It is official now! Stephen Colbert, the host of Comedy Central’s acclaimed late-night satire program “The Colbert Report”, will succeed David Letterman on the “Late Show” when the long-running host steps down next year, CBS announced on Thursday.
“Stephen Colbert is one of the most inventive and respected forces on television,” CBS president Leslie Moonves wrote in a statement following the announcement. “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.”
It is expected that the 49-year-old comedian will drop his tongue-in-cheek conservative persona, saying “I won’t be doing the new show in character, so we’ll all get to find out how much of him was me. I’m looking forward to it.”
“A lot of his audience has never seen him as himself,” said TV analyst David Bianculli. “He’ll bring a lot of that sensibility to it, but it will be a different tone.”
Last week, Letterman surprised his audience by his decision to retiree sometime next year after three decades in late-night television. Colbert immediately became the network’s top choice for the role, however he is not the only choice, as among others mentioned are Chelsea Handler, Jimmy Kimmel, Jay Leno, Craig Ferguson, Ellen DeGeneres and Tina Fey. Still it is Colbert who signed a five-year deal to take over the show.
“Simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career,” Colbert said in the joint statement. “I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave’s lead. … 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.”
David Letterman, who by the time of his retirement will have hosted CBS’ “Late Show with David Letterman” for 22 years, also praised Colbert as the right man for the job.
“Stephen has always been a real friend to me,” Letterman said. “I’m very excited for him, and I’m flattered that CBS chose him. I also happen to know they wanted another guy with glasses.”
Comedy Central were also supportive of Colbert, who has been a part of the network since he started appearing on “The Daily Show” in 1997; “The Colbert Report” launched in 2005. Execs indicated Colbert would leave sometime around the end of this year.
“Comedy Central is proud that the incredibly talented Stephen Colbert has been part of our family for nearly two decades,” the network said. “We look forward to the next eight months of the ground-breaking ‘Colbert Report’ and wish Stephen the very best.”
Details of how the format of “Late Show” will change under Colbert’s stewardship, or whether it will remain based in New York City, have yet to be determined, as well as there’s also no word on how Comedy Central will fill the hole left when Colbert leaves “The Colbert Report,” the show he’s hosted since 2005.