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Image: David Letterman Tells Audience He's Retiring in 2015

David Letterman Tells Audience He's Retiring in 2015

By Cathy Burke   |   Thursday, 03 Apr 2014 04:43 PM

Late-night TV host David Letterman, the gap-toothed comic whose Top Ten lists and Stupid Pet Tricks became part of American culture, is ending a 33-year run on two networks, the longest ever for a late-night talk show host.

He broke the news during the taping of Thursday's "Late Show With David Letterman" — and said his first call was to CBS chief, Les Moonves, the New York Daily News reported.

“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.

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"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."

In his typically dry style, Letterman then delivered a punch line to his otherwise sobering news:

"What this means now, is that Paul [Shaffer, his bandleader and sidekick] and I can be married," he joked.

"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."

The announcement earned a standing ovation from the audience in the Ed Sullivan Theater, the venue on Broadway in Manhattan where the show tapes, the Daily News reported.

Mike Mills, bassist for Thursday's musical guest R.E.M., broke the news to the rest of the world on Twitter, which was quickly flooded with good wishes for the comedian.

ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel tweeted his admiration soon after Letterman's announcement:

Last October, Letterman signed a contract extension that would keep him as host of the "Late Show" through 2015, Deadline Hollywood reported.

“There is only one Dave, and we are extremely proud that he continues to call CBS ‘home,’” Moonves said at the time.

Letterman, who turns 67 next week, has been host of his current show on CBS since 1993. His “Late Night With David Letterman” ran on NBC from 1982 until his move to CBS.

His two-network stint earned him nominations for 108 Emmys, and eight wins. "Late Night" nabbed a Peabody in 1992, and Letterman became a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2012, Deadline reported, citing a statement from CBS.

Letterman's departure completes a generational change in late-night TV.

Jay Leno stepped down from “The Tonight Show” on NBC in February, replaced by Jimmy Fallon. Leno won the job to succeed Johnny Carson over Letterman, which led to Letterman's departure to CBS and a head-to-head ratings war for more than two decades.

Letterman's longevity in the world of late-night TV surpassed Carson's last year.

The decision was Letterman’s, with "no nudge" from CBS, Variety reported, noting that the late-night landscape now will be dominated by hosts who all came of age after Carson dominated the scene.
In a statement Thursday, Moonves thanked Letterman:

"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," he said. "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.

"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."

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