David Letterman is retiring next year as host of "Late Show."
During a taping of Thursday's show, Letterman said he has informed CBS that he will step down in 2015, when his current contract expires.
He specified no end date, telling his audience he expects his exit will be in "at least a year or so, but sometime in the not too distant future - 2015, for the love of God - (band leader) Paul (Shaffer) and I will be wrapping things up."
Referring to CBS chairman Leslie Moonves as "the man who owns this network," Letterman said: "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.'"
Along with his network, Letterman thanked "all of the people who have worked here, all of the people in the theater, all the people on the staff, everybody at home, thank you very much."
"What this means now," he cracked, "is that Paul and I can be married."
Letterman, who turns 67 next week, has the longest tenure of any late-night talk show host in U.S. television history, already marking 32 years since he created "Late Night" at NBC in 1982.
Jack Hanna is the longest running guest in the history of the Letterman show. 10TV caught up with Jack as he prepared to fly him back to Columbus tonight from New Hampshire.
"What David Letterman has done for the animal world, the people world, in my 28 years, we couldn't put a price tag on it," said Hanna. "The Columbus Zoo couldn't. The city of Columbus couldn't and I couldn't."
Jack Hanna got a little emotional thinking about what Letterman's retirement may mean for him
"I don't know if I could do another evening show, I really don't," said Hanna.
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 the host of the show in 2015, 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 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.
Statement from Les 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.”