David Letterman Weighs In on Colbert Pick, Says He Wasn't Asked For Input

Stephen Colbert may very well be the right man to fill David Letterman’s shoes, but he wasn’t the veteran talk show host’s first choice.

In an exclusive interview with The New York Times, Letterman revealed that he wasn’t consulted regarding his eventual successor on CBS’ Late Show.

“I always thought Jon Stewart would have been a good choice,” he said. “And then Stephen.”

Though Letterman is interested in seeing how Colbert plays opposite future time slot rivals Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel, he acknowledges the need for more diverse voices in late night.

“I thought, well, maybe this will be a good opportunity to put a black person on, and it would be a good opportunity to put a woman on,” he said. “There are certainly a lot of very funny women that have television shows everywhere. So that would have made sense to me as well.”

Asked whether it upset him that the Eye network didn’t ask for his input before ultimately going with Colbert, Letterman explained it was only initially irksome. Furthermore, the powers that be were quick to lock up his successor, not leaving much time for discussion.

“They didn’t have to put much thought to it, did they,” he quipped. “I think it was the very next day.”

Despite his slight beef with the network he’s called home for 22 years, Letterman said “it will be very interesting to see what [Colbert] will do.”

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert premieres Tuesday, September 8. Letterman signs off on Wednesday, May 20.

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12 Comments
  1. bar says:

    Dave seems a little bitter. In EW’s write-up for this story, he said he’s not expecting anything special for his last show other than everyone anticipating Colbert’s start.

    • KatsMom says:

      I read it as his usual self-deprecating kind of humor, not bitterness. You can’t tell tone from the printed word, but I’d prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt

  2. Mark D. Moss says:

    I’ll start out by saying that I’m a HUGE fan of Letterman, and watched him since the daytime incarnation of his show. I’ve seen the show live several times, and loved it. Even with the greying edges to the show, he’s “my” 11:30 chatter out of all that came before or since. CBS was just stupid not to have consulted with him in a more tangible way … with such a rapidly changing landscape and competition, they’re gonna need all the help they can get.

    Also: I LOVED “The Colbert Report,” but agree with Dave that Stewart would have been a far superior choice, *especially* given what we now know (that Jon was gonna move on from “The Daily Show” anyway). I’ll give Colbert a shot, but I wouldn’t give odds that this will work. I could *never* make it through Colbert’s interview segments, which I found someplace in between twee and insulting. Those that *actually* know him seem to think it’s in his wheelhouse, but, at least “in character” it is most definitely *NOT*.

    The Daily Show is in for a major shift, too, of course, so who knows. But we were richer with Dave, Jon and Stephen right where they were.

    • Becky says:

      Colbert is not going to be ‘in character’ from The Colbert Report. Those interviews were from his ‘right-wing blowhard’ point of view, i.e., Bill O’Reilly. He is far from that in real life. And David Letterman did not say that Jon Stewart was a ‘far superior choice’. He said Jon Stewart, then Stephen.

      I love David Letterman, will miss him, but I’m exceted about Stephen Colbert.

    • James C. says:

      Stewart didn’t want the job. He’s said many times, he’s tired. He’s now retiring to run an animal sanctuary.

      Colbert also has some hidden talents. In addition to being funny, he’s a great singer, and he can also act. I think he could bring a real showman quality to late night, maybe even an old-time variety quality to the show.

  3. Mr. Tran K says:

    Really hope Colbert will do a great job when he takes over The Late Show on September 8th. He and James Corden would definitely shake up late night TV for CBS. Wonder if they’re planning a new and improved set for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and probably a “house band” which would be nice.

    • I would love to see one late night show have a different house band or artist as a sidekick every night.

      Besides the built-in ratings boost from that act’s fanbase, you’d also get fresh music and the opportunity for some great discussion should the house band being a music legend or something like that.

      The banter between the side kick is a lost art these days, so this might be the best way to change it.

      Or you could even have a band that’s musically talented but doesn’t have a lead singer or a frontman, and you have a different celebrity every night as a sidekick.

      I just want to see something different done.

      • This seems to happen on Seth Meyer’s show, where someone will “sit in” with the band. That being said… this is a cool idea!

      • Angela says:

        I like this idea :). If Stephen did this on his show I’d be thrilled, because I’ve always tended to like his taste in music, if some of the artists he had on “The Colbert Report” were any indication.
        As for the article, I think a lot of people naturally assumed Jon Stewart would be the main pick, and I can understand that. We got so used to seeing Colbert “in character” on his show that it was, and is, for some people, hard to imagine him out of character doing a show like this. And it is weird that Letterman wasn’t involved in the decision making for this-I would think that’d just seem a logical thing to do.
        That said, however, I don’t doubt he respects and admires Colbert, and I hope he’s ultimately satisfied with how things turn out when Colbert takes over. I’m certainly looking forward to it-I miss “The Colbert Report”, but I’m interested to see what he’ll do in this new setting. And he’s always come across well in interviews where he’s not “in character”, so I think he’ll be fine :).

  4. TV Gord says:

    NBC didn’t consult Johnny on his replacement, so it’s no surprise that CBS didn’t consult with Dave. He doesn’t sound bitter in this interview to me. He just sounds like Dave. God, I’m going to miss him.

    I like Jon Stewart, but I wouldn’t choose him before Stephen. Stephen can do it all! He sings, he dances, he is a hell of an actor and comedian. He’ll be a much more versatile choice than Jon, who is awkward in the same way Dave is when it comes to being the sort of all-around performer that the show needs, now that Jimmy Fallon is the main competition. Besides, if we are to believe Jon’s story that he wants to spend dinner with his family, that wouldn’t happen if he moved to The Ed Sullivan Theater.

    I’m melancholy about Dave leaving, but I can’t wait for Stephen to start! After May 20th, I plan to start re-watching my vast video collection of Dave dating back to 1984. That should help with the withdrawal symptoms I expect to have.

    • hud says:

      I enjoy TV. However I cannot understand the relevance of the late night talk programs.Leno, Letterman, Fallon, and that moron Conan. Do people still get up in the morning and go to work? or is it just me? I record if a guest is someone of interest but the “host” hog the segments making it unwatchable. Just my opinion.

    • NJMark says:

      People thinking the incumbent has any say in choosing the successor have been watching too many shows where the new chief of whatever is appointed by the old chief… resulting in characters blatantly sucking up to the old chief.