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While the book does a nice job of chronicling the various stages of Letterman's career, it fails to capture what made his show - at times - great. His personal demons and self loathing are chronicled in excessive detail while the skits and interviews are presented humorlessly. A reader who never watched his show would have no understanding why this apparently bitter, often cruel, man made it 30+ years on late night. It was depressing.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Before and surpassing all current late-night hosts, Letterman innovated in countless ways (remote shoots, absurdist pranks such as dropping watermelons off buildings or putting a guy on the streets of NYC in a bear suit, using show staff as recurring characters, top-ten-style jokes) that today's hosts copy. What is missing is Letterman's sarcastic, ironic, hilarious detachment from the nonsense that surrounded him. The pleasures of this book are found in a briskly paced, satisfying recounting of the changing role that Letterman played in the show over the years, also including interesting stories of his youthful creative efforts. Zinoman describes Letterman's on-air personality as paradigmatic of the era. It is fun to be reminded of Dave's hilarious obsessions and routines: Larry "Bud" Melman, Connie Chung, Stupid Pet Tricks. It also convincingly explains the changes as the show became massive and softened in later years, factoring in his subject's shortcomings as well as his genius. There was no mention of Alan Coulter, "TV's Uncle Jerry," Tony the cue-card boy, or dog poetry, but you can't fit everything in. Overall a great listen, well-read.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
Very well written by an author who knows his stuff. Fascinating insights into not only Letterman but his teams/colleagues/writers etc, and the evolution of comedy (lots of stars mentioned in this), as well as talk shows in the US in the 1970s to today. Love these types of cultural histories.
If you want to know the background of the top ten list and other quirks of the show - this is for you.
If you were looking for something more about Letterman the man himself it's not so much here