David Letterman announced his retirement on last night’s ‘Late Show’ episode

David Letterman

I was thinking about this subject just the other day. And dreading it. David Letterman announced his retirement from CBS’ The Late Show during Thursday night’s episode. This was bound to happen. Dave has been trucking along at CBS for 22 years as host, and that gives him a total of 33 years hosting his late-night talk show(s). He is 67 years old. He’s officially outlasted Jay Leno. Now Dave is ready to retire. He sat behind his desk at the Ed Sullivan Theater and declared his intention to leave the show in 2015: “It’s been great … but I’m retiring.” The audience seemed surprised but gave an immediate standing ovation.

Dave is one of my comic heroes. He’s always been a magnificent bastard and a grumpy curmudgeon who has mastered the art of sly sarcasm. He is very skilled at nailing celebrities in interviews and not letting them get away with much. Dave doesn’t throw softball questions, but he has a loyal following of celebs who always return for another round. Dave’s own career is not without scandal. The last time Dave gave a huge speech like this was during his extortion scandal (where he confessed to bedding his former assistant). That was a real mess, but Dave recovered his stature and is ready to ride off into the sunset … and marry Paul Shaffer. LOL:

In a move that will complete the generational transition in latenight, David Letterman is preparing to retire from CBS next year.

Letterman is expected to discuss his plan to retire in about a year on Thursday’s edition of The Late Show. Letterman disclosed his plan during Thursday afternoon’s taping of The Late Show.

“The man who owns this network, Leslie Moonves, he and I have had a relationship for years and years and years, and we have had this conversation in the past, and we agreed that we would work together on this circumstance and the timing of this circumstance. And I phoned him just before the program, and I said ‘Leslie, it’s been great, you’ve been great, and the network has been great, but I’m retiring,'” Letterman said according to a transcript issued by his PR rep.

“I just want to reiterate my thanks for the support from the network, all of the people who have worked here, all of the people in the theater, all the people on the staff, everybody at home, thank you very much. What this means now, is that Paul and I can be married.

“We don’t have the timetable for this precisely down — I think it will be at least a year or so, but sometime in the not too distant future, 2015 for the love of God, in fact, Paul and I will be wrapping things up.” Afterward, Letterman received a standing ovation from the audience at the Ed Sullivan Theater.

As of next year, Letterman will have hosted Late Show on CBS for 22 years. He logged 11 years as host of NBC’s Late Night before famously being passed over at NBC for Johnny Carson’s throne on The Tonight Show — over Carson’s objection. Letterman has logged more than 6,000 episodes during his long career.

Word of Letterman’s plan spread quickly via Twitter on Thursday afternoon after musician Mike Mills, who appears on Thursday’s show, noted Letterman’s big news following the taping.

Letterman’s departure will cap a busy period of host shuffling in latenight following Jay Leno’s retirement from The Tonight Show, which made way for Jimmy Fallon to take the helm.

Staying on through 2015 will allow Letterman to comfortably outlast his longtime rival, although Leno had the ratings advantage during most of his 22-year run on NBC.

With Letterman stepping down, the latenight TV landscape will be dominated by hosts (Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, Craig Ferguson, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien) who came of age professionally in the post-Johnny Carson era.

In fact, Letterman is the bigger influence on his contemporary crop of rivals. ABC’s Kimmel has made no secret of idolizing his 11:35 p.m. competitor.

Confirmation of Letterman’s retirement raises question of a successor. Craig Ferguson has hosted The Late Late Show following Letterman since 2005, but it’s not immediately clear if CBS sees him as 11:35 p.m. successor potential.

[From Variety]

Dave will still be around for about a year. That leaves plenty of time for some great grumpy interviews. I hope he interviews potty mouth Jennifer Lawrence again. He must f-bomb Tom Cruise one more time. Most importantly, I hope Dave squeezes in at least a dozen more episodes featuring Bill Murray.

Of course people are already talking about who will replace Dave as Late Night host. Craigy Ferg (sad to say) doesn’t have a shot at this gig. Dustin at Pajiba has offered several suggestions. The Daily Beast has campaigned for a woman to take over for Dave. They unfortunately suggested Chelsea Handler (who will soon leave E!) for the job. NO.

Here’s the full version of Dave’s announcement during last night’s episode:

Bill Murray

Photos courtesy of WENN

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46 Responses to “David Letterman announced his retirement on last night’s ‘Late Show’ episode”

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  1. blue marie says:

    When he signed, his contract last year he said that would be it. His contract is up in 2015. I’ve always liked Letterman, will be sad to see hi go but with all the years he’s logged the man deserves a break.

    • Tatjana says:

      Why doesn’t Craig have a chance? He’s by far the best, much better than Conan, Seth, Kimmel and especially Fallon.
      Maybe that’s a good thing, he probably wouldn’t be able to be as crazy if he gets a prime time slot.

  2. danielle says:

    sad that the list of late night hosts is all white men.

    • Mia4S says:

      The sentiment is valid but you do know Arsenio is back on right? Anyone? *crickets*

      Poor Arsenio.

      Dave’s of another era, there is no real replacing him whatever gender or ethnicity. They should try something very different.

      • Tiffany :) says:

        Arsenio has been very kind to some friends of mine. I don’t watch his show, but I hold him in high regard.

  3. GiGi says:

    You know who I think would be a fantastic replacement? Chris Rock. He’s mature and has a great sense of timing in a live setting. I think he’d do a great monologue and a great interview, as well.

    That said – I love Dave – he’ll be missed!

    • Kiddo says:

      I think she wouldn’t do it, but my vote would be for Tina Fey. She has that acerbic wit, and hopefully wouldn’t be an ass kiss, which dominates the rest of the late night scene.

    • Lucinda says:

      Either Chris or Tina would be great choices! We’ve been watching Fallon and he has some funny bits. (My husband is the one who records it.) I bet my husband would switch to Chris Rock in a heartbeat. I don’t know why we don’t watch Letterman. He’s very funny.

    • Dutch says:

      I’m not sure either Rock or Fey would want the grind of pumping out 160 shows a year.

    • Latisse says:

      I would LOVE LOVE LOVE Chris Rock as a replacement!

    • Tiffany :) says:

      I love Chris Rock. His stand up makes me laugh so hard!

  4. Kiddo says:

    His last show should have Bill Murray on. If I know ahead, that’s the time I would usually watch. It’s always so ridiculous, in a good way.

  5. PunkyMomma says:

    Major sads for me on Dave retiring, but he has a young son and I give him props for just wanting to be with his family. I agree Ferguson may not be the best choice to replace him, but I think Ferguson conducts a better interview than Fallon. My vote would go to Drew Carey. He did a smashing job switching places with Craig Ferguson for their April Fools Day stunt. And Ferguson was terrific hosting TPIR. No way Handler or Conan gets that spot.

  6. Mindy says:

    I know that everyone is saying Craigyferg doesn’t have a shot at the gig, BUT, considering what DAVE went through, the is that chance that DAVE put it in Craig’s contract that he gets first shot at the show. The big reason why NBC didn’t give Dave the Tonight show was that they didn’t think Dave was ’11:30′ material. Dave PROVED THEM WRONG… Don’t you think? The only way to know if Craig can handle it, is to let him do it. Plus… Les Moonves’ wife REALLY LIKES Craig. Don’t you think she may help sway the powers that be?!?!

    … And yeah… I’m a huge fan of Craig. He took a show that was not great and made it HIS. He does a lot with very little on that show (his budget is dismal). He IS a great interviewer (Fallon isn’t – Fallon relies too much on skits). As likable as Fallon is, he plays ‘young’ card too much (and he won’t be the ‘young guy’ forever). AND… Think about this? How many PEABODY winners are there in late night? I can think of only one – CRAIG FERGUSON.

    • Lucy2 says:

      I love Craig- aside from Stewart/Colbert he’s the only one I regularly watch. I kind of think he likes having his own little weird show though, and I don’t know if he could do that in the Late Show spot. Can you picture Geoff and Secretariat at 11:30? I don’t know. But if he wants it, I hope he gets it. He engages all of his guests in a real conversation, not a pre-planned interview, and it’s so much more entertaining.

    • Dutch says:

      As recently as 2011, Ferguson as gone on the record that he doesn’t want the job

  7. Suze says:

    I was a big fan of Lettermen for years (I used to watch his daytime show for heavens sake), but in the past few years I think he let the reigns slip, a bit. That said, he has been a huge influence on late night television, second only to Carson, and that only by a bit.

    He has a kid who was born late in life and he’s getting older. I think his decision to hang out with the family and his friends is an excellent one, and I wish him well.

    Oddly, I can’t seem to work up much interest in his successor. Late night television doesn’t seem to have the same influence it used to.

  8. Lucy2 says:

    I’d love to see Tina Fey, Aisha Tyler, or Amy Poehler get it (but only after Parks and Recreation is done). Chris Rock is a good choice too, Gigi.
    I don’t think CBS would touch Chelsea handler with a 10 foot pole (or at least I hope!).

    • Dutch says:

      I don’t think Handler will get it, CBS’s quota of boss screwing talent is filled by Julie Chen

    • Sandra says:

      All of those women have their own shows going on, do you really want them to give up everything to do a late night show that limits the rest of their work? No.

      • lucy2 says:

        30 Rock ended last year. Tina is working on a new show, but not starring in it. I could see her getting it going for a year and then leaving it in very capable hands to do something like the Late Show (if she’d wanted it).
        Aisha is on the Talk, right? I absolutely think she’d give that up for the Late Show. Again, if she wanted it. And I think she could still do Archer without a problem.
        As for Amy, that’s why I said when Parks & Rec is done.

  9. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    I think Dave Letterman can be hilarious, but I think he can just phone it in, too, and be incredibly boring. I don’t watch him anymore.

    • Blannie says:

      I agree. I loved Dave back when he had a daytime show (anyone remember that?) but over the years, his schtick has increased to where it’s painful for me to watch him most of the time. Performers seem to get encased in their tics and quirks that initially make them interesting. But they get lazy and use those go-to tics and bits too much so that they lose their freshness. And I lost a LOT of respect for Dave when the scandal about his relationship with his employee came out. I am glad his son will get to see him more – he clearly loves his boy.

  10. eliza says:

    If only Late Night Talk Shows would retire.

    • Kiddo says:

      I think, in a way, they are. Don’t most people see clips the following day versus watching a show wholesale?

      • eliza says:

        I can only speak for myself as I have not watched Late shows since high school or college. It is sad that there is basically non-stop talk on from a.m, p.m to late night. How much advice and celebrity ass kissing do people need in their lives? Lol.

        I think you are right though, people watch highlights on the a.m shows.

  11. prissa says:

    Fey & Rock are good choices. NO NO NO to Handler.

    Side note: he looks great!

    Oh and those shoes GaGa has on are ridiculous!

  12. Sandra says:

    Conan is the most logical choice. I love Letterman so much, and Conan would be the perfect successor to his legacy.

    • lucy2 says:

      I didn’t even think about that….it would be a nice little dig at NBC, but I don’t know – he owns his show with TBS, and most likely wouldn’t with the Late Show, and I don’t remember what kind of contract he has with that.

  13. Vampi says:

    I love David Letterman!! “Dress Cool” Anyone? Anyone? 🙂 *smiles*

  14. Lori says:

    Funny how this happens the day after Gaga,………….she broke him.

  15. Tippy says:

    As unlikely as it may seem, CBS should at least consider coaxing Leno out of retirement.

    The competition for late night viewers is fierce and Jay has always been a ratings juggernaut. I think he’d monopolize the more mature demographic especially with Letterman gone.

    Chelsea Handler’s planned exit from E and Letterman’s announcement seem like more than just coincidence.

    • Feebee says:

      OMG, can you imagine Dave’s reaction? He’d probably burn down the Ed Sullivan Theatre in protest (even though they’d have to move the show to LA to accommodate Leno).

      Leno replace Letterman? That’s so funny! I hope that becomes an official rumor 🙂

  16. Feebee says:

    Given Dave’s support of Conan (partially fueled by his hate of NBC) it wouldn’t surprise me if Conan ends up in the mix. I can’t see too much diversity hitting CBS. It’ll be a bit like the 2008 presidential election was… Oh yeah America could handle a black man, possibly a woman so long as she’s white. I can’t see the network of NCIS going further, it’s only 2014 after all. (Though they do already have Aisha Tyler in their stable, hmmm). Let’s see if they gave any “guest hosts” in the coming year.

    Good luck to Letterman, he’s been a huge presence and influence. I suspect everybody is going to sign up to do his show between now and then, even if they gave nothing to promote.

  17. RobN says:

    Too bad he can’t make it retroactive to the last time he said anything funny.

  18. MSMLNP says:

    I’ve always loved Dave.

    Especially after the episode when he had all the nurses and doctors on after his bypass surgery.

    And remember when he made Beiber cry like the little girl he is?

  19. coconut says:

    for a guy as slim/fit as dave and as CEO of worldwide pants, for the love of god, i don’t understand why he wears such baggy suits and *pleated* pants!! flat front, dave, puhleeze!!

    and while i’m on pants, i have to say that my new bf, lenny kravitz, is the only human i’ve seen on whom leather pants look good…er…hot!


  20. Nudgie says:

    The buzz in Hollywood today is that Ellen is a possible choice – quirky, funny and a great host. I just don’t think she would get “her” audience to follow – too late at night.

    What thinkest thou?

  21. Browniecakes says:


  22. Jessica says:

    Stop with the Tina Fey suggestions, she wants to be a movie star at this point, she’s not going to do a late night show.

    Craigy Ferg is awesome. He’s the best late night host out there right now. But I don’t know if he’d work well at 11:30. Sad. He’s great.

  23. Norman says:

    I think the field is going to wiiiiiiiiide open. Just Jared is saying that Chelsea Handler is possible negotiations for the Letterman replacement but I can’t see this happening because Chelsea is known for her crassness and nasty spats and I don’t think the audience will stand for it. Conan as a replacement could be feasible since as earlier said he has a bone to pick with NBC but he is secured with TBS. Craig Ferguson though logical has made as said before made the “Late Show” his show. Tina Fey is very much associated with NBC so she may not bee in the top of the list. When the replacement comes to replace the great David Letterman, the rating could to the opposite of what happened wen Fallon replaced Leno in the weeks ahead because the replacement would not be as well known as Jimmy Fallon but who knows, anything can happen.

  24. Cassie says:

    Love love LOVE Craig but the comment above is correct – I think he mentioned somewhere he wouldn’t want the spot in an interview a while back. But, $$$ and a few years later, might make a difference.

    Neil Patrick Harris might be a good choice. Seems like he’s been the “go to” guy for hosting awards shows and always knocks it out of the park. He can be snarky, but he also can be really funny. (Plus, if they want to keep it NY-based, he just moved to NY to star on Broadway for a run in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”)