Stephen Colbert will succeed David Letterman as the host of “The Late Show” on CBS when Letterman steps down in 2015, the network announced.
The announcement confirms speculation that Colbert, the host of Comedy Central’s Emmy Award-winning “The Colbert Report,” was the front-runner to replace Letterman upon his retirement.
Letterman announced his pending retirement on his April 3 broadcast after 21 years on the network.
Colbert’s premiere date as host of “The Late Show” will be announced after Letterman sets a timetable for his final show, CBS said in a news release. Letterman has yet to say when he’ll step down, only that it will be sometime in 2015.
Colbert has hosted "The Colbert Report" at 11:30 p.m. since 2005, in character as a fictional conservative talk-show host. The character will retire with “The Colbert Report.”
“Stephen Colbert is one of the most inventive and respected forces on television,” CBS president Les Moonves said in a statement. “David Letterman’s legacy and accomplishments are an incredible source of pride for all of us here, and today’s announcement speaks to our commitment of upholding what he established for CBS in late night.”
Specific creative elements, such as the producers and shooting location for the new “Late Show,” will be determined and announced at a later date, CBS said.
“Simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career. I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave’s lead.”” Colbert said in a statement, adding, “I’m thrilled and grateful that CBS chose me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth.”
Letterman offered his endorsement Thursday. “Stephen has always been a real friend to me,” he said. “I’m very excited for him, and I’m flattered that CBS chose him. I also happen to know they wanted another guy with glasses.”
“The Colbert Report” has earned 27 Emmy nominations since its premiere and won the Emmy for Outstanding Variety Series in 2013.
Before hosting his own show Colbert was a correspondent on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart, which airs directly before “The Colbert Report,” for eight years.
The decision opens up a hole on Comedy Central’s schedule. The network said in a statement Thursday that “we look forward to the next eight months of the ground-breaking ‘Colbert Report’ and wish Stephen the very best.”
Stewart told New York magazine on Wednesday night that Colbert would be terrific for Letterman’s job. Stewart said he likes what he does and Colbert has a better opportunity to broaden out his comedy than he would.
“He is a uniquely talented individual,” Stewart said. “He’s wonderful in ‘Colbert Report,’ but he’s got gears he hasn’t even shown people yet. He would be remarkable.”
The choice of Colbert quickly drew the ire of a real-life conservative talk- show host. Radio’s Rush Limbaugh said Thursday that CBS “has just declared war on the heartland of America. No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values, conservatives. Now it’s just wide open.”
Limbaugh mispronounced Colbert’s name as col-bert, instead of the proper pronunciation, col-bear.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.