Stephen Colbert was announced as the replacement host for Late Show when David Letterman retires in 2015. The announcement came from CBS Thursday morning, after the comedian signed a 5-year contract with the network that begins after Letterman’s retirement. While the change has been rumored since last week when Letterman announced his plans to retire, the late-night funny man beat out other rumored hosts like Norm McDonald and Jerry Seinfeld.
Letterman has been the host of Late Show since its creation in 1993. The show was created on CBS after NBC decided to replace long-time host of The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson, with Jay Leno rather than Letterman. Letterman had been a guest many times on The Tonight Show, and considers Carson to be the person who has had the most influence in his career, so when the network opted to go with another person as a host for Carson’s program, Letterman felt slighted. Since its creation, the Late Show and The Tonight Show have competed in ratings in the same time slot, with neither side taking any real edge for any extended period of time.
CBS’s president, Leslie Moonves, called Colbert “one of the most inventive and respected forces on television” and said that the comedian was one of their top choices to replace Letterman. It will be big shoes to fill, moving from a late night Comedy Central show to a primetime slot on a major network, but he is treating the situation with the honor it deserves. The comedian said that “simply being a guest on Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career.” He continued by saying that everyone in late night follows Letterman’s lead.
The comedian has been the host of his own late night show, The Colbert Report, since 2005 and spent many years as a fake news correspondent for its lead-in program, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, before that. The fate of his Comedy Central show is unknown at this moment, but rumors surround the possibility of another Daily Show correspondent to replace him. Jason Jones and John Hodgman top the list of rumored replacements there. His former boss, Jon Stewart, could not be happier for Colbert.
“He’s got gears he hasn’t even shown people yet. He will be remarkable,” said Stewart.
Stewart went on to say that while the comedian has done an amazing job with his Comedy Central show, working the Late Show will allow him to expand upon his capabilities. Colbert plays an overly zealous Republican caricature on his late night program, which has done well to offset The Daily Show‘s typical left-leaning programming, but playing the character has not allowed him much in the way of serious interviews.
Many are concerned that playing the character for so long has warped Colbert to a point where he would be unable to meet the expectations that come with the territory of taking over for a legend. The comedian has hosted a late night program for many years, but the format for his Comedy Central program is a stark difference from the format for the Late Show. In the end, Stephan Colbert will have to grow into his new role, after it was announced by CBS Thursday that he will be the replacement for David Letterman after Letterman’s retirement.
By Jonathan Gardner