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A stalwart on the late night talk show scene for over 30 years, David Letterman would seemingly be looked to for advice on anything involving the format. Yet after he announced his retirement a little over a year ago, CBS apparently had little to no interest in him helping find a replacement. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a few outside-the-white-male-box ideas for who should step up for the hosting gig.
When speaking with the New York Times about the many stages in his illustrious career, Letterman was asked if he was involved in choosing former Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert as his replacement. Here’s how he put it.
No. Not my show. When we sign off, we’re out of business with CBS. I always thought Jon Stewart would have been a good choice. And then Stephen. And then I thought, well, maybe this will be a good opportunity to put a black person on, and it would be a good opportunity to put a woman on. Because there are certainly a lot of very funny women that have television shows everywhere. So that would have made sense to me as well.
Letterman goes on to say that he was slightly bothered at the time to be left out of the decision-making, and that it would have been a courtesy to be brought into the conversation. But he’s beyond that now, and understands that leaving the show also meant leaving behind having a say in things.
The late night landscape already has Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Conan O’Brien, and James Corden, so it definitely would have been a good opportunity to vet a black entertainer for the job, or a woman of whatever race or nationality. It’s almost weird that we’ve have a black head of state for years but no black people on the late night broadcast network front. (R.I.P. Arsenio.) And it doesn’t seem like any of the previously mentioned names will be out of a job anytime soon, so we’ll just have to hold out hope for something to change in another area, I guess.
Jon Stewart, one of the people Letterman namechecked, actually has in his successor former Daily Show correspondent Trevor Noah, a South African mixed-race comedian. And Colbert was replaced by a show hosted by fellow former correspondent Larry Wilmore. So Comedy Central is clearly ahead of the curve when it comes to bringing in non-white hosts. Now if only people could fill the Chelsea Handler void – not as rude as it sounds – by bringing more women to late night audiences.
Don’t forget to watch CBS’ retrospective David Letterman: A Life in Television, which will air on Monday, May 4. His last Late Show will be on Wednesday, May 20, with Colbert taking over on Tuesday, September 8.