Stephen Colbert will take over the Late Show slot when David Letterman retires next year, a report on an internet news site has claimed. Letterman, 67, has become an institution in the 11:30 pm time slot on CBS, which his show has occupied since 1993. But on his program Thursday, Letterman announced his plans to step aside when his current contract runs out in 2015. No sooner had he made the announcement than speculation began about his replacement.
But according to the social media and entertainment site Mashable, the decision may already have been made. The Comedy Central personality Stephen Colbert, whose Colbert Report — a spinoff from the satirical news Daily Show program — serves as an ongoing parody of the right-wing news-talk shows found on Fox News.
But if Stephen Colbert takes over The Late Show from David Letterman, he will leave his tongue-in-cheek conservative persona behind and simply host the show as himself.
Colbert’s own contract with Comedy Central expires at the end of this year, making him a free agent and leaving him time to prepare the new version of The Late Show.
David Letterman himself did not nail down a specific date for his departure.
“We don’t have the timing of this precisely down. It will be at least a year or so,” Letterman said on Thursday’s broadcast. “But at some time in the not-too-distant future — 2015, for the love of God.”
By taking over in 2015, Stephen Colbert would be 51 when he assumes the Late Show host’s chair. That’s five years older than Letterman was when he jumped from NBC, where his Late Night With David Letterman program occupied the 12:30 am time slot, and started The Late Show, broadcasting from the then-vacant Ed Sullivan Theatre at 53rd St. and Broadway in Manhattan.
Stephen Colbert so far has spent nearly his entire television career on Comedy Central, a cable channel, and has never faced the higher ratings requirements of broadcast network TV, which also tend to require a more mainstream appeal than narrowly targeted cable programming.
Colbert created a sketch comedy show, Exit 57, in 1995 followed by the series Strangers With Candy, quickly joining the Daily Show staff around the same time. His own Colbert Report has aired since 2005.
A wide variety of names have surfaced in rumors about Letterman’s replacement, ranging from Neil Patrick Harris to Craig Ferguson, who currently hosts The Late, Late Show in the 12:30 slot on CBS.
But according to the Mashable report, Stephen Colbert is the “front and center” choice.