What David Letterman's Life Is Like Today

David Letterman is a late-night TV legend. For 33 years, he chatted up top celebs and made Americans laugh while reflecting on hot-button topics, but in 2015, Letterman waved goodbye and began living a quieter life out of the spotlight. Let's find out what he's been doing with all that free time.

He's being showered with awards

Letterman has been virtually inundated with accolades since retiring from late night. In October 2017, he received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at a star-studded event in Washington, D.C.

At the ceremony, fellow comedian Jimmy Kimmel noted Letterman's courage to make America smile again following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. "You let us know it was OK to move on and OK to laugh again," Kimmel said (via NBC News.) "Dave, you led the way for all of us." 

Kimmel lamented that late night could use Letterman now, more than ever, during the Trump administration. "It's like you went out for cigarettes one day and left us in the hands of our abusive, orange stepfather," Kimmel quipped.

After being lauded by everyone in the room and even praised via video by former First Lady Michelle Obama, Letterman had the last laugh of the night. "Because of this award," he said. "I am now the most humorous person in the world."

He's busy embarrassing his kid

"You are in love with your wife," Letterman once said (via Closer.) "But the real deal doesn't happen until you have a kid." Letterman and wife Regina Lasko welcomed Harry, who is named after Letterman's father, on Nov. 3, 2003. 

Letterman says becoming a parent helped him fight off depression. Speaking with Charlie Rose in 2012, Letterman talked about balancing his professional life with parenthood. Initially, the comic thought he couldn't do both. "I was wrong about that," Letterman said, "because as difficult as being a father is, it's entirely complementary with everything else in your life. It's like you get your prescription updated. You can see things that you never saw."

It seems that Harry has inherited his father's dry comedic genius. Chatting with New York magazine in March 2017, Letterman recalled a particularly telling father-son moment: "The other day, I said, 'Harry, I get the sense sometimes you don't like going places with me in public.' And he said, 'Well, you have bad people skills. Just be normal.'"

His beard is symbolic

When Letterman left TV in 2015, he began growing a very large beard. Its since become a hot topic of conversation. What's the deal?

"I had to shave every day, every day, for 33 years. And even before that when I was working on local TV. And I just thought, the first thing I will do when I am not on TV is stop shaving," he told the Whitefish Review. "And everybody hates it. My wife hates it. My son hates it. But it's interesting. I've kind of developed a real creepy look with it that I'm sort of enjoying. And I can tell that people are off-put by it. And the more people implore me to shave, the stronger my resolve is to not shave. So the day that I shave, I'll call you."

He's been called Santa Claus, Sasquatch and many other names, but could care less. "I know, it's not a good-looking beard," he said. "But I don't even care. I just don't care. And it's kind of fun—well, I won't say that it's fun to walk around irritating people, I think I've proved that on TV­—but it's sort of amusing to see the reactions."

He's an extremely odd gift giver

Letterman has a knack for giving odd and unique gifts. Just ask fellow comedian Conan O'Brien. As the story goes, Letterman was preparing to leave late-night television in 2015 when O'Brien wrote a touching tribute. Feeling the love, Letterman decided to give him a special thank you gift.

"I thought this is gonna be an amazing bottle of wine, chocolates, Hummel figurines that are hard to find—this is gonna be something really extraordinary," O'Brien told Stephen Colbert in 2017. "So it's the next day and it's an hour before the show. And I hear there's a truck that's trying to get onto the Warner Bros. lot in Los Angeles and it's having a hard time getting on the lot. And I said, 'What do you mean?' [And] they said, 'Well, it's too wide. The truck is so big that it can't get on the lot and it's carrying the gift from Dave.'"

O'Brien thought Letterman was giving him a vintage car or something along those lines, but he was way off. The gift was a horse–a horse named Dave. "You know what, Dave gave me a horse—I'm gonna ride that horse," O'Brien laughed. 

He's more vocal about politics than ever

When it comes to politics and matters of the White House, Letterman hasn't held his tongue. While he may have been tactful discussing politics on late night, Letterman hasn't minced words in retirement. 

"I know there's trouble in this country and we need a guy who can fix that trouble," he told The Associated Press (via CNN.) "I wish it was Trump, but it's not, so let's just stop whining about what a goon he is and figure out a way to take him aside and put him in a home."

"And other people have made this point: If the guy was running Dairy Queen, he'd be gone," Letterman mused. "This guy couldn't work at The Gap. So why do we have to be victimized by his fecklessness, his ignorance?"

He told New York magazine that he'd like to interview Trump: "I would just start with a list. 'You did this. You did that. Don't you feel stupid for having done that, Don?... Come on, Don, we both know you're lying. Now, stop it.' I think I would be in the position to give him a bit of a scolding and he would have to sit there and take it. Yeah, I would like an hour with Donald Trump; an hour and a half."

He made a huge donation to his alma mater

After he retired, Letterman donated more than 1,000 personal items to his alma mater, Ball State University, reported USA Today. Among the items gifted by the 1969 grad: 15 Emmy Awards, his Kennedy Center Medal, his desk, chairs and stage platform from the set, signed photos from President Obama and the first lady, and more than 50 recordings from Letterman's early years.

He refuses to think of himself as a star

Humble might be the only way to truly characterize Letterman. He spent three decades on television interviewing countless celebrities, artists, and political leaders, yet he doesn't consider himself one of them.

"I could not possibly, and still don't, consider myself a star," he told the Los Angeles Times. "Johnny Carson was a star, there's no question of that. So for me to adopt that–'Starring Dave Letterman'–that was just ridiculous." 

Another thing he finds unpalatable. "I always cringe a little when people refer to the folks who watch their show as their 'fans,'" he said. "I just think that's a little too... you know, you kind of just stepped over the line of basic humility there."

His old feud with Jay Leno may never go away

No matter how many years it's been, it seems Letterman may never make peace with late-night competitor Jay Leno. 

A 2017 biography titled Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night explored that very topic. Author Jason Zinoman unpacks the drama that led to the great fued. As the story goes, Carson was finishing up his late-night post on the The Tonight Show on NBC in 1991, and Letterman thought he was a shoe-in for the role, but it went to Leno instead.

According to Zinoman (via People,) "Rick Ludwin, head of late-night programming at NBC, respected Letterman as a great entertainer but was skeptical that he could draw the broad swath of viewers that made up the Tonight Show audience. He also saw Letterman as difficult to deal with. Whereas Leno was friendly and approachable, Letterman was distant, even hostile."

From 1991 until Leno left the show in 2014, the programs waged a ratings war. Carson never appeared on TV with Leno, but he did appear on Late Night, perhaps picking his favorite.

He's learning to live without his mother

Occasional on-air interactions with Letterman's mother, Dorothy Mengering, became a favorite among fans. She was best known for baking desserts for the "Guess Mom's Pies" segment on the show and for her colorful commentary on the Winter Olympics, reported the Indianapolis Star

The beloved Mengering passed away in April 2017 at age 95. Letterman delivered the eulogy during her services in Indianapolis, sharing stories about her impact on his career. "We should have your mother on the show all the time," he recalled executives telling him. "No, we're serious. People like her better than you." The famed funnyman also attributed his worth ethic to her. "We didn't want for anything because of my mom," he said. 

He's staging a small comeback

Letterman is reportedly coming out of retirement for a special project with Netflix in 2018. According to Variety, Letterman will film six 60-minute episodes of long-form conversations with special guests. 

"I feel excited and lucky to be working on this project for Netflix," Letterman said. "Here's what I have learned, if you retire to spend more time with your family, check with your family first. Thanks for watching, drive safely."

This may be the last time fans will ever get to see Letterman conduct interviews again. Speaking with Howard Stern about his mini comeback, the comic said, "It will probably be the last thing I do. So, I want it to be great."