I don’t know why, but I have a fascination/low-key obsession with late night television and its history. Letterman is in many ways the progenitor of the swath of comedy that I enjoy, so a Letterman biography written two years after his retirement is right up my alley.
Zinoman’s treatment of the life of “the last great giant of late night,” is thorough and incisive without much of an obvious agenda. If there is a “take” on Letterman is this book, it’s that his legacy is complex and difficult to distill. The author considers Letterman’s self-effacing yet arrogant persona at the center of his comedy and how it inured him to some and yet repulsed others.
While the wide influence of Letterman and his three decades of work is impossible to deny, Zinoman also honestly examines the racism, xenophobia, and sexism present throughout the host’s tenure.