Stephen Colbert, the comedian and host of Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report,” will succeed David Letterman as host of “Late Show,” CBS’ flagship late-night franchise, when Letterman retires next year, the network announced Thursday.
Colbert will sign on for a five-year term as the new “Late Show” host, according to the announcement from Leslie Moonves, president and chief operating officer of CBS, and Nina Tassler, chairwoman of CBS’s entertainment division.
CBS moved quickly to name a successor to Letterman, the late-night TV fixture who has hosted “Late Show” since 1993 and who revealed his plans to retire in a surprise announcement to his audience last week.
Speculation about who might take over for Letterman, who was also the founding host of NBC’s “Late Night” franchise, quickly coalesced around Colbert, who has played a satirically self-obsessed, know-it-all host on “The Colbert Report” since its creation in 2005, and before that a similar character on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.”
Other contenders to replace Letterman were said to include Craig Ferguson, the host of CBS’ “Late Late Show,” which follows Letterman’s program; Chelsea Handler, the host of “Chelsea Lately” on the E! cable channel; and Neil Patrick Harris, a star of the sitcom “How I Met Your Mother,” which concluded its run on CBS this year.
“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.”
He added: “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.”
Moonves said in a statement: “Stephen Colbert is one of the most inventive and respected forces on television. 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.”
The network said specific creative elements for Colbert’s “Late Show,” like a producer and a location, would be announced later. Both New York and Los Angeles have been lobbying to become the home of a new “Late Show.”
Comedy Central said in its own statement that it was “proud that the incredibly talented Stephen Colbert has been part of our family for nearly two decades.” The channel added, “We look forward to the next eight months of the groundbreaking ‘Colbert Report’ and wish Stephen the very best.”