[[quoteright:300:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/letterman_7552.png]]
[[caption-width-right:300:...and I'm not wearing pants!]]

->''"And now… a man who shouldn't be up this late… David Letterman!"''
-->-- Dave's first intro line from 1982.

->''"Well, why don't I start off with a question, here: just how pissed off are you?"''
->''"Johnny, lemme give you a little piece of advice: you keep using language like that, and you're [[GallowsHumor gonna find yourself out of a job.]]"''
-->-- '''Johnny Carson's''' opening question to Dave on Letterman's first ''[[Series/TheTonightShow Tonight Show]]'' appearance after Creator/{{NBC}} made their decision.

David Letterman (born April 12, 1947) is a late-night TalkShow host famous for defining the genre in the post-[[TheTonightShow Johnny Carson]] era. Letterman's shows (''The David Letterman Show'' in 1980, ''LateNight'' from 1982-93, and ''The Late Show'' since then) came to be known as examples of the "[[PostModernism Anti-Talk Show]]", a show that is relentlessly [[LampshadeHanging self-aware]] and intent on deconstructing the conventions of the very medium that gives it life.

From the beginning, Letterman fashioned his persona as a smartass host that was "too hip" for the talk show format, and proceeded from there to make a mockery of the entire genre as a result — for instance, he would often barely hide his contempt for [[HatesTheJobLovesTheLimelight almost every aspect of show business]], from his producers and writers, to his wardrobe director, his celebrity guests, his sidekick Paul Shaffer, and [[SelfDeprecation even his own fame]]. All of this pales, however, in comparison to his loathing for hated "[[TheRival rival]]" Jay Leno, to whom he lost the coveted [[Series/TheTonightShow ''Tonight Show'']] gig after Carson's retirement, a development about which he is still clearly bitter some two decades later, though it should be noted that Leno claimed in 2013 that they weren't on unfriendly terms, and even have occasional discussions about the industry.

Letterman took frequent shots at his network (first NBC, then CBS), and then his network's parent company when NBC was acquired by General Electric. He would intentionally bomb jokes in the monologue, and openly waste network airtime on ridiculous gags whose only purpose served to illustrate simply that, "[[BitingTheHandHumor Hey! I'm wasting NBC airtime here!]]" He eschewed the typical talk show uniform of a tailored suit in favor of a tie, a blazer, khakis...and white Adidas wrestling shoes.

He dropped random things off roofs, he blew random things up on-air, he staged impromptu audience competitions (in addition to showcasing Stupid Pet, and Human, Tricks), he used "viewer mail" segments as an excuse to break into various non sequitur-style sketches, he did stunts in a variety of ridiculous suits (made of velcro, tortilla chips, etc.), and essentially offered a biting parody of the [[HorribleHollywood Hollywood machine]] from the perspective of a Midwestern "everyman" who somehow found himself [[OnlySaneMan trapped inside the establishment]] at the height of its decadence.

As a side-effect, Letterman was sort of feared in the business when it came to interacting with the guests. He was intimidating, and could be somewhat mean to them. Until the late 1990s when he started to mellow down, it was fairly well-known that his only real friends in the business were Music/WarrenZevon and Creator/JuliaRoberts. In one interview in the early 2000s, Roberts mentioned the fact that Letterman had softened up and that now every actress was a "lovely girl". Letterman's quip was "Oh, you know I'm just woofing."

Ironically, Letterman's influential "anti-talk show" sensibility ended up ''saving'' the talk show format as we know it at some point towards the end of Carson's stint as host of ''Series/TheTonightShow''. Without Letterman mocking the genre in the 1980s, today's genre staples (especially Creator/ConanOBrien's shows) would likely not exist in their current form.

In April 2014, shortly before his 67th birthday, having spent close to half his life doing the show, Letterman announced he would be retiring the following year. A week later, CBS announced his successor would be Creator/StephenColbert.

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!!! "From the home office in Wahoo, NE, it's tonight's Top Trope List":
* AffectionateParody: Shortly after moving to the Ed Sullivan Theatre, Dave would parody Sullivan's habit of introducing celebrities in the audience. One night he introduced a confused looking Paul Newman who stood up, said "Where the hell's all the singing ''Theatre/{{Cats}}''?" and walked out.
* [[ArsonMurderAndJaywalking Arson, Murder and]]...[[LampshadeHanging umm]]...[[TheRival Jaywalking]]: As part of Letterman's subversion of the form, as a rule #1 is almost never the funniest joke in the Top Ten List. The studio audience will be [[ButThouMust applauding anyway]].
* AscendedExtra: Many members of he production staff and crew have become familiar faces to viewers and even been utilized in bits, such as stagehand Biff Henderson, production assistant Barbara Gaines, and former director and producer Hal Gurnee and Robert Morton, respectively.
* AshesToCrashes: Paul Rudd [[http://www.tvsquad.com/2010/07/30/paul-rudd-talks-of-familys-surreal-ceremony-for-late-father-vi described]] his surreal experiences with his father's ashes in Ireland. Yes, he got "Lebowski'ed".
* TheAtoner: In October of 1993, Creator/BillHicks made his last TV appearance before his death, on ''Late Night,'' and performed a set that didn't make it to air due to its content. Bill was, uh, [[BerserkButton not pleased with this,]] and made no secret of his bitterness during his final months. Sixteen years later, on January 30, 2009, Dave discussed the incident, took the blame for the decision, and [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2QXBd1i4KI had an interview with Bill's mother, Mary Hicks]], where he profusely apologized. He then presented Bill's unaired set in its entirety.
* BaldOfAwesome: Paul Shaffer, of course.
* BigApplesauce: New York-based, unlike the LA-based ''Tonight Show'' (until 2014, that is).
* BitingTheHandHumor: On ''Late Night'', Letterman constantly took shots at NBC and their parent company, General Electric. And he's poked plenty of fun at [=CBS=] since his channel hop.
-->'''Dave''' (''standing in front of a giant CBS eye'') Just between you and me...isn't that eye thing...kinda creepy?
* BodyHorror: "Things [[TakeThat More Fun]] Than Reading The UsefulNotes/SarahPalin Memoir" consists of BodyHorror StockFootage, mostly from old movies.
* BrickJoke: A relatively recent joke involving newly installed button on Dave's chair. He's told to press it - cue Dave getting blasted out of the building (everyone is then told he's okay). A couple of episodes later, Dave reveals that said button is still there. He pushes the button, and we [[ForegoneConclusion think we know what will happen next]], but instead, [[SubvertedTrope the head of the orchestra is blasted outside]]. Another push of the button, though, [[HistoryRepeats and Dave's right behind him]].
** Also, any references to "getting my lips bit off by a wild dingo!"
* TheBusCameBack: Dave made a number of guest appearances on ''Late Night with Conan O'Brien''.
* CallingTheOldManOut: Kirstie Alley got one over on Dave when she appeared on the Late Show in 2011. Having been a Woobie for Letterman in the past, particularly during her run on ''Series/DancingWithTheStars'', she brought with her Dave's cruelest jokes and repeated them back to him. The audience booed the jokes. May count as a [[SugarWiki/MomentOfAwesome Crowning Moment Of Awesome]] for Kirstie.
* CasanovaWannabe: Announcer Alan Kalter.
* CaptainErsatz: Chris Elliot's running characters The Fugitive Guy (''Series/TheFugitive'') and The Regulator Guy (''Series/TheEqualizer'').
* CatchPhrase
** Whenever the subject of drinks comes up, "I don't think there's a man, woman, or child alive today who doesn't enjoy a refreshing beverage."
** "How we doing on time?"
** "I wouldn't give my troubles to a monkey on a rock."
** (When a joke set-up has a fairly obvious punchline coming up) "I think we can all see this one coming down 2nd Avenue."
** (Wiggling some blue cards) "If these ''weren't'' [[FourthWallMailSlot actual letters from actual viewers]]....could I do this?"
* ChannelHop[=/=]ExecutiveMeddling: Pissed that NBC execs picked Jay Leno over him to host ''Tonight'', Letterman took his show to CBS, where he had to make a few changes for the 11:30 slot that seemed minor at first but ultimately ended his peak until NBC's Jay-vs-Conan meltdown in 2009.
** Carson himself never forgave NBC for picking Leno over Letterman, as he always thought that Letterman was the best choice to succeed him. As such, whenever Carson got an idea for a joke while in his retirement, he would send them to Letterman instead of Leno. And [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9i6A6LGwa4 Carson himself showed up on-air]], the applause was ''deafening''. Both men were clearly overwhelmed by it.
* ChewToy: Poor Alan Kalter (aka TheAnnouncer).
* ChristmasCarolers: During many a Christmas season he'd bring on a group of carolers to sing the "TopTen Least Favorite Christmas Carols" (which are traditional Christmas carols reworded to reflect current political satire topics).
* CityOfWeirdos: A recurring Letterman gag is to see "How many guys in X costumes can fit in a Y?", trying to get a rise out of passers-by. People seldom react.
* ClusterFBomb: In 1994, Music/{{Madonna}} dropped the F-word at least 13 times, which were all censored, during her interview, and tried to get Letterman to smell her panties.
[[quoteright:200:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/DaveAvengers.jpg]]
* CoattailRidingRelative: Dave makes the occasional joke about his uncle Larry trying to capitalize on his success.
* ComicBooks: Bizarrely, Letterman was in an issue of ''Comicbook/TheAvengers'' in 1984. A parody version of Letterman ("David Endochrine") was murdered (along with his audience) by SelfDemonstrating/TheJoker in FrankMiller's ''ComicBook/TheDarkKnightReturns''.
* ComplainingAboutThingsYouHaventPaidFor: Dave sometimes jokingly tries to preempt complaints from the studio audience saying things like "You didn't pay anything to get in here, you know."
** Also at the midpoint of the show, Letterman would announce the guests booked for the next episode. Sometimes the audience would boo softly if it was a big name guest, leading Dave to say "Oh? Something wrong with tonight's show?"
* CouchGag: Alan Kalter's introduction of Dave is different on every episode.
* CrapsackWorld: ...Although Letterman's openly-silly style of humor clashes with his seemingly cynical presentation just enough to cause debate on where he stands on the SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism.
* {{Crossover}}: The late [[Series/TheFrugalGourmet Jeff Smith]] almost out-Lettermans Letterman in [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGYvTspqu2c this clip]], and Paul's line might be considered GettingCrapPastTheRadar by 1991 standards.
** [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMfsLySxIzA Edward Woodward]] appears in this clip as Dave calls the number in ''Series/TheEqualizer'''s InUniverse ad.
** ''Series/StarTrekTheOriginalSeries''' GeorgeTakei narrated "[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ceek_6A-UWs Chris Elliot: Television Miracle]]".
*** How do you top Drum Solo Weeks I & II? With [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w440qVTsNUo Drum Sulu Week!]]
* DeadpanSnarker
* {{Deconstruction}}[=/=]DeconstructiveParody
* DontTryThisAtHome: Warning disclaimer for many ''Late Night'' stunts in the 1980s. Occasionally subverted by Letterman with the addendum "Go to a friend's house instead."
** During ''Stupid Pet Tricks'', "Please....no wagering", which in turn is subverted by ''Stupid Human Tricks'''s disclaimer "Go ahead and wager."
* DrumRollPlease: All upcoming gags receive this, sometimes to intentionally anti-climactic results.
** Dave often also asks Stupid Pet Trick contestants if they want a drum roll or if they think it will scare the pet.
* TheEponymousShow: Letterman's first morning show on NBC was ''The David Letterman Show''. But even today, his various incarnations are all lumped together as ''The Letterman Show''.
* EverythingsBetterWithMonkeys: He ''loves'' featuring non-human primates, or, at least, people dressed as them.
** Zippy the Chimp, who would run around in the audience on ''Late Night'' with a video camera strapped to his back for the "Late Night Monkey Cam."
** That clip of the sneezing monkey
** "Can a Guy in a Gorilla Suit Get Into a Feature Film?"
** Of course, one of the many lines he adopted from Johnny Carson: "I wouldn't give this guy's troubles to [[CrowdSong a monkey on a rock!"]].
* {{Expy}}: Jay Leno's "Headlines" is the exact same bit as Letterman's "Small Town News"...except Leno copies the articles (''other people's works'') and sells them in book form.
** Letterman's "Small Town News" predates "Headlines" by approximately 10 years. It can be argued that they both stole the concept from Steve Allen's Tonight Show.
** To his credit, Letterman has always credited Allen for inspiration for a number of the ''Late Night/Late Show'' spots such his Suit of Alka-Seltzer being an {{Expy}} of Allen's Suit of Teabags.
* FakeBand: In 1999, Letterman used the faux BoyBand "Fresh Step" to mock groups like the Music/BackstreetBoys and Music/{{NSync}}.
* {{Foil}}: During the rare times that Music/{{Madonna}} was allowed to come on, she would happily ruin Letterman's planned schedule of events via grandstanding and showboating. This was likely out of revenge for Dave introducing her as someone who "[[ReallyGetsAround slept with]] some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry."
** Perhap's Dave most mis-timed joke happened one evening in 1989, when he welshed on a restaurant bill and left his unsuspecting dinner partner (OprahWinfrey) to pay, ho ho. Oprah froze him out for almost twenty years (and it was suggested, by RogerEbert and other guests, that many doors were shut to Letterman as a result), but eventually accepted Dave's three bajillioth apology. They are now friends again.
** Music/{{Cher}} famously called him an "asshole" during an interview, to his face.
** In what is becoming a rite of passage for pop stars, Music/LadyGaga [[SniffSniffNom ate his note cards]] after Dave asked about her lingerie buying habits.
* FourthWallMailSlot: "Viewer Mail" on ''Late Night'', "CBS Mailbag" on ''Late Show''
* FreakOut: Craig Nicholls from The Vines had a ''massive'' one during a 2003 appearance, [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBKm966ACdQ and created some incredibly uncomfortable television]] in the process. Even ''Dave'' couldn't play that one off. [[note]]It later turned out Nicholls has Aspergers syndrome.[[/note]]
* FrivolousLawsuit[=/=][[DisneyOwnsThisTrope [=NBC=] Owns This Trope]]: When Letterman left for CBS, NBC threatened one over the "intellectual property" of Stupid Pet Tricks and the Top Ten list, until both Letterman and Leno's mockery embarrassed them out of it. Among the problems with the lawsuit: Top ten lists had been [[OlderThanTheyThink done for years by people before Letterman]], and [[WhatAnIdiot Letterman actually owned the Stupid Pet Tricks property from an earlier show of his]].
** Then-current NBC anchor Tom Brokaw made a surprise appearance during Letterman's first CBS monologue and took one of the cue cards, claiming the jokes were NBC intellectual property.
** [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObJzT7dI-Ws After asking Johnny Carson if he can use "Stump the Band"]], Johnny quips "''Stump the Band''? Sure, I can hardly claim that as intellectual property!".
* FunnyForeigner: ''Late Show'' has their foreign correspondent Graham Fenwick-Jones, who speaks almost without exception in impenetrable British slang with no subtitles.
* GameShow: Dave appeared on many games from about 1975-80, and occasionally says "[[{{Concentration}} Not a match, the board goes back.]]" when a joke falls flat. He's also done several parodies, which you can watch on the GameShowAppearance page.
** Dave also hosted a disastrous GameShow pilot called "The Riddlers". The pilot has been shown on GSN, [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHJDu-hPhDo and here]] you can see him talk with [=Michael McKean=] about it.
* GettingCrapPastTheRadar
* GiantSpaceFleaFromNowhere: As part of the show's RuleOfFunny, many times someone will just walk over to Dave, say something insulting, and promptly disappear and never be seen or referenced again.
* GuestHost: Letterman became famous as Johnny Carson's guest host on ''Series/TheTonightShow''. Much later in his career, Letterman would have heart surgery and a bout with shingles that led to famous guest hosts for his show, like Regis Philbin, Creator/BruceWillis, Creator/BillCosby, Creator/WillFerrell, Creator/JimmyFallon, Music/ElvisCostello, Creator/AdamSandler, Tom Green, Megan Mullaly, Vince Vaughn, and BonnieHunt.
* {{Jerkass}}: Letterman's interview style was often charitably described as "acerbic" in his early days. Music/{{Cher}} told him that for years she didn't want to come back on his show because she thought he was "an asshole".
** After A&E aired repeats of ''Late Night'', David Letterman apparently felt that such repeats hurt the value of first-run episodes, so don't expect the ''Late Show'' to show up in repeats (except on CBS when Letterman has the day off) or on DVD.
* LampshadeHanging: His explaining away jokes that didn't work.
* LeftItIn: Letterman frequently says "We'll edit that out later." They never do.
* LittleKnownFacts: "Fun Facts".
* LogoJoke: The first airing of ''Late Show'' was prefaced with the Creator/{{CBS}} ID of the era playing as normal, except Dave said "This is CBS" instead of the usual V/O guy, and he actually appeared midway through the ID.
-->'''Dave''' (''in another promo in front of the eye''): Don't you think that eye thing is.....kinda creepy?
* LongRunner: Dave just celebrated 30 years in late night television. However this is split between two shows, Late Night on NBC and CBS's the Late Show.
* LovelyAssistant: Grinder Girl and Hula Hoop Girl in "Will It Float?"
** The pair may also be an example of {{Ascended Extra}}s as well — both originally showed up in an earlier recurring sketch called "Is This Anything?", during which the audience was treated to a few seconds of someone's offbeat act, after which Dave and Paul would decide whether the act was "anything" worthwhile. ...They really liked Grinder Girl and Hula Hoop Girl.
* ManOnFire: When [[Film/ManOnFire the movie of the same name]] was coming out, Dave would have a guy running around the stage screaming with his shirt on fire until he ran to the back and the fire was extinguished.
* MediumAwareness
* MemeticPsychopath: Invoked, as Letterman for a time had a bit called "[[Series/DoctorPhil Dr. Phil]]'s Words of Wisdom", which were quick out of context clips from his show, including such quotes as "Let's just kick her ass," "Children hate me," and [[ArsonMurderAndJaywalking "I would eat some Fruity Pebbles if I got hungry enough."]] Usually, Dave would end the bit by saying, "Someday they're going to close down that little parlor game and put that man in jail."
* OnceASeason: Every time [[UsefulNotes/JewishHolidays Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year)]] comes along, Dave mentions what year it is on the Jewish Calendar (this year will be 5774), and that he's still writing the previous year on his checks, with Paul saying "You crazy nut."
** He makes similar jokes about the Chinese New Year, mentioning that it's the year of some particular animal, and say that he's still writing the previous animal on his checks.
* OneExtraMember: On the "Small Town News" segment, one of Dave's self-described favorite categories of news is things like "Classical Trio performs" with a picture of 4-6 members.
* OnlySaneMan
* OrphanedPunchLine: [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNn60k4N9rU This clip]] from a 1985 episode has guest JohnnyCarson delivering the punchline to a joke that he'd started on ''Series/TheTonightShow'' earlier that night: "And the man says to Mrs. O'Hara, 'I'm not so sure about that, he got out three times to go to the bathroom'."
** Once he and Paul had been talking about "Ventriloquists' Week" and he threw in, "Wednesday we'll be having Dick Cheney and UsefulNotes/GeorgeWBush!"
* PlayingWithATrope
* PrecisionFStrike: In re Leonard Tepper walking out in a giant squirrel costume:
-->'''DAVE''': "I know what you're thinking. This (bleep) better be funny."
* TheRival: Jay "Big Jaw" Leno became this after he beat Letterman out as Carson's successor on ''Tonight'', and Dave moved to CBS to compete directly with Leno in the 11:30 PM slot. The bad blood resurfaced in 2009 after some of the worst ExecutiveMeddling of all time caused Leno to first move out of ''The Tonight Show'' and then back in after less than a year because of failing ratings. Letterman joined many others in accusing Leno of "reneging" on his previously-announced "retirement," although the move had been largely forced on Leno and he only reteurned after his ostensible successor, Creator/ConanOBrien (who had earlier succeeded Letterman himself on NBC's ''Late Night'' show), had already decided to leave. Despite the bump in Letterman's ratings the events caused, he still tends to come in behind Leno's.
** Although Leno has gotten mileage out of occasional Letterman scandals (notably revelations of Letterman's affair with a staffer), he has been much less inclined to attack Letterman than Letterman has been to attack him. The former friends' relationship remains strained, although Leno has expressed willingness to mend fences.
** For his part Letterman has expressed grudging respect for Leno's skills, characterizing him as a great standup comic. Letterman has never considered himself as such, which is why he stopped touring basically as soon as he could get a TV show.
** During a 2012 interview with " fellow Leno victim" Conan O'brien, both got their shots in, Letterman stating that in the 70s all the stand up comedy circuit admired Leno's talent, but all knew that deep down he was just 'a big brat' whenever he wanted something.
** Lampshaded to hilarious effect in a promo aired during Super Bowl XLIV.
** ''[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msC3uu4KZbg Law & Order: Jay Leno Victims Unit]]''.
* RuleOfFunny: The engine that powers the show.
* RunningGag: Often used to the point of being [[OverlyLongGag intentionally unfunny]] and arguably bordering on LampshadeHanging.
** One of Dave's more notable phrases, used when a joke falls flat, is "Not a match, the board goes back" — a phrase that should be familiar to anyone who has ever been thanked for playing ''{{Concentration}}''.
** The "Countdown until Bernie Madoff's Release".
** [[ItMakesSenseInContext "It's always the horn section!"]]
* {{Satire}}
* SelfDeprecation: All the damn time, especially when the TopTenList is read by any kind of guests. It will ALWAYS include some reference to the guests wanting to be on Leno or a comment on how old Dave is.
* ShoutOut: Along with the Johnny Carson and Steve Allen references mentioned above:
** The World's Most Dangerous Band is a reference to 1960s-1970s pro wrestler Wrestling/DickTheBruiser, whose RedBaron was "The World's Most Dangerous Wrestler" and was the owner and top star of the World Wrestling Association in Dave's hometown of Indianapolis, IN.
** The "CBS Mailbag" segment opened with Perry [=Como=]'s [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_Get_Letters "We Get Letters."]]
* TheShowMustGoOn: While New York City hunkered down for the imminent arrival of Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, the show was recorded without a studio audience and a skeleton crew. A mannequin was "operating" one of the cameras and an intern held up handwritten text cards for the Top Ten List. (Creator/JimmyFallon, also in NYC, did a similar show.)
* ShowWithinAShow: Chris Elliott's ''The Fugitive Guy'' complete with opening and closing credits, theme song, 'Tonight's Episode' Quinn Martin type titles, and a final episode in which Dave and Chris hunt down The One Legged Man.
* {{Sideboob}}: On this VerySpecialEpisode, the audience (and later all of Manhattan via the Jumbotron) gets a [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UUqwrpw3uA quick shot of Drew Barrymore's side boob]], while Birthday Boy Letterman gets to enjoy the full effect.
* SomethingCompletelyDifferent[=/=]ShowWithinAShow: ''Late Night'' would sometimes stage an entire episode in a bizarre, novel way.
** One night, he pretended it was ''The Morning Show with Dave & Tawny'' (perhaps a statement on his ill-fated eponymous 1980 series)...and actually [[WhatCouldHaveBeen seemed like a pretty decent idea]].
*** Apparently Dave himself was very impressed with this episode. Generally when he would announce that the next night's episode was a repeat, he'd say it's "Just a lousy re-run, don't bother tuning in". But when announcing "The Morning Show" episode's re-showing, he suggested people giving it another viewing.
** On another occasion, he let the audience vote via applause for a "custom-built show".
** Still another episode was an "upside-down show" where the camera rotated 360 degrees throughout the course of the hour.
** Not to mention the 4 AM show, which was taped at, you guessed it, 4 in the morning. The show featured an introduction from Hillary Clinton, Dave entering on a horse, rat catching in the streets of Manhattan, and a guided tour of one of the guest's neighbourhood.
* StalkerWithACrush: In the late '80s, a mentally ill woman named Margaret Mary Ray began stalking him, believing that they were in a romantic relationship. Letterman made some jokes about it, but upon her finally being sent to jail, he stated that he felt nothing but sympathy for her condition.
* StealthPun: A staple of Letterman comedy, especially in Top Ten Lists.
* StrawFan: Predominantly used by Letterman to mock his audience in the "Viewer Mail" segments.
* StudioAudience: Often had a love/hate relationship with Letterman in the mid-1980s; they're all adoration, all the time nowadays.
* [[ImpossiblyCoolClothes Suit Of Awesome]]: For a while in the 80s David had a number of special suits. Sitting in a giant bowl he was doused with barrels of milk while wearing a Suit of Rice Krispies; Hoisted by a crane he was placed in a giant glass of water wearing a Suit of Alka-Seltzer; And perhaps most famous of all - he jumped off a trampoline on to a wall while wearing a Suit of Velcro to see if he'd stick. He did. As Letterman himself freely admitted, these were inspired by Steve Allen, who during his run as host of ''TheTonightShow'', once sat in a giant tea cup with warm water and 200 lemon wedges while wearing a Suit of Teabags.
* SwivelChairAntics: Dave and Paul have raced down the halls of NBC on fire extinguisher powered office chairs.
* TakeThat: The {{Top Ten List}}s sometimes employ this. The October 4, 2010 list, "Rick Sanchez' Top Ten Excuses," in re Sanchez' anti-Semitic comments about Creator/JonStewart from Creator/{{CNN}} on September 30, included at Number 4, "Trying to impress Mel Gibson."
* TalkShow
** TheTalkShowWithHostName
* TeensAreMonsters: "Dwight the Troubled Teen" skits.
* TitleConfusion: ''The Late Show'' is often mistakenly referred to as ''Late Night'' and vice versa. In reality, ''Late Night'' still exists at NBC and is hosted by Seth Meyers.
* TopTenList: Perhaps Letterman's most well-known Trope. An attempt to eradicate all of those insipid "top ten lists" forever, from the inside, by making lists so intentionally lame that the phenomenon would die on the spot. [[SpringtimeForHitler Ironically]], though, the Top Ten actually became one of Letterman's most popular bits, and is his hallmark to this day.
* TVStrikes: Letterman circumvented the 2007 WGA strike by negotiating a special deal that allowed his writers to return to work early.
* Website/{{Twitter}}: Dave has composed tweets in mid-show, in full GrumpyOldMan mode commenting sarcastically about how "this is so much easier than a phone call" and spelling out the words "Hash Tag" in the tweet itself.
* UnfortunateNames: For a month in 1995, Dave was absolutely obsessed with a man from Saskatchewan named Dick Assman. Yes, you read that right.
* [[UnresolvedSexualTension [=UST=]]]: Between Dave and JuliaRoberts, of all people. Also with Gillian Anderson in [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2Z8UvXjgG8 this]] appearance.
* VacationEpisode: The crew once spent a week in London, which also marked the only time the series has seen the light of British terrestrial television - [[Creator/TheBBC BBC2]] aired those episodes.
** He did a week of shows in LA in 1994, during which Johnny Carson made a couple cameos that turned out to be his final television appearances.
* VanityPlate: Letterman's company, Worldwide Pants, has a vanity plate that is memorable for the non-sequiteur phrases announced during the display of the plate.
* VitriolicBestBuds: Dave has had this relationship with several guests, most notably Regis Philbin and Charles Grodin.
* WorkedShoot: Letterman's infamous interview with actor/comedian Wrestling/AndyKaufman and pro wrestler Wrestling/JerryLawler has been confirmed as a staged event in the intervening years, though only Lawler and Kaufman knew what was going to happen. Dave's disastrous chat with Crispin Glover, on the other hand, appears to be all too real.
* WritingAroundTrademarks: Due to NBC owning the names (but not the formats) to several of Letterman's skits.
** The World's Most Dangerous Band [=-->=] The CBS Orchestra. [[note]](The band didn't really have a name until around 1987, when Letterman pointed out that the line "with Paul Shaffer and the band" in his opening announcement sounded weak compared to "with Doc Severinsen and The NBC Orchestra" on ''The Tonight Show''. They went with "Paul Shaffer and The NBC Orchestra" for a few shows before debuting "The World's Most Dangerous Band". That makes "CBS Orchestra" a ShoutOut, CallBack and TakeThat all at the same time.)[[/note]]
** Viewer Mail [=-->=] CBS Mailbag.
** The Top Ten List [=-->=] The Late Show Top Ten List.
** Larry "Bud" Melman [=-->=] Calvert [=DeForest=].
* YourFavorite: Dave once had his Mother on the show to demonstrate how she made his favorite snack — Fried Bologna Sandwiches.
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->''"Now, stay tuned for [[Creator/CraigFerguson Craig]] [[Series/TheLateLateShow Ferguson!]] This is Alan Kalter speaking! Good night, everybody!"''