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Colbert will step in when Letterman steps out


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Moving quickly but hardly surprising anyone, CBS has named Stephen Colbert to succeed David Letterman as host of the network’s Late Show. The network said Thursday that it’s a five-year deal.

Colbert, who will turn 50 on May 13th, had been heavily rumored as Letterman’s heir apparent since his surprise retirement announcement on April 3rd. Since October of 2005, Colbert has hosted Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, which airs at 10:30 p.m. (central) on weeknights following the network’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Letterman’s final Late Show will be on a yet to be announced date next year. Colbert’s premiere date will be announced after Letterman “determines a timetable,” CBS said. A location for the show also will be disclosed later, the network said. The Colbert Report and Late Show both are taped in New York City, so CBS presumably is talking about a studio rather than any coastal shift.

CBS Corporation chairman/CEO Leslie Moonves praised Colbert as “one of the most inventive and respected forces on television. David Letterman’s legacy and accomplishments are an incredible source of pride for all of us here, and today’s announcement speaks to our commitment of upholding what he established for CBS in late night.”

CBS entertainment chairman Nina Tassler added: “Stephen is a multi-talented and respected host, writer, producer, satirist and comedian who blazes a trail of thought-provoking conversation, humor and innovation with everything he touches.”

Letterman, in a separate statement released later Thursday, said: “Stephen has always been a real friend to me. I’m very excited for him, and I’m flattered that CBS chose him. I also happen to know they wanted another guy with glasses.”

Colbert, in his official comments, at first took a serious approach. “Simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career,” he said. “I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave’s lead.”

He then cracked, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth.”

The gap between ratings for Late Show and NBC’s The Tonight Show has widened since Jimmy Fallon replaced Jay Leno in February of this year. Letterman, 67, had been trailing by a particularly wide margin among advertiser-prized 18-to-49-year-olds.

Colbert for the most part will be himself on Late Show. On The Colbert Show, he parodied a conservative windbag modeled after the likes of Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck.

Colbert appeared as a walk-on guest during Fallon’s inaugural Tonight Show, taking a selfie with the new host. They’ll now be doing battle at 10:35 p.m. (central), with Colbert still the oldster opposite Fallon, 39, and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel, 46.

Before launching The Colbert Report, Colbert spent eight years as a featured correspondent on The Daily Show. He also was a member of Chicago’s famed Second City improvisational troupe.

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