David Letterman Describes Origins of ‘Worldwide Pants’ Name

David Letterman’s TV shows may have straightforward names—Late Night, Late Show, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction—but the production companies behind them are some of the most creatively named in the biz. 

Throughout his career, Letterman has given his companies wonderfully incongruous names. At a screening last week for the new documentary Maestra—executive produced by David Letterman under his “Worldwide Pants” banner—the host reminisced about some of the names he’s created for the sake of, well, funny business.

“A long time ago when I left Indiana and got into big-time adult show business, people said, ‘You gotta get names for these phony corporations to dodge taxes,’” Letterman recalled. “So I just started making up crazy names. We had ‘Cardboard Shoe,’ and we had ‘United States Chemical Cheese.’”

Indeed, Cardboard Shoe Productions is credited on his 1986 NBC special David Letterman’s 2nd Annual Holiday Film Festival.

And when Letterman appeared on Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, they drove Letterman’s own custom Volvo station wagon, ordered for him by Paul Newman. That car, according to the credits, appeared “courtesy of United States Chemical Cheese.” The name also appeared on boxes of “Explod-O-Pop Atomic Popcorn,” which was given away to audience members at Letterman’s Late Show.

Letterman says there are downsides of having such an unusual company name.

“I remember the first time employees of ‘United States Chemical Cheese’ cashed a check. The people at the bank said, ‘Oh, you don’t work for those people! Chemical cheese?!’”

“So I came up with ‘Worldwide Pants,’” Letterman continued. “I thought, ‘Sure, get an adjective and a noun, and there you go.’”

Letterman founded Worldwide Pants in 1991, and it has gone on to be his primary and most well-known production moniker. The company’s credits include Dave’s own shows (Late Show, My Next Guest…), his CBS lead-outs (The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson) and other projects like Everybody Loves Raymond

While it’s no “chemical cheese,” Letterman noted that the name “Worldwide Pants” was met with some bewilderment when it appeared in the opening credits of Maestra. 

“I’m told now, when the film was shown in England… ‘pants’ means altogether a different thing. It apparently just means ‘underpants.’”

One company Letterman didn’t mention by name was his earliest. Letterman’s first talk show, the 1980 morning program The David Letterman Show, was produced by the Letterman-owned “Space Age Meats.”

UPDATE: And another. Letterman archivist Don Giller reached out to remind us that Letterman’s 1981 HBO special, Looking For Fun, was produced by “Recreational Poultry Productions.”


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Larry says:

    I always thought the “Pants” thing came from the time yelled out a 30 Rock window at Bryant Gumbel when Today did a prime time special on the plaza where the rink is in winter.

    “I’m David Letterman, and I’m not wearing pants!”

    1. Jed Rosenzweig says:

      It think he introduced himself as then-NBC News president Larry Grossman before announcing that he wasn’t wearing pants. But your point stands.

  2. Jeff says:

    His private foundation, The Letterman Foundation for Courtesy and Grooming

  3. Bill Chuck says:

    Please have a daily Dave story. They are the best because he is the best.

  4. Lyn H says:

    I’m surprised Dave never named a production company Big Ass Ham.