Letterman Never Belonged to Anyone, Including CBS

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- David Letterman long understood the ridiculousness of celebrity, and pulled few punches with his guests. Even Oprah Winfrey.

It's a quality that remains an essential part of his charm. Letterman's jabs at serial narcissists and thin-skinned movie stars rankled their handlers and overpaid publicists, but it endeared the Indiana native to folks smart enough to appreciate that celebrity is at best a fleeting notion.

Letterman announced Thursday that he will leave the set of CBS's (CBSLate Night sometime in 2015. At 66, after three decades in late-night television, Letterman has apparently decided it's time to do something else.

Though he was born in the Midwest and keenly proud of his roots, Letterman has always been an East Coast kind of guy. His infamous foray into the lion's den of the Academy Awards' annual dog-and-pony show in 1994 is one of dark legend. Letterman couldn't resist the temptation to poke fun at Hollywood's insulated, self-congratulatory world. "Oprah, Uma, Uma, Oprah." Oil and water. The academy never asked him back.

Letterman's priorities were elsewhere. He revered Johnny Carson, and appreciated what that other Midwesterner did for comedy as well as the art of the interview. Over his 30 years in late-night television, Letterman has made no secret of his admiration for comics such as Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Rodney Dangerfield and Don Rickles, another comedian unafraid to tweak the rich and the pretentious.

There was a time when everyone who watched television knew Rickles, and Letterman is nothing if not an historian of his craft.

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