David Letterman to Retire From CBS in 2015

David Letterman Follows Johnny's Playbook Till

Tells studio audience: 'It's been great … but I'm retiring'

In a move that will complete the generational transition in latenight, David Letterman is preparing to retire from CBS next year.

Letterman, who will turn 67 on April 12, disclosed his decision during Thursday afternoon’s taping of “The Late Show.”

“The man who owns this network, Leslie Moonves, he and I have had a relationship for years and years and years, and we have had this conversation in the past, and we agreed that we would work together on this circumstance and the timing of this circumstance. And I phoned him 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,’” Letterman said.

“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. What this means now, is that Paul and I can be married.

WATCH: David Letterman Announces His Retirement

“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.”

Afterward, Letterman received a standing ovation from the audience at the Ed Sullivan Theater.

Sources said there was no creative license in Letterman’s statement. CBS Corp. chief Moonves got the official word from Letterman on his decision to retire shortly before Thursday’s taping.

“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,” Moonves said in a statement.

“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.

OPINION: Letterman Follows Johnny Carson’s Playbook

“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,” Moonves said.

Last year, Letterman re-upped his contract with the Eye that ran through mid-2014 with a one-year term that signaled he was starting to think about calling it a wrap. However, sources close to the situation advised that Letterman may stick around a little bit longer past the August expiration of his current contract.

PHOTOS: Who Will Succeed David Letterman at CBS’ Late Show?

As of next year, Letterman will have hosted “Late Show” on CBS for 22 years. He logged 11 years as host of NBC’s “Late Night” before famously being passed over at NBC for Johnny Carson’s throne on “The Tonight Show” — over Carson’s objection. Letterman has logged more than 6,000 episodes during his long career. The combination of his NBC and CBS runs makes him the longest-serving latenight host in history, surpassing Carson’s 30-year tenure.

Word of Letterman’s plan spread quickly via Twitter on Thursday afternoon after musician Mike Mills, who appears on Thursday’s show, noted Letterman’s big news following the taping.

Letterman’s departure will cap a busy period of host shuffling in latenight following Jay Leno’s retirement from “The Tonight Show” in February, which made way for Jimmy Fallon to take the helm on Feb. 17.

Staying on through 2015 will allow Letterman to comfortably outlast his longtime rival, although Leno had the ratings advantage during most of his 22-year run on NBC. Sources close to the situation were also adamant that the decision was Letterman’s, with no nudge from CBS despite the fact that he is now going up against much younger competitors on NBC and ABC.

With Letterman stepping down, the latenight TV landscape will be dominated by hosts (Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, Craig Ferguson, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien) who came of age professionally in the post-Johnny Carson era. Arsenio Hall, who returned to latenight this past fall with a syndicated series, is the lone exception.

In fact, Letterman is the bigger influence on his contemporary crop of rivals. ABC’s Kimmel has made no secret of idolizing his 11:35 p.m. competitor.

Hall was equally effusive: “I have had the unique pleasure of watching him as a fan and competing against him as a fellow host. He has set a standard for comedy in late night that I strive to achieve every single day,” he said.

Confirmation of Letterman’s retirement raises the question about his successor. Ferguson has hosted “The Late Late Show” following Letterman since 2005, but it’s not clear if CBS sees him as 11:35 p.m. successor potential. CBS reps would not comment on succession questions Thursday, emphasizing that today’s news was “all about Dave.”

Ferguson has been in contract talks with CBS in recent months as his current deal is believed to expire later this year. He has a clause in his contract that calls for him to either succeed Letterman or command a form of payout from CBS. Ferguson has stepped up his activity outside of “The Late Late Show” as a producer and as talent in the past few years. He’s set to debut this fall as host of the syndicated gameshow strip “Celebrity Name Game,” from distributor Debmar-Mercury.

Since his start on CBS in 1993, Letterman has owned both “The Late Show” and “The Late Late Show,” which was first hosted by Tom Snyder and then Craig Kilborn prior to Ferguson. He has the contractual right to control the show that follows his at 12:37 p.m., and it is believed that Letterman and his Worldwide Pants production banner may still have some measure of involvement in CBS’ latenight lineup even after his retirement.

Owning his show has given Letterman an unusual degree of control over his destiny at CBS — a welcome change after his unhappy exit from NBC. “The Late Show” has also made him very rich. At one point he was said to have commanded an annual paycheck of about $30 million, though his salary has been downsized some in his last few contracts.


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  1. Unreal! It is so hard to believe the mindless masses that keep these fools on TV programming, by the socialist, Marxist, Communist, un American guest they parade around on there stage!

  2. Ki farris says:

    Don’t let the door him in the ass when leaves. He was never funny anyway. Just a big jerk.

  3. Roscoe says:

    Letterman retiring? Who cares, I retired David letterman and the entire fools parade of American television years ago when I got rid of my television , never to return. The idiot box in the U S is truly for idiots.

  4. Judy DeCaire says:

    Love Dave Letterman and his unique sense of humor, his amazing ability to go from totally silly to heartfelt serious. His appreciation of what life is about and not afraid to admit when he made a mistake was what made him a friend to many via television. Thanks for the memories Dave! Good luck and best wishes as you embark on your new adventures. Judy in Michigan.

    • morefandave says:

      He’s a narcissistic, inconsiderate windbag who ceased being funny years ago. His retirement can’t come too soon. I won’t miss him at all.

  5. zootSuit says:

    Dave has time now to go to COSCO to get those bulk Q-tips.

  6. Meg S. says:

    Good. Adulterous asshole.

    • ShawnJACKA says:

      His show is a dull as dishwater. They make the audience always applaude when the jokes are dull and not funny which is almost the entire monologue. It’s almost impossible to watch the full hour without falling asleep.

  7. TheBigBangOf20thCenturyPopCulture says:

    Here’s the deal. Dave has been a curmudgeon for the last decade of his watch. So his departure is more long over due than Leno’s was. To shake things up, CBS should consider a co-ed set up where Craig Ferguson and Chelsea Handler take turns hosting and playing each other’s Ed McMahon 2nd banana. It’s a novel idea that would trade on sexual tension between one rumored to be porn star hung and the other said to be a hot mess nympho. But to make it work, CBS would need to stop playing to a prude police demographic, update standards and practices and join the 21st century.

  8. intsek_kupal says:

    what about ms.birkitt, what will happen to her?

  9. Stunning story there. What occurred after?
    Take care!

  10. About time! His act was stale back in the 1980’s!

  11. Wonderful article! We are linking to this particularly great
    article on our site. Keep up the great writing.

  12. lola says:

    he made a promise to his wife, I think is very honorable of him to keep it, I think its going to be sad, but its the right move, more info on his wife Regina here


  13. Robert says:

    The main reason I’m glad he’s going is that I’ll never have to listen to big mouth buttinski Paul Shaffer continually making stupid noises and constantly interrupting. I wish we could keep Dave and can Paul. He’s a wannabe little ant that drives me up the wall. It’s smart to know when to shut up and Paul seriously lacks the intelligence in that respect.

  14. realetybytes says:

    I thought he retired when he turned 100!

  15. Patrick says:

    I don’t particularly care what Letterman’s politics may be. It’s about his unrelenting, boring nastiness. This snarky, uncreative blowhard’s sell-by date passed years ago.
    Remember his earlier shows? Funny in what, at the time, were pretty unique comedic flashes in the TV universe. That sort of brilliant creative carbonation has looong since left the show to be replaced by a flat, tasteless brew, The youthful Letterman, the comedic acrobat, has morphed into a self-inflated one trick pony whose single trick is cynicism flavored with a self satisfied smug conceit. Glad to see him go. Long overdue.

  16. Davefan says:

    I assume all the wingnuts posting here were happy when the radical-leftist-liberal-Democratic tool Letterman was raking Bill Clinton over the coals back in the ’90s.

    Although, judging from their comments, they don’t seem to remember that far back …

    • ShawnJACKA says:

      Letterman just didn’t know when to leave the spotlight; has nothing to do with politics. America is sick of him,he should have passed the baton at least 5 years ago.

  17. AZsmitty, Arizona says:

    It has been quite a run! Lectures others as to how he thinks they should live, yet displayed less than stellar personal character. Always one to slam all things conservative yet embrace all things progressive including limits on “others” personal freedom. Hey here’s an idea, I hear Piers Morgan is looking for a new home.

  18. Exclusively at Target: I Love Lucy: Seasons 5 – 9 on DVD.
    The world became more aware of the counter-culture’s aspect of wanting nothing but freedom, peace and non-violent lives.
    Moore questions the politicians running the country, asking those questions we would like to ask but never get the

  19. Vari Ety says:

    My God, were most of these comments put in by the “Fans of Jay Leno” club? That’s an awful lot of comments for eight people to be typing. Letterman began changing television from his quirky daytime show in the ’80’s, where Edwin Newman (!!) was his sidekick/anchorman for the news. He CHANGED late night TV. Johnny Carson wanted him to take the tonight show, and if you read the great book “Late Shift” you can get the whole story of how television works — TV execs AFRAID to make a decision, AFRAID to pay what someone is worth at the time, end up LOSING talent because they make the decision too late and PAYING THROUGH THE NOSE for someone of lesser talent. And THAT’S how Leno ended up at the Tonight Show, where Letterman should have been. The upside? Letterman packed his bags for CBS and turned the Eye network’s late night lineup around. Suddenly, instead of crappy Canadian detective shows, there was the funniest man on late night giving a much needed shot in the arm to CBS. Now it’s more than 20 years later, and Letterman has done what a lot of people in TV won’t do — he CHANGED. His comedy and sensibilities changed as he aged. He’s different from that daytime show in the 80’s, and yet he’s still interesting to watch and listen to. Leno just got stale like that thing in the back of the fridge that you forgot to finish — he didn’t change, just got older. Jimmy Fallon is a great shot of adrenaline to the Tonight Show — and that’s why Dave isn’t battling Fallon (or Kimmel) as he did Leno. Because Letterman is smart, and respects other funny people. Leno was just never that funny, lame examples such as “Jay Walking” and “Dancing Itos.” Letterman NEVER dumbed down his show, unless it was to be ironic. And if he’s gotten a little crotchety, well, so did George Carlin. You tell so many jokes for so many years, comment on so many different things going on in the world, and sure, it makes you angry that it never seems to get better. Leno? Never angry. Also irrelevant and something to fall asleep to.

    • Melody says:

      I have said what you said, many times on many forums, but not nearly as well as you did. The Late Shift by Bill Carter was an excellent chronicle of those days in the early 90s which so many people seem to have forgotten. Leno was a party (along with his dare-I-say evil agent) to forcing Carson out in the first place. Dave is and always has been an original. No one like him, and when he goes, it will be a free-for-all. In the early 90s, there was no virtually no late night entertainment show other than Tonight and, had Dave gotten that particular choice piece of that real estate, there may not now have been a Kimmel or a reincarnated Hall or a Fallon, because NBC would have owned late night. It still burns my butt. I’m just glad that Dave is going out on his own terms.

  20. Joe says:


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    Is it simply me oor doers it look like a few of these remarks cime across like written by
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  22. Letterman was OK for his generation. But he is now a relic of the 1960’s Baby boomer generation.

    I have news for Dave even his fellow Baby Boomers are watching Fallon. The man is extremely talented and completely entreating. YOUNG AMERICA loves the guy!

  23. Noel MacClanahan says:

    I thought he retired in 82. taht was the last time I watched the doofus.

  24. Old Crow says:

    This year will be his last chance to beat Leno’s ratings.

  25. a357isok says:

    He’s no Johnny Carson.

  26. Don says:

    Jesus works for minimum wage. and remember, if god didn’t want to bam a to president, why wouldn’t he uses his almighty power to dissuade voters…. check the bible on that one

  27. Jodi Jo says:

    About time. He is extremely out of touch with today’s entertainment industry. He doesn’t even know who he’s interviewing half the time or why they’re famous. Plus, he’s not funny. Whatsoever.

  28. D says:

    Ancient is correct! 3,000 year old bronze-age myth.

  29. Bobby Salvin says:

    I never realized David Letterman was all of these terrible things, a nasty, misogynist, leftie, adulterer. These comments have totally piqued my interest, and now I’m running out of time to watch him.

  30. Danny Buggs says:

    Dave go take some more of your interns to the headboard. I bet you look pathetic balling a young woman…you sick pathetic doosh nozzle

  31. JWag says:

    Get CONAN… bring him back to network TV he’s the obvious choice.

  32. Rob says:

    After looking through the comments it would appear that Dave has about 2 fans. How did he stay on TV for so long?

  33. Magnum says:

    He should have retired about 15 years ago, right before he stopped being funny. I hope he gets a Big Ass Ham for a retirement present.

  34. Carlos says:

    Good Riddance, nasty, unfunny, political, mysogynist, snarky, old, bigoted man.

  35. Ted says:

    Who should replace him? Jay Leno! :)

  36. Ted says:

    Spot-on assessment.

  37. Rob says:

    I’ll never forget good ole whats his name.

  38. Patience says:

    I remember him from back then, and he was not funny then, either. I never could understand how he lasted for a year.

  39. Ken/Toronto says:

    Mr. Letterman changed the late night comedy/talkshow landscape with all sorts of wonky, hilarious, innovative ideas back in the early 80s. He refined his “frat-house” image when he moved to CBS in the early 90s. He was particularly brilliant and utterly sensitive in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Like his mentor Johnny, he tackled both the left and the right in his monologues and in his at-desk patter (it may behoove conservatives to remember how often and how lethally he poked fun at Clinton – I even have a pic of Dave dressed up like Monica Lewinsky on my fridge door!). Despite his fame and wealth, he remains – I think – a mid-West boy at heart, who loves his country, and expresses concern for its current state. He’s been at this game now for over 30 years…was hoping he’d go on a for quite a few more. He’s true television genius – even when he’s grumpy on air!! I shall seriously miss his nightly silliness and scorn.

  40. Patience says:

    Good riddance.

  41. Matt G says:

    Two words………Can”t Wait!

  42. Paul Vincent Zecchino says:

    Who’ll replace him? Who cares? Why did people consider this guy to be funny?

    Who has the time to sit up, watch this stuff?

  43. Steve says:

    Jimmy Kimmel is seriously mental-retarded “David @Letterman is the best there is and ever was.”

  44. Jackson says:

    Funny, if being an adulterer should get you fired, Gingrich and Sanford should never have been politicians. But I guess it only matters to you when liberals cheat. It’s acceptable when Republicans do it, right?

    Hypocrite! Someone should force you to eat the big steaming dump you left in this forums.

  45. Jackson says:

    It’s time to give a woman a shot at late night network. Amy Sedaris, Amy Poehler, both would be funny.

  46. iratenate says:

    Letterman’s still on?

  47. Honeybooboo says:

    Can’t go soon enough

  48. ted says:

    He was funny 30 years ago.

  49. Elsewhere says:

    I so hope that whoever is chosen will present adult comedy and entertainment rather than the juvenile presentations that Letterman makes.

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