' so I tuned in. I didn't think much of the host (I still don't), but I thought the writing was inspired. Which brings me to this short book: it is a history of the Late Night program told mostly from the writers' perspective and I found it quite interesting--in fact, I wish it were longer. Some production people also chime in here and there, but as I recall, the only guests who share their experiences are Mark Hamill and Dee Snider.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Peter Kuchenbrod

    Very good, albeit very short, read. Lots of interesting behind-the-scenes info about the making of NBC’s original Late Night With David Letterman by the people who wrote and created the show (not Dave, though). For instance, I didn’t know about Lorne Michaels’ poaching of practically the entire writing staff for his failed prime time SNL remake, The New Show In 1984. That explains a lot of why the tone of the show subtly shifted at that point. Would definitely like to see this expanded into a fu Very good, albeit very short, read. Lots of interesting behind-the-scenes info about the making of NBC’s original Late Night With David Letterman by the people who wrote and created the show (not Dave, though). For instance, I didn’t know about Lorne Michaels’ poaching of practically the entire writing staff for his failed prime time SNL remake, The New Show In 1984. That explains a lot of why the tone of the show subtly shifted at that point. Would definitely like to see this expanded into a full length book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Paul Carr

    Almost like a long magazine article, this is a short but solid oral history of Letterman's years on NBC, primarily featuring interviews with writers and producers. The broad strokes of the story have been covered elsewhere, and the most interesting things here are the little behind-the-scenes details, like where the idea of Top Ten lists came from, or what formed the show's philosophy in the early years. If you like Letterman or how TV is made, you'll like this book. Almost like a long magazine article, this is a short but solid oral history of Letterman's years on NBC, primarily featuring interviews with writers and producers. The broad strokes of the story have been covered elsewhere, and the most interesting things here are the little behind-the-scenes details, like where the idea of Top Ten lists came from, or what formed the show's philosophy in the early years. If you like Letterman or how TV is made, you'll like this book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Trace Evans

    Interesting Amid Banal Rambling An Oral History of "Late Night" has some fascinating insight on the process behind Letterman's unique show and humor, but it's sadly buried in continued rambling from staff writers regarding who was joining the crew, leaving the crew, or looking to work elsewhere in showbiz, among other bland topics. There are some good stories here, but this instead comes across as a magazine article that wasn't properly trimmed for print. Interesting Amid Banal Rambling An Oral History of "Late Night" has some fascinating insight on the process behind Letterman's unique show and humor, but it's sadly buried in continued rambling from staff writers regarding who was joining the crew, leaving the crew, or looking to work elsewhere in showbiz, among other bland topics. There are some good stories here, but this instead comes across as a magazine article that wasn't properly trimmed for print.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ethan

    This was a pretty solid, breezy read. Interesting for hardcore fans of the original Late Night show where Letterman and his writing staff changed the face of comedy. It definitely gets into the weeds, and there's a fair amount of self congratulatory musing from the writers and producers of the original show. However, if you were one of those people who stayed up way too late watching the show, and recorded your favorite bits and skits to rewatch later, this is a rewarding read. This was a pretty solid, breezy read. Interesting for hardcore fans of the original Late Night show where Letterman and his writing staff changed the face of comedy. It definitely gets into the weeds, and there's a fair amount of self congratulatory musing from the writers and producers of the original show. However, if you were one of those people who stayed up way too late watching the show, and recorded your favorite bits and skits to rewatch later, this is a rewarding read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    A short and quick read, as to be expected from a Kindle single. I've read a number of books about/by stand-up comedy, and of the "talk show wars," and this provides an informative bridge to "Late Night's" backstage. You hear pretty much from the writing staff, a few guests, and others, but neither Dave nor Paul. Maybe a bit overpriced for the length of story you get. A short and quick read, as to be expected from a Kindle single. I've read a number of books about/by stand-up comedy, and of the "talk show wars," and this provides an informative bridge to "Late Night's" backstage. You hear pretty much from the writing staff, a few guests, and others, but neither Dave nor Paul. Maybe a bit overpriced for the length of story you get.

  10. 5 out of 5

    John Tessitore

    To a person of a certain age--my age--and a certain literary proclivity, a book about David Letterman's writers is a treasure. But a book that has nothing to say about Paul and the band, or Cher, or Terri Garr, is not a complete oral history of "Late Night." This book is good. But the great book is still out there waiting to be written. To a person of a certain age--my age--and a certain literary proclivity, a book about David Letterman's writers is a treasure. But a book that has nothing to say about Paul and the band, or Cher, or Terri Garr, is not a complete oral history of "Late Night." This book is good. But the great book is still out there waiting to be written.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Peter Arpesella

    if you like Letterman you'll like this book It's a quick EasyCinema and interesting read. It s written like a documentary would be shot. Makes it fun and moves the story along. It doesn't go deep into matters but deep enough to give you a sense from the writers point of view and keep you reading. Recommend it. if you like Letterman you'll like this book It's a quick EasyCinema and interesting read. It s written like a documentary would be shot. Makes it fun and moves the story along. It doesn't go deep into matters but deep enough to give you a sense from the writers point of view and keep you reading. Recommend it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Short but interesting. I wish it had gone more in-depth (Letterman himself is incredibly enigmatic throughout), but not without its moments, such as when most of the Late Night writing staff left the show two years in for their big prime time break--The New Show, which limped to seven episodes. It was then that staples like Chris Elliott were able to rise quickly through the ranks.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dale Thornton

    . What a conversation! A great oral recitation of a piece of American entertainment history, David Letterman's entourage and other players give us an up close view of working with the man who reshaped late night television. I wish there was more to read from this group of extraordinary and gifted talent . What a conversation! A great oral recitation of a piece of American entertainment history, David Letterman's entourage and other players give us an up close view of working with the man who reshaped late night television. I wish there was more to read from this group of extraordinary and gifted talent

  14. 4 out of 5

    Katie Kohlbeck

    Surely a fascinating read for anyone who is interested in stories and history of late night - particularly the early career of David Letterman. This is a quick read with good stories. However, if I were looking for more of a deep dive into late night or the history of Letterman's career, I'd probably look up something else. All in all though, an interesting read that any fan of Dave will enjoy. Surely a fascinating read for anyone who is interested in stories and history of late night - particularly the early career of David Letterman. This is a quick read with good stories. However, if I were looking for more of a deep dive into late night or the history of Letterman's career, I'd probably look up something else. All in all though, an interesting read that any fan of Dave will enjoy.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michael Lazure

    An interesting look at Letterman! Anyone who watched The Late Nite Show will enjoy this book. It gives an interesting perspective of both how the show was run and of Letterman himself.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Behind the curtain A quick breezy read with great anecdotes and insights on the greatest late night show ever - Late Night With David Letterman. Missing several key voices, but still worth a try

  17. 5 out of 5

    Du

    If this wasn't short, and wasn't free, I'd give it a 1 star. It did nothing to illuminate Late Night with David Letterman fans. It was basic, dull and repetitive. I wonder if it is a stupid pet trick. If this wasn't short, and wasn't free, I'd give it a 1 star. It did nothing to illuminate Late Night with David Letterman fans. It was basic, dull and repetitive. I wonder if it is a stupid pet trick.

  18. 5 out of 5

    John A. Ryan

    A Great Primer about David Letterman. A basic insight into the complex minds behind David Letterman. Writers and Staff from Dave's past shows share their experiences. Easy reading with an interesting twist. A Great Primer about David Letterman. A basic insight into the complex minds behind David Letterman. Writers and Staff from Dave's past shows share their experiences. Easy reading with an interesting twist.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kevin J. Bouffard

    Some compelling stories I enjoyed it for the most part, but at times it read like navel gazing. This gives you a better sense of the people behind the scenes, but Letterman remains enigmatic.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mark Gongloff

    It's fine, but far too brief, with far too little info. Somebody on Amazon described it as a long magazine article, which is about right. An interesting magazine article, to be sure, but I wanted a lot more. It's fine, but far too brief, with far too little info. Somebody on Amazon described it as a long magazine article, which is about right. An interesting magazine article, to be sure, but I wanted a lot more.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Emilyf11

    interesting read from the writers and producers point of view from the early days of The Late Show

  22. 5 out of 5

    Simon Sweetman

    A great summary - told through the voices that helped in the making and shaping - of the influence that Letterman and his original Late Night show had (and has).

  23. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    Always loved Letterman, I think it's a lifestyle choice. This book was a little dry for me, but any book about Letterman can't be all bad. Always loved Letterman, I think it's a lifestyle choice. This book was a little dry for me, but any book about Letterman can't be all bad.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Marty Clarke

    Fantastic! An oral history of a history making show from the people that were actually there doing it. I loved every page.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Great oral history, and this coming from a guy who's tired of oral histories. It's a quick, fun read. Do yourself a favor: have YouTube at the ready for some of Dave's classic clips as you read. Great oral history, and this coming from a guy who's tired of oral histories. It's a quick, fun read. Do yourself a favor: have YouTube at the ready for some of Dave's classic clips as you read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    PG

    Enlightening and compact. Builds on a 40-minute interview of Letterman I listened to some significant while ago.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    Not as interesting as I expected.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    quick read. finished in two hours .I wanted much more. But for $2 it was fine.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Freddie III

    I adore Letterman, so these stories were really great to read. However, the book was really short and did not really talk much about the creation of the show as much as I thought it would have.

  30. 5 out of 5

    John Brown

    You need to read this if you loved 12:30 Letterman I really enjoyed this book. Oral histories give a wonderful sense of what it was like to be there. It flies by.

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