Less than a week after David Letterman announced his retirement from The Late Show, CBS has announced his successor: Stephen Colbert. The Colbert Report host has signed a five-year agreement with the network and will step into the role following Letterman’s departure in 2015, but the current Late Show host has not yet decided on a timetable with the network for when he will say good night.
“Simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career,” Colbert said in a statement. “I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave’s lead. I’m thrilled and grateful that CBS chose me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth.”
Similarly, Letterman praised Colbert with a joke. “Stephen has always been a real friend to me,” he said in a statement, via Deadline. “I’m very excited for him, and I’m flattered that CBS chose him. I also happen to know they wanted another guy with glasses.”
“Stephen Colbert is one of the most inventive and respected forces on television,” CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves said in a statement. “David Letterman’s legacy and accomplishments are an incredible source of pride for all of us here, and today’s announcement speaks to our commitment of upholding what he established for CBS in late night.”
Colbert Report, the satirical right-wing talk show that premiered on Comedy Central in 2005, has won two Peabody awards and four Emmys. Previously, Colbert spent eight years as a correspondent on The Daily Show. He has also written two books – I Am America (and So Can You!) and America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t – and he won a spoken-word Grammy for America Again in January.
Following the announcement today, Colbert released a statement, via The Hollywood Reporter, that confirmed he would not be keeping up the mock-conservative persona he uses on the show. “I won’t be doing the new show in character, so we’ll all get to find out how much of him was me,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Letterman signed a two-year contract with CBS last year, and when he announced his retirement, he said it would be 2015, “for the love of God.” He also quipped that “what this means now is that Paul and I can be married,” jokingly referring to longtime bandleader Paul Shaffer.
Letterman began his career in late night in 1982, when he became the host of NBC’s Late Night With David Letterman, which aired immediately after The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. He worked there over the next decade, developing his own iconoclastic style, before leaving the network in 1993 when Jay Leno was named Carson’s successor. He has hosted The Late Show on CBS since August 1993, making him the longest-running late-night talk-show host in U.S. TV history. The Late Show producers have yet to decide on the location for the show when Colbert steps in.