Say goodbye to “Stupid Pet Tricks” and “Is This Anything?” David Letterman is calling it a night.
During the taping of the “Late Show With David Letterman” on Thursday, the longtime late-night host broke the news that he would be retiring from the program in 2015.
Although he didn’t give a specific date for his last show, when he reads his final Top 10 list, the Indiana native will be the longest-tenured host in late-night history. Letterman began the “Late Night” program on NBC in 1982 before jumping to CBS and the “Late Show” in 1993 after losing “The Tonight Show” gig to one-time rival Jay Leno, who retired in February.
Letterman, who turns 67 next week, told Thursday’s audience that he had called CBS Chairman Les Moonves before the taping to break the news, telling him, “It’s been great, you’ve been great, and the network has been great, but I’m retiring.” In addition to CBS, Letterman thanked his staff, the studio audience, and home viewers. Letterman then joked of longtime bandleader Paul Shaffer, “What this means now is that Paul and I can be married.”
Cited as an influence by numerous comics and almost all of the current crop of late-night talk show hosts — including Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, and Jimmy Fallon, who inherited “The Tonight Show” from Leno — Letterman truly redesigned the late-night space.
He was fearless in presenting what he thought was funny even if it was potentially alienating to the audience. He was irreverent about the format, sometimes taking a confrontational stance in interviews with celebrities or politicians who came to his couch, skewering their talking points. He could be both absurdly silly and incredibly solemn. And he was very loyal, having the same comics, musicians, and friends on time and again to showcase their talents.
Although in recent years Letterman has coasted through some nights, whoever his successor might be — and there was no immediate word on that — will have a formidable pair of shoes to fill.