AMERICAN comedy legend and CBS Late Show host David Letterman has said he will retire next year.
During a taping of last night’s show, Letterman, regarded by critics as the most influential TV host of his generation, said he had informed his bosses that he will step down in 2015, when his current contract expires.
He told his audience that he expects his departure will be “at least a year or so” from now.
Letterman turns 67 next week. He has the longest tenure of any late-night talk show host in US television history, nearing 32 years since he created Late Night at NBC in 1982.
He moved to CBS to start Late Show in 1993.
Jay Leno, his rival to host NBC’s Tonight Show, retired earlier this year, making way for Jimmy Fallon.
Letterman started his career in Indiana and in his 32-year career in late night, has appeared on nearly 6,000 episodes of the two shows and won numerous awards, including eight Emmys and a Peabody. He became a Kennedy Center honoree in 2012.
Letterman told his audience: “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 (Shaffer, his bandleader) and I will be wrapping things up.”
Letterman said he had told CBS president Leslie Moonves about his decision to not renew his contract.
“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,” Letterman said during the taping. “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.’”
Mr Moonves said in a statement: “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 praised Letterman’s “wit, gravitas and brilliance”.
He continued: “Dave has given television audiences thousands of hours of comedic entertainment, the sharpest interviews in late night, and brilliant moments of candour and perspective around national events.
“He’s also managed to keep many celebrities, politicians and executives on their toes - including me.”
Letterman is known not just for comedy but also for taking the pulse of the nation’s consciousness. He delivered a highly-charged and heartfelt opening monologue after the attacks of 11 September 2001, saying, “If you didn’t believe it before - and it’s easy to understand how you might have been sceptical on this point - if you didn’t believe it before, you can absolutely believe it now: New York City is the greatest city in the world,” he said.