David Letterman announced his retirement from late night today at the taping of tonight's episode of The Late Show, saying that he's stepping down from his post sometime next year, which is when his contract expires. REM's Mike Mills, who's on the show tonight, first tweeted the news, and CNN's Brian Stelter confirmed it.
Here's the video of his announcement:
Here's the official statement from Letterman's reps:
David Letterman, during a taping of tonight's Late Show, said that he informed Leslie Moonves, President and CEO of CBS Corporation, that he will step down as host of the show in 2014, which is when his current contract expires.
"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,'" said Letterman.
"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 of the people on the staff, everybody at home, thank you very much. What this means now, is that Paul and I can be married."
"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," he added, to a standing ovation from the audience in the Ed Sullivan Theater.
Letterman's career as a late night broadcaster has spanned more than 32 years and nearly 6,000 episodes. He was the first host of Late Night at NBC from 1982-1992, and he has been the only host of Late Show, which he created on CBS in 1993. The two shows have been nominated for 108 Emmys, winning eight. Late Night received a Peabody in 1992, and Letterman became a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2012.
And here's the statement from CBS President Leslie Moonves:
"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. 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. 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."
As far as who Letterman's Late Show successor will be, Craig Ferguson, who hosts The Late Late Show, has a "Prince of Wales" clause in his contract, meaning he has the right to inherit the timeslot. Here's how The NY Times' Bill Carter described it:
[Ferguson's] previous contracts with CBS have included what amounts to a "Prince of Wales" clause, giving Mr. Ferguson the right to inherit the late-night show in the 11:35 p.m. time period should Mr. Letterman decide to leave. (Those clauses have never been ironclad, however, because a network can choose to pay off the deal rather than complete the succession, as Mr. Letterman learned when Mr. Leno was chosen to succeed Mr. Carson in 1992.)
Craig Ferguson's CBS contract also expires in 2015, so if CBS opts to buy him out instead of giving him the prestigious Late Show, he could end up leaving the network altogether, leaving the network's 12:35 slot vacant, as well.
In the meantime, here's our feature on the best moments of Dave's Late Show, year by year. Late night isn't going to be the same without him.