The New York Times comedy critic, Jason Zinoman, delivers the definitive story of the life and artistic legacy of David Letterman, the signature comedic voice of a generation. In a career spanning more than thirty years, David Letterman redefined the modern talk show with an ironic comic style that transcended traditional television. While he remains one of the best-known stars in America, he is also a remote figure whose career has been widely misunderstood. In Letterman, Jason Zinoman, the first comedy critic in the history of the New York Times, mixes ground- breaking reporting with unprecedented access and probing critical analysis to explain the unique entertainer's titanic contributions. Moving from Letterman's early days in Indiana to his retirement, Zinoman has explored behind the scenes of Letterman's television career to shed light on the origins of his revolutionary comedy, its overlooked influences, and how his work intersects with and reveals his famously eccentric personality. In arguing that Letterman had three great artistic periods, each one a distinct part of his evolution, Zinoman examines captivating segments that defined Late Night with David Letterman-for example, Stupid Pet Tricks and other key broadcasting moments-to illuminate Letterman's relationship with his writers and, in particular, the show's co-creator, Merrill Markoe, with whom Letterman had a long professional and personal connection. To understand popular culture today, it is necessary to understand David Letterman. With this enlightening biography, Zinoman offers a perceptive study of the man and the artist whose caustic voice was crucial to an entire generation of comedians and viewers-and whose singular style ushered in new tropes that have become cliches in contemporary comedy.