Stephen Colbert Is CBS’ Top Choice to Succeed Letterman

Stephen Colbert, the South Carolina native who’s become the face of faux news on Comedy Central, is CBS’ top choice to replace David Letterman on the Late Show.

49-year-old Stephen Colbert currently has his own show, The Colbert Report, on the Comedy Central and is a TV favorite, although his contract with the network is running out at the end of this year. Photo: waled ahmed/ Flickr

Right after David Letterman unexpectedly announced his plans to retire next year, people sparked speculation on who will succeed the longest-running TV host in the history of television.

“We don’t have the timing of this precisely down. It will be at least a year or so,” Letterman said on Thursday’s broadcast. “But at some time in the not-too-distant future — 2015, for the love of God.”

Even though the CBS Corp. and its boss, Leslie Moonves, is not in a hurry to sign and announce a replacement for David Letterman, people familiar with the matter claim that the major favorite for the post is 49-year-old Stephen Colbert.

According to the Mashable report, Colbert has not had any formal contract discussions with CBS, and no agreement is in place, however, he first negotiated with network executives while Letterman was still thinking over his decision to retire.

As inside sources with knowledge of the situation say Colbert is currently the top choice, despite thr fact that CBS has had conversations with other candidates, including Colbert’s Comedy Central counterpart Jon Stewart.

Colbert’s name has been on top of various dream lists, as former Deadline editor Nikki Finke tweeted that her sources confirmed Colbert is “the only one on the air currently that CBS is considering.” Reportedly, “The Daily Show” alum John Oliver passed on a late night role at CBS before signing on for a new HBO show.

Colbert, who is currently hosting “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central, will have his contract expired by the end of 2014, which will make him free to join CBS family and take over “The Late Show” from David Letterman.  In that case, he will leave his tongue-in-cheek conservative persona behind and simply host the show as himself, the insider shared with Mashable.

However, Colbert is not the only choice, as among others mentioned are Howard Stern, Chelsea Handler, Drew Carey, Jimmy Kimmel, Jay Leno, Craig Ferguson, Ellen DeGeneres and Tina Fey.  Actually, DeGeneres and Fey are high on the list to take over “The Late Show,” writes the NY Daily News.

The paper’s sources says that bringing either one into the late night wars, “would be a masterstroke.” “There’s no reason that late night television should be limited to men,” the source added.

Another female frontrunner is Chelsea Handler, known for her bawdy humor, especially after she announced Sunday that she was quitting the network when her deal expires at the end of the year.

Chelsea’s manager Irving Azoff, told The Hollywood Reporter on Sunday: “Chelsea intends to leave when her contract expires. She hired me to figure out her life after E! We have at least seven suitors and many ideas.”

If Chelsea were to take over, she would be the first woman to have her own network late night show since Joan Rivers, who hosted The Late Show – then on Fox – for just one year between 1986 and 1987.

Meanwhile, even as the CBS ramped up its search for Letterman’s replacement, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito urged CBS to keep the iconic after hours show in the city that never sleeps after the star steps down.

“For 32 years, ‘The Late Show’ has been a proud part of New York City’s amazing entertainment culture,” Mark-Viverito wrote to Moonves. “I urge you to keep future production …right here in New York City.”

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