On Thursday afternoon, David Letterman told his Late Show audience that he’s retiring from the series he created more than 20 years ago.
“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 at Thursday’s taping of The Late Show. “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 [Shaffer] and I can be married.”
Letterman said there was no precise timetable for his retirement, but that “it will be at least a year or so … 2015.”
After his announcement, Letterman, whose late night career has spanned more than three decades, received a standing ovation from the audience in the Ed Sullivan Theater. He has been the only host of The Late Show, which he created on CBS in 1993.
CBS President Les Moonves released the following statement shortly thereafter:
When Dave decided on a one-year extension for his most recent contract, we knew this day was getting closer, but that doesn’t make the moment any less poignant for us. For 21 years, David Letterman has graced our network’s air in late night with wit, gravitas and brilliance unique in the history of our medium. During that time, Dave has given television audiences thousands of hours of comedic entertainment, the sharpest interviews in late night, and brilliant moments of candor and perspective around national events. He’s also managed to keep many celebrities, politicians and executives on their toes – including me. There is only one David Letterman. His greatness will always be remembered here, and he will certainly sit among the pantheon of this business. On a personal note, it’s been a privilege to get to know Dave and to enjoy a terrific relationship. It’s going to be tough to say goodbye. Fortunately, we won’t have to do that for another year or so. Until then, we look forward to celebrating Dave’s remarkable show and incredible talents.
Former R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills, who’s appearing on Thursday’s The Late Show with singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur, broke the news of Letterman’s announcement on Twitter.
Soon, comedians started to weigh in.
During his Thursday show, Seth Meyers also praised Letterman’s legacy.
As for Letterman’s successor, according to a 2012 report from the New York Times’ Bill Carter, current The Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson’s contracts with CBS have included a clause that gives him the right to inherit the 11:35 p.m. timeslot should Letterman leave. But, Carter pointed out, the network can choose to pay off the deal instead.
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