Ending just a week of speculation, CBS today announced that Stephen Colbert, host of “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central, will succeed David Letterman as host of “The Late Show” when Letterman retires, sometime next year. Letterman announced he was leaving on his show last Thursday.
The rapid announcement stands in contrast to the prolonged process in
1992, when Letterman ultimately lost “The Tonight Show” hosting duties at NBC to Jay Leno. That ordeal led to a book, “The Late Shift” by The New York Times' Bill
Carter and an HBO movie by the same name.
The circumstances behind Leno’s ascension poisoned his reputation with some comics, and between the pair.
Colbert, it was said, arranged his contract expiration so that it coincided with Letterman’s, perhaps supposing that someday this appointment would come.
Although minor in the scheme of things, the announcement gives CBS a headline act for its upfront presentations in May.
Among the guessing games left is whether Colbert will keep “The Late Show” based in New York, now that “The Tonight Show” has moved back from Los Angeles. The CBS announcement pointedly raised the question without answering it.
Colbert has been a "Late Show" guest a few times. His first appearance with Letterman was in 2005, shortly before “The Colbert Report” debuted.
“Simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career,” stated Colbert. “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.”