David Letterman: Did Jimmy Fallon Ratings Chase Him Into Retirement?

David Letterman, late night icon and new potential lawn bowling partner to Jay Leno, made his surprise retirement announcement Thursday to much fanfare and nostalgic reminiscence. But what were his true motivations for making the announcement at this time?

While Leno was forced out by network big wigs who hoped his replacement, Jimmy Fallon, would attract a younger demographic (so far Fallon has made this endeavor a success), David Letterman may be running to pasture because of Fallon’s strong ratings, according to a source.

The “source” (which is really just a nice name for a “spy”) is reportedly closely connected to Letterman and the Late Show, and their impression is that direct competition with Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show did not appeal to David Letterman.

“David is older now; he had heart surgery some time ago and sees both Jimmy Kimmel, as well as the more formidable Jimmy Fallon, now gaining on him.” the rogue informant told FOX411.

What the two Jimmys are “gaining on” is unclear since Letterman often trails both of them in the ratings. Regardless, the informant shamelessly continued to spill: “Fallon is getting record ratings so Letterman will segue out while he’s still on top. It’s dignified. If Fallon weren’t so hot, he might have stuck around longer.”

Well, at least the informant classified Letterman’s retirement announcement as “dignified”, unlike spreading speculative gossip behind your famous celebrity associate’s back. So rude!

Anyway, Jimmy Fallon has indeed rocked the late night world since stocking onto the scene. His number of viewers has been averaging close to 4.5 million in the key 18-49 year-old demographic, while David Letterman pulls in around 2.8 million a night and Jimmy Kimmel, roughly the same.

Of course as soon as Letterman made his “shocking” announcement, and all of us David Letterman fans had dried our tears, it was time to start guessing, Who’s gonna replace, Uncle David? I mean, “out with the old, in with the new”, right? Lose a dog, get a puppy!

Wouldn’t it be great if Jay Leno got the nod to replace Letterman? That would definitely make Letterman’s Top 10 List of, Ways To Make Him Puke.

But stranger things have happened in Late Night, and the idea is actually a living, breathing thing!

“Leno would seem an especially bright prospect,” wrote Tim Malloy of TheWrap.com. “And CBS, with the oldest viewers in broadcast TV, may not be as fixated on youth as NBC was when it replaced Leno with Fallon.”

Early front runners to replace David Letterman include – surprise, surprise – pretty much everyone that currently has a late night show, including Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart.

But also you got Craig Ferguson, who is already on Team Worldwide Pants, Letterman’s production company; good old Conan “the doormat” O’Brien (watch him take over Late Night only to have Letterman reemerge from retirement); Chelsea Handler, the bright, witty, and lovely comic who can easily hang with any of the boys; and even Jimmy Kimmel (don’t tell Adam Carolla).

“I’d definitely consider it,” Kimmel told TV Guide Magazine. “I am loyal to ABC and grateful to them for giving me a shot. I was a guy from The Man Show when they put me on. I’m not looking to flee. But just getting a call from Dave would be big for me. So it’s definitely something I would listen to.”

An old joke that somehow brings David Letterman’s smile to mind:

Why do Retirees smile all the time?

Because they can’t hear a word you’re saying!

David “The King of Late Night” Letterman plans to finish out his CBS contract and retire in 2015.

Image via Google Images