By Mary Giorgio

Television host, comedian, writer, producer…Hoosier.

David Letterman’s career as a comedic entertainer has taken many forms through the years. He is best known for his role hosting ‘The Late Show with David Letterman’ for an unprecedented 33 years.

But before he was a famous entertainer, Letterman was your average Hoosier boy.

David Letterman was born in Indianapolis on August 12, 1947. His father was a florist and his mother worked as a secretary at the Second Presbyterian Church. Letterman grew up in Broad Ripple. During his teenage years, he worked at an Atlas Supermarket, bagging groceries and mopping floors.


After graduating from Broad Ripple High School, Letterman enrolled at Ball State University. There, he got his first job in broadcasting. Letterman hosted a short-lived show on the student radio station, WBST, and then another on WAGO-AM 570.

In 1969, Letterman graduated from Ball State.  He got a job as an anchorman and weatherman on Indianapolis WLWI (now WTHR). A comedian at heart, Letterman frequently added humor to his forecasts.

In 1975, Letterman decided to pursue a career as a comedy writer and moved to Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter, he was hired by comedian and ‘Good Timesstar Jimmy Walker to write jokes for Walker’s standup. Letterman’s big break came in 1978 when he got a regular guest appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Fans loved his sarcastic, dry humor and soon Carson became his friend and mentor.

In 1980, NBC cast Letterman on his own morning show, The David Letterman Show. The show won two Daytime Emmys but was canceled due to poor ratings. NBC re-cast Letterman in a late-night show in 1982.

Late Night with David Letterman soon gained a cult following among college students and then became a ratings juggernaut. Letterman moved to CBS in 1992 to host The Late Show with David Letterman after NBC executives gave Leno ‘The Tonight Show’. He retired in 2015.

During his late-night career, Letterman received 52 Emmy Award nominations and won 10 Primetime Emmys. He also won four American Comedy Awards. Letterman was the first recipient of the Johnny Carson Award for Comedic Excellence. His show has been cited as one of the 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time by TV Guide.

In addition to his career as a late-night comedian, Letterman is also a producer. In 1993, he started his own production company, Worldwide Pants Incorporated. His biggest success was arguably the production of the popular TV series, ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’.


Letterman’s Hoosier ties run deep. He is a lifelong fan of the Indy 500 and co-owns the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team. His team currently races in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Letterman is a generous contributor to numerous Indiana charitable causes and to his alma mater. His contributions to Ball State include an endowed scholarship fund, a lecture series, and a workshop series. Ball State named the David Letterman Communication and Media Building in his honor.

In August 2018, Hoosiers in Mishawaka might have seen Letterman’s familiar face working with the 35th Annual Carter Habitat For Humanity Work Project. Letterman sponsored several houses and built homes with other volunteers.

To this day, Letterman considers himself a Hoosier. He proudly bears the title “Sagamore of the Wabash”, bestowed upon him by Gov. Mitch Daniels in 2007. This honor recognizes a person’s distinguished contributions to Indiana.


Letterman may be retired, but he continues to do what he loves best – making people laugh. He can be seen on the Netflix series, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.