Stephen Colbert Named Successor to David Letterman

Comedy Central mainstay signs 5-year pact with CBS

Stephen Colbert is moving three blocks east—and light-years from basic cable.

The 49-year-old linchpin of Comedy Central’s long-running series The Colbert Report has been tapped to succeed David Letterman as the host of CBS’ The Late Show. Colbert signed a five-year deal with CBS.

Colbert’s premiere date will be announced after Lettermen works out a timetable for his final broadcast, which should air sometime in late 2015.

Letterman announced his retirement during the taping of his April 3 show. 

While CBS said the location for the Colbert-hosted Late Show will be determined at a later date, one may well imagine that the network would just as soon maintain the status quo. After all, it does own the Ed Sullivan Theater and the office space above it, and keeping the show in New York would appear to be more prudent than packing up and moving to Los Angeles.

Naturally, Colbert will have a say in the matter. As a political satirist and long-time New Yorker—and someone who appears to have never ventured west of Chicago (he graduated from Northwestern in 1986)—Colbert may not have the stomach for L.A.

(If New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has his way, the Late Show is staying put. That said, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has been lobbying CBS to help restore the balance of power now that NBC’s Tonight Show has relocated to Manhattan.)

“Stephen Colbert is one of the most inventive and respected forces on television,” said CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves, by way of announcing the deal. “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.”

For his part, Colbert said that he was elated to take the baton from the maestro. “Simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career,” Colbert said. “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.”

Letterman endorsed his replacement in a brief statement released by his production company, Worldwide Pants: “Stephen has always been a real friend to me. 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.”

Colbert will not be bringing his Colbert Report persona to CBS. Upon taking over the Late Show desk, he’ll face the twin Jimmys in the Tonight Show’s Fallon and the titular host of Jimmy Kimmel Live. Last week, Fallon averaged a 1.2 in the 18-49 demo to Kimmel’s 0.7 and Letterman’s 0.6. 

A Comedy Central rep said the Viacom-owned cable net “is proud that the incredibly talented Stephen Colbert has been part of our family for nearly two decades … and we wish Stephen the very best.”

The Colbert Report is taped in a small studio at 513 W. 54th St., just a few blocks west of the Ed Sullivan Theater.