Video: David Letterman Announces Retirement

David Letterman RetiresWake the neighbors and phone the kids — David Letterman has announced his retirement.

The late-night TV vet will hang up his Top Ten lists and such in 2015, he shared with the audience at the taping of Thursday’s Late Show With David Letterman, to air at 11:35 pm EST (scroll down to watch the announcement).

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Letterman said he phoned CBS boss Leslie Moonves “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.’

“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,” he continued. “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.”

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Oddly enough, R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills, who is joining tonight’s musical guest Joseph Arthur, broke the news on Twitter.

Letterman’s rise to stardom began in 1978, the year he made the first of 22 appearances on NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (where he would later go on to serve as a regular guest host). The Peacock net eventually gave the comic his own series in the post-Carson timeslot — Late Night with David Letterman — which premiered in 1982 and earned five Emmy awards during its 11-year run. After NBC awarded the Tonight Show hosting gig to Jay Leno following Carson’s retirement in 1992, though, Letterman jumped ship and launched Late Show with David Letterman at CBS the following year — where he’s roosted ever since. In all, Letterman’s shows have been nominated for 67 Emmys, winning 12; he also received a Peabody Award in 1992.

His announcement comes a little more than a month after longtime rival, Jay Leno, handed the Tonight Show reins over to Jimmy Fallon.

In a statement, Moonves said, “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.”

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77 Comments
  1. leigh says:

    Ok. Now I know where Chelsey handler is going…

  2. dstumme says:

    Really hope this means a promotion for Craig Ferguson.

    • critter42 says:

      I don’t think he would take it – he loves the freedom he has in his current slot. I don’t think he’d be able to do/say half the things he does now if he moves up an hour…

      • LOL says:

        Exactly. Plus, he’d have to do more comedy bits and he seems content just reading tweets and e-mails.

        • S. says:

          You’re kidding, right? He’s not “content” doing that at all. It’s all he can afford to do. He wants a band, he wants more of a budget. He’s been vocal about that. I think the big question is does he want to move to NYC where I assumed he’d need to go unless they let him stay in LA in a bigger studio. Makes you wonder what they’d do with the Ed Sullivan Theater.

      • M3rc Nate says:

        I completely agree. He seems uneasy with a daily job thats so structured and his style in every way, including interview, is not conducive to how The Tonight Show or Late Show are run. Those shows are the old school shows that still for the regular format and are quite rigid, with the older audience that likes more white-washed typical comedy that is seen as “normal”. In the same way id say Conan is probably having WAY more fun being himself and super wacky on TBS compared to having to calm everything down and fit the format of The Tonight Show when he hosted it.

        What im curious about is who will take over…i cant think of anyone that is elite enough that doesnt have a job already.

        • gdv says:

          I thought I read a while ago that the show was promised to Jerry Seinfeld. Did I just imagine that?

          • S. says:

            Yes. There’s some sort of option related to it in Craig’s contract. Now, they could always choose to pay whatever penalty and not give it to him. Who knows? The point is nobody’s been publicly promised squat.

    • Drewer says:

      Me too, he deserves a bigger budget.

    • Lydia says:

      I love Craigyferg too. But I don’t think we could have as much fun if he were on earlier.

    • Mel says:

      Craig is unpredictable. I think that he loves change – think of all the bits that have come and gone on his show. Sid is all but gone; Craig hardly ever refers to lesbian-row anymore; Geoff has gone through a myriad of changes over time. I think that he likes to try new things… Then again, as you’ve said, he likes the freeodom of where he is. A lot of the sh*t he loves to do, wouldn’t fly earlier without a lot of controversy. I guess that we will have to wait and see. One thing is for sure, he’d shake things up.

      • Angela says:

        Well said (aw. Sid. I miss Sid). It would be interesting to see if he could manage to keep his wacky sensibilities at an earlier hour-I could see him fighting to have more control over what he does on TV if he moves up (’cause, seriously, if people can handle a cuss word or two, or some dirty joke, at 12:30 in the morning, I see no reason why that stuff taking place one hour earlier would make that big a difference). But he also, so far, seems to be firm that he likes working the hours he does, too. So I don’t know. Either way, though, whether he stays or moves up an hour, I’ll happily watch.
        Course, if he does move up, then he’s up against Colbert, whom I watch as well. So my DVR would be getting a little more of a workout at that time of night!

    • cookiekirk says:

      My thoughts exactly!! Craig Furgestson is so funny. I hope he gets it!!!

  3. Michael says:

    Finally! It is time for Craig Ferguson to ascend to rightful throne!

  4. Joel says:

    Neil Patrick Harris?

    • N tTVf says:

      ^ This. I bet he’d do well in that role, is about the right age, and it is CBS – NPH has a good record there. You know, it might be refreshing to bring in someone who is not a stand-up comic or comedy writer, just to try something new. It that were to be the case, NPH would be a compelling option, and I’d watch – if nothing else, to see if he can get his old HIMYM cast mates to come by and visit.

      But, I assume CBS will need to go back to the well and hire a stand-up comedian/writer type. They might even try to poach someone from another network, possibly from the cable side. Here’s a thought – Conan O’Brien. I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but giving him a second chance would be a fitting option, and CBS loves that in the late night arena – taking someone from a competing network and giving them a shot at super stardom.

      Those are my votes – NPH or Conan.

      • S. says:

        Wouldn’t mind NPH. I bet Letterman would’ve wanted Conan before. They really respect each other. The thing is, Conan’s under contract to TBS, has more freedom on cable, and he got fired from the Tonight Show. His taking over Dave’s spot wouldn’t look good from CBS’s position.

        • Angela says:

          Good point. Plus, I wouldn’t be surprised if Conan’s sick and tired of moving from channel to channel at this point :p.

    • b says:

      i love conan’s show on tbs so i’m kind of hoping he stays there, personally I find it to be a lot funnier than when he was on network

  5. Drew says:

    Predictions for guests on his last show? Julia Roberts…

    • Amie says:

      You know it’ll be Bill Murray, I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Martin Short.

      • Deena says:

        Bill Murray for sure. Wouldn’t be surprised with the other two. Steve Martin & Drew Barrymore are others I was thinking. Musical guest: the Foo Fighters performing Everlong.

  6. Jack says:

    Say it ain’t so Dave!

  7. j says:

    Yeah… It’s time (actually, if we’re not being polite, it was time about 5 or 6 years ago.) Assuming they move up Ferguson, I hope CBS corrects NBC’s mistake of overlooking Maya Rudolph and gives her the late late show, even though I recognize that it’s probably Chelsea Handler’s slot if she wants it.

  8. Jim Sullivan says:

    About 10 years too late…

    • Dee says:

      Agree. He is way too political and mean-spirited. I don’t want to see a TV host pushing his political agenda. He also seems bitter and burned out. Craig Ferguson would be great but his style is much more for the later and smaller audience.

  9. Kaycee says:

    We need more female late night talk show hosts! Errm Sarah Silverman? Margaret Cho? Sandra Bernhard? I don’t know, I even think Whitney Cummings is underrated

  10. ian says:

    I bet they make offers to Jerry Seinfeld and Drew Carey

  11. Mick says:

    Couldn’t stand Letterman so good riddance. Doubt they’ll give it to Ferguson. He deserves to have it though. We’ll see.

  12. luke says:

    No chick can host a late night show! Get real! Never going to happen!!!

  13. Evan says:

    They’ll consider Louis CK to replace him, but only to push down Jerry Seinfeld’s asking price.

  14. Perfect timing for CONAN to return to network TV.

  15. webly3 says:

    About time.

  16. Bob Loblaw says:

    Louis C.K will replace him.

  17. Rose Mundy says:

    My heart is broken. I dearly love Dave. I’ve been a fan for the whole 31 years. Late night will never be the same.

    • Deena says:

      I’m with you. I’ve been watching him since I was a kid staying up late when there was no school the next day. End of an era.

      • Lerbert says:

        Me too! Watching him with my father on Friday nights is one of my most treasured memories. “Are we going to stay up and watch Letterman?” is what he’d ask around dinner time. I know The Roots Crew are inscrutable and Fallon’s musical guests get a lot of attention, but the overall breadth and quality of performances on Letterman over the years and the musicality of The CBS Orchestra led by Paul Schaffer will really be missed.

    • Angela says:

      Yeah, my family’s watched him for years, too. It’s going to be very weird to NOT have him on TV anymore come next year.

  18. Andrea says:

    Replacement? Anderson Cooper? CBS woos him away from CNN. He could do a variety show like Letterman. Have up and coming comics or guests do the monologues, but Anderson would be the host.

    Final guest= Billy Crystal

    I like Dave.

  19. Brian says:

    Aww, I’m gonna miss Dave. I’d love to see the show go to Amy Sedaris. She has the right, off-kilter tone for the show.

  20. John Fenner says:

    Uh oh! I somehow see Leno trying to sign a contract with CBS so he could sneak right back into that timeslot. 2010 is an indication that he’d do something like that.

  21. A says:

    Love Dave

  22. SWelch says:

    I only watch Letterman for the musical guest and on occasion if there is a guest that I want to see other wise the only late night show I watch is Craig Ferguson. He is the only one I find funny any more.

  23. DavidSask says:

    Congrats wish him well in his retirement. If Craig’s contract does not put him in Letterman’s spot or if he gets his contract bought out could be whole new thing on CBS! I think one of the spots should go to FEMALE!!!! Plant the seed Julie Chen!

  24. HAP says:

    As far as I know, Craig Ferguson is under contract to Dave’s Worldwide Pants. So, whether he ultimately takes the job, will be up to whether he wants it. But, I’m certain he has right of first refusal. That said, in the same vein as other thoughts posted above, I believe that Chelsea’s demeanor would be a bit coarse for the show being broadcast on network TV. But it could work for the later show.

    As far as Seinfeld is concerned, I see no reason why a guy as wealthy as he would even consider the grind.

  25. There better be a “top ten reasons why Letterman is retiring” list.

  26. lily says:

    I think it’d be awesome if Conan got the job. Once again taking the reins from Dave, it’d be like ultimate validation.

  27. Mel says:

    We’ve been expecting this. It’s been displayed in his demeanor for a couple of yrs, even before Jay quit. Good luck to Dave.

  28. John Moshier says:

    there not going to old they will go young Chelsea does do good interviews furgeson can do it then Chelsea could take his spot everyone else is old school ross Mathews could then take over Chelsea handlers show but there is louie ck who is perfect

  29. Brian says:

    Actually, I believe he was hoping to get the late night title back when Fallon took over, and now he’s condemned to always be the runner up…

  30. Tim O'Brien says:

    I’ve been a fan of Dave since his NBC days & have even been to a taping. He will be missed but he deserves it !!

  31. Larry says:

    Kathy Griffin would be the best! If she can get any guests!

  32. j says:

    i think wayne brady would be a great option!

  33. Jonathan says:

    @WayneBrady would be a great option to rival and push the innovations of Fallon, et al.

  34. Andrew Hass says:

    I’ll miss David Letterman but i can understand him wanting to retire.Plus i’m sure he has been thinking about this for awhile and didn’t just wake up yesterday and decide to retire.Plus CBS has time to find the right replacement for him and i could even see some of the candidates hosting one of the shows over the next year to see how they do.

  35. John Carson says:

    Dave should be replaced either by Joel McHale or Conan. Those are the only two legit comic choices.

    Colbert and Stewart belong on basic cable doing the niche shows they do.

    Chelsea Handler is not fit for traditional, public airwave owned, free television! She is a lowbrow comic and that’s all she will ever be.

    Additionally, she’s a crass (not class) act and a total bore.

    11:35 P.M.on CBS is NOT THE PLACE FOR HER!

  36. Not nearly the reaction as when Johnny Carson announced his retirement. Not to put someone down when they’re down, but Letterman ratings haven’t been very good for a long while, even after Leno’s retirement… perhaps key reason he’s leaving rather than be shown the door.