After 21 years at the helm of the CBS’ Late Show, David Letterman has announced that he will not renew his contract when it expires in 2015. The announcement came right before the taping of Thursday’s show; Letterman, 66, received a standing ovation from the audience in response. REM bassist Mike Mills was the first to break the news on social media, tweeting: “Dave just announced his retirement #2015 #muchlovedave.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the TV legend peppered the taping with jokes about ageing and retirement:
“A year from now, I’ll be on a beach with a metal detector,” Letterman joked. Continued references to his end date, which has yet to be set, ensued: “This weekend, my son is taking me to see senior centers,” “My retirement will not become official until [Survivor host] Jeff Probst blows out my torch,” and “It’s been tough doing this show since Regis [Philbin] passed away.” Another had Letterman deadpan: “Jan, my makeup artist, told me, ‘Dave, there’s really nothing more I can do.’ “
CBS chief Leslie Moonves had been informed of the decision shortly before Letterman’s announcement, and offered a glowing appraisal of his legacy:
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.
The multi-million dollar question, of course, is who will replace Letterman: Jon Stewart? Conan O’Brien? Chelsea Handler? Jerry Seinfeld?
Who gets your vote?