Secrets of Being a “Late Show with David Letterman” Writer

If you’re a late night talk show fan, then the name Steve Young is up there on your writing pantheon along with other comedy writing greats like Hal Canter, Larry Gelbart, et al. Steve-O doesn’t get the press those guys did, so dig in for a refreshing and edifying peek at what it’s like to be brilliant and…funny:

_MastersTea

by Rhea Kumar

The realities and pressures of writing for a daily comedy show is like running on a “high-speed treadmill,” Steve Young said at a Master’s Tea in Trumbull College yesterday.

Before a crowd of roughly 30 students, Young, a long-time writer with the “Late Show with David Letterman,” spoke about his daily routine in the 25-year period during which he has worked with the show. During the tea, he showed clips from the “Late Show” while mentioning the waning popularity of the “Late Show.” Young also discussed the challenges of adapting to a changing audience.

But, “you get a new start tomorrow,” Young added.

Young said he typically gets to the office around 9:15 a.m. and brainstorms and finalizes show pitches with writers soon after. The rest of the day is spent finding appropriate voice-over artists, videos and graphics to match the script, he said. Young told the audience that he is used to the process and only needs to start thinking of ideas while he is on the subway to work.

Young was first exposed to humor writing when he joined the Harvard Lampoon, a humor magazine at Harvard, during his sophomore year. He joined the “Late Show” staff around 1990 and has been working there since, which he described as a long stint for a career in television writing. He also wrote an episode for “The Simpsons” and an animated television special called “Olive, the Other Reindeer” in which he acted as “Latin coach” to Drew Barrymore, who sang one of the songs.

Audience members interviewed said they enjoyed listening to Young’s anecdotes.

Brian Beitler ’18 said his favorite part of the presentation was Young’s story about celebrigum.com, a blog where Young posts photographs of celebrities entering the “Late Show” set that feature an “fossilized” piece of gum in the foreground.

Read it all