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Later that year, Letterman was a cast member on Mary Tyler Moore's variety show, Mary.
His dry, sarcastic humor caught the attention of scouts for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and Letterman was soon a regular guest on the show.
In one appearance, in 1982, Andy Kaufman (who was wearing a neck brace) appeared with professional wrestler Jerry Lawler, who slapped and knocked the comedian to the ground (though Lawler and Kaufman's friend Bob Zmuda later revealed that the event was staged).
In 1992, Johnny Carson retired, and many fans believed that Letterman would become host of The Tonight Show.
Letterman was initially introduced as Chris Economaki, although this was corrected at the end of the interview (Jim Mc Kay announced his name as Dave Letterman).
Soon after graduating from Ball State in 1969, Letterman began his career as a radio talk show host on WNTS (AM) and on Indianapolis television station WLWI (which changed its call sign to WTHR in 1976) as an anchor and weatherman.
In total, Letterman hosted 6,080 episodes of Late Night and Late Show, Letterman currently hosts the Netflix series My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman. His company, Worldwide Pants, produced his shows as well as The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and several prime-time comedies, the most successful of which was Everybody Loves Raymond, now in syndication.
Several late-night hosts have cited Letterman's influence, including Conan O'Brien (his successor on Late Night), Stephen Colbert (his successor on The Late Show), Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, John Oliver, and Seth Meyers.
When NBC instead gave the job to Jay Leno, Letterman departed NBC to host his own late-night show on CBS, opposite The Tonight Show at p.m., called the Late Show with David Letterman.
The new show debuted on August 30, 1993, and was taped at the historic Ed Sullivan Theater, where Ed Sullivan broadcast his eponymous variety series from 1948 to 1971.