After more than three decades of putting America to bed every night, David Letterman has reportedly decided to retire. Don’t worry though. This goodbye isn’t happening tomorrow or even later this year. In fact, the longtime late night personality will reportedly stay through the rest of his contract that runs into 2015.
Letterman hasn’t spoken on the record about his decision, but according to Variety, he’s reportedly planning to address his decision tonight on, of course, The Late Show With David Letterman, which, because of television shooting schedules, may be happening as we speak. In fact, tweets like this would seem to indicate as much…
Unlike the recent departure of Jay Leno, Letterman’s exit is very unlikely to divide public opinion or lead to many snide articles. There have been no retirement announcements before from him, and there has been no contentious negotiations with the network or with an heir apparent about him stepping aside. Even as ratings have slipped a little bit over the past few years, good will has remained extremely high from both the general public and from many of his peers like Jimmy Kimmel and Howard Stern who consider the late night host to be an inspiration and the single greatest person ever to host a talk show not named Johnny Carson.
Letterman’s career began during the mid 1970s when he quit his job as a TV weatherman in Indiana and drove out to Los Angeles. He got into stand-up as a way to get noticed and soon began making regular appearances on The Tonight Show. Within several years, he was filling in for Carson on a semi-regular basis, and the beloved host eventually got Letterman the timeslot immediately after his. Upon retirement, Carson assumed NBC would pass The Tonight Show down to Letterman, but the network preferred to keep him during the later hour and picked Jay Leno. Carson and Letterman remained very close until his death. Letterman and Leno and Carson and Leno? Not so much.
Sensing an opportunity, CBS offered up a reported $140 million for the services of Letterman, his longtime right hand man Paul Shaffer, his staff, his band and a completely renovated studio. In the more than two decades since, the entire crew has been churning out Emmy nominations, quippy comments, must see interviews and hilarious animal tricks, all without the slightest whisper of CBS going in a different direction.
We’ll bring you more updates as Letterman officially speaks this evening. Expect the rest of his tenure on the air to be one long stream of touching goodbyes and well-earned tributes, a fitting end for the second greatest late night host in history.