NEW YORK — Get ready for another late-night shake-up. David Letterman is preparing to retire from “The Late Show” in 2015, the comedian announced Thursday.
The host, who turns 67 this month, plans to say goodnight to his hosting duties once his current contract expires next year. The news, which first leaked via Twitter, was later confirmed by Tom Keaney, a spokesman for Letterman’s production company, Worldwide Pants. Before a “Late Show” audience at the Ed Sullivan Theater in Manhattan, Letterman revealed how he had called CBS chief executive Les Moonves to say he would be 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,” Letterman said. “What this means now, is that Paul and I can be married,” Letterman joked. Paul Shaffer is the “Late Show” band leader.
Moonves also released a statement, calling Letterman’s decision “poignant. “There is only one David Letterman. His greatness will always be remembered here, and he will certainly sit among the pantheon of this business,” he said.
CBS executives have publicly expressed support for Letterman, insisting that the funny man would retire on his own terms and not be edged out like his chief rival, Jay Leno, at NBC. Speculation about his future at “The Late Show” was briefly quelled late last year when CBS extended his contract to 2014. But given the recent turnover at “The Tonight Show” and Letterman’s age (he is three years older than Leno) speculation about Letterman’s plans has naturally resurfaced.
His departure from CBS brings an end to a three-decade career in television that began in 1980 with the short-lived morning program “The David Letterman Show,” which was canceled after a few months on NBC. The sardonic comedian found his calling in late-night television, launching “Late Night” on NBC in 1982, where he quickly established himself with signature bits Stupid Human Tricks and the Top 10 list.
After losing a contentious and highly publicized battle with Leno to inherit “Tonight” following Johnny Carson’s retirement in 1992, Letterman decamped to CBS. “The Late Show” premiered in 1993 and at first easily bested Leno’s “Tonight Show” in the ratings. While Leno gradually gained the edge in overall viewership, Letterman has enjoyed greater acclaim from critics and his fellow comedians, earning a Peabody in 1992 and a Kennedy Center Honors in 2012, as well as numerous Emmys.