Late Show with David Letterman TV Poster Image

Late Show with David Letterman

Late-night host mixes traditional talk with biting humor.
  • Network: CBS
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1993

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The series is a platform for Letterman's unique style of comedy, which is full of sarcastic comments and silly gags. Some moments may be a little sharp or a bit silly, but they're not intended to be mean.

Positive role models

While Letterman presents himself as a curmudgeon and can be very snarky, he also has a softer side. Some of his guests promote nonprofit organizations and efforts that support breast cancer, Parkinson's disease, and other causes. Letterman himself hosted the medical team that provided his care during his heart surgery.


Some of the gags lead to people getting wet, destruction of property, etc., but none are intended to cause injury.


Some of the show's humor gets a bit racy, with some sexual innuendo. In one infamous episode, Drew Barrymore flashed Letterman -- but no nudity was shown.


Words like “goddamn," “hell," "ass," "piss," and “crap” are frequently used.


Like any talk show, the series is a promotional vehicle for actors, musicians, and the like. Politicians and presidents also appear to promote their campaigns and/or agendas.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Occasional references to drinking and drug use, but very little is shown these days (Letterman used to be shown smoking cigars).

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this late-night talk show features quirky running gags and suggestive humor. Host David Letterman’s monologues sometimes include sexual innuendo, as well as references to drinking and drug use. Letterman can be very biting in his humor style, but his softer side sometimes peeks out. Guests sometimes engage in inappropriate behavior, but it's usually played for laughs. Words like “hell," "ass," and “crap” are used frequently. Note: Most teens who watch late-night shows like this check them out on a "time-shift" basis via DVR or online clips, rather than at the original 11:30 p.m.-or-later air time -- which is better for their sleep habits!

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What's the story?

A fixture on the late-night TV schedule, LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN combines variety show entertainment with distinctively quirky humor. The series, which premiered in 1993, is a variation of host David Letterman's original hit show, NBC's Late Night With David Letterman. The comedian amuses viewers with monologues and a wide range of signature bits, which range from randomly putting audience members on a plane to Europe to shooting water on unsuspecting pedestrians. In between these antics are interviews with celebrities and politicians, as well as performances from musical guests and the show's in-house band, which is led by long-time Letterman sidekick Paul Shaffer.

Is it any good?


The popularity of this New York-based talk show (which has aired more than 3000 episodes) can be credited to Letterman's combination of sarcastic humor and absurd sketch comedy. While some viewers may find his running gags a bit silly, regular features like his signature "Top Ten List" have become part of American popular culture.

Over the years Letterman's somewhat biting on-air personality has mellowed a bit, most notably after some highly publicized health problems and the September 11 attacks. As a result, the show has lost some of its edginess. But despite the changes over the years, Late Show continues to be popular, cementing Letterman's status as an American TV icon.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what makes a late-night show successful. Is it the host? Guest performances? Sketches and gags?

  • How do late-night shows influence other areas of the media?

  • What makes someone a TV icon? Which TV stars would you consider important/iconic? Are there any TV gags, taglines, or sketches that are popular today that you think will be remembered decades later?

  • If you were to host your own talk show, what it would be like? What would be your signature feature?

TV details

Premiere date:August 30, 1993
Cast:Alan Kalter, David Letterman, Paul Shaffer
TV rating:TV-PG
Available on:Streaming

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Parent Written byPlague March 8, 2010

Late Show with David Letterman

A really funny and addicting show. Love it.