CBS announced today that Stephen Colbert, longtime host of The Colbert Report, will take over for David Letterman as host of the network's 11:35pm program Late Show in 2015. Letterman announced last week that he will be retiring sometime next year though a transition date has not yet been set. Colbert will become Late Show's second host; Letterman originated the series in 1993. Colbert has signed a five-year agreement to host the show for CBS. "I'm thrilled and grateful that CBS chose me," Colbert said in a statement. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth."
Stephen Colbert's contract with Comedy Central runs out at the end of this year, so The Colbert Report will conclude its nine-year run in December, leaving him wide open to take over Late Show anytime in 2015.
Colbert drop his faux-conservative pundit persona to host CBS's flagship late night show as himself. His buddy Jon Stewart gave Colbert a ringing endorsement this week, saying "He's wonderful in Colbert Report, but he's got gears he hasn’t even shown people yet. He would be remarkable."
Reports about Stephen Colbert being CBS's top choice started coming in pretty much as soon as Letterman announced his retirement, and the network had met with Colbert about hosting the show prior to Letterman making his decision. Craig Ferguson, longtime host of The Late Late Show following Letterman, had a clause in his contract guaranteeing him first right of refusal to hosting Late Show after Letterman retires but CBS execs, who are said to have never seen Ferguson as the heir to Letterman's show, paid him a bunch of money instead.
As far as the late night domino effect that will come with the 2015 Letterman/Colbert transition, Colbert's 11:30 Comedy Central slot will be vacant with no apparent heir to that throne. Chris Hardwick's @midnight has been doing great in the ratings, but sliding that show up a half-hour is tricky simply because of its title. With his contract up at the end of the year, Craig Ferguson could also end up leaving The Late Late Show in the wake of not getting to host its lead-in. CBS has been reportedly in talks with E!'s Chelsea Handler about hosting The Late Late Show, indicating that they're at least considering a new host for Ferguson's spot as well. The network also approached The Daily Show's John Oliver last year about potentially taking over The Late Late Show or another late night slot, but he opted to go to HBO instead.
Here's CBS's statement:
The CBS Television Network today announced that Stephen Colbert, the host, writer and executive producer of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning "The Colbert Report," will succeed David Letterman as the host of THE LATE SHOW, effective when Mr. Letterman retires from the broadcast. The five-year agreement between CBS and Colbert was announced by Leslie Moonves, President and CEO, CBS Corporation, and Nina Tassler, Chairman of CBS Entertainment.
Letterman, the legendary, critically acclaimed host of the CBS late night series for 21 years, announced his retirement on his April 3 broadcast. Colbert's premiere date as host of THE LATE SHOW will be announced after Mr. Letterman determines a timetable for his final broadcasts in 2015.
Specific creative elements, as well as the producers and location for the Colbert-hosted LATE SHOW, will be determined and announced at a later date.
Here's Comedy Central's statement:
Comedy Central is proud that the incredibly talented Stephen Colbert has been part of our family for nearly two decades. We look forward to the next eight months of the groundbreaking Colbert Report and wish Stephen the very best.