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Letterman Willing to Go the Distance...and Beyond

David Letterman CBS

He may not have 10 hilarious reasons, but David Letterman really needn't offer any explanation for why he might want to keep doing the Late Show beyond the year and a half he has left on his contract.

"The way I feel now, I would like to go beyond 2010, not much beyond, but you know, enough to go beyond," the 61-year-old funnyman tells Rolling Stone in its new issue. "You always like to be able to excuse yourself on your own terms.

"If the network is happy with that, great. If they wanna make a change in 2010, you know, I'm fine with that, too."

CBS theoretically should be happy with Letterman's consistently Emmy-nominated work as host of the network's flagship late-night show, but the Late Show has also been a persistent second in the ratings to NBC's The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.

By the time Letterman's gig is up, however, he will have been going head-to-head for some time with incoming Tonight Show host Conan O'Brien, who's due to take over when Leno steps down on May 29, 2009.

And that should be interesting.

"Unless I'm misunderstanding something, I don't know why, after the job Jay has done for them, why they would relinquish that," Letterman said of his late-night rival, who beat him out for the Tonight Show chair back in 1992, prompting the gap-toothed comic's move to CBS.

"I guess they thought it was a less messy way to handle what happened to me at NBC. I don’t know."

Although it was Leno who in 2005 first announced his intention to step down in '09, apparently once he did so he had nowhere to go but out.

With NBC looking to skew younger with a lineup consisting of O'Brien, former Saturday Night Live player Jimmy Fallon and Carson Daly, the network has held fast to the original plan, despite reports that Leno was having second thoughts.

"It’s hard to know what he felt about it. I have to believe he was not happy about it," Letterman said, adding that he'd be happy to reserve a spot on his own sofa for Leno after his prominent-chinned peer signs off.

"I think he’d be a great guest on the show. The first night that he is out of a job, I think that would be a great situation."

Now that sounds like a scenario that could kill the competition, at least for one night.

"It will be weird to see Conan at 11:30, don't you think?" Letterman said. "Which is not to say he can't succeed, but, no, I don't know what the competition will be like. I hope we're able to do okay."

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