Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS
Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS
It's the end of an era.
David Letterman, TV's longest-running late-night talk-show host in television history, has announced his retirement from the Late Show With David Letterman. The late-night legend revealed the news of his retirement during Thursday night's taping of the Late Show, adding that he will air his final show in 2015.
Word of Letterman's plan spread quickly via Twitter on Thursday afternoon after musician Mike Mills, R.E.M.'s bassist who performed on Thursday's show, revealed Letterman's big news following the taping. "Dave just announced his retirement #2015 #muchlovedave," the musician tweeted.
"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. 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,'" Letterman said. "I just want to reiterate my thanks for the support from the network, all of the people who have worked here, all of the people in the theater, all the people on the staff, everybody at home, thank you very much. What this means now, is that Paul [Shaffer] l and I can be married."
And while he's set to retire sometime in 2015, Letterman added, "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 and I will be wrapping things up."
After the announcement, the audience treated the host to a standing ovation.
Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS
Les Moonves, President and CEO of CBS, issued a statement shortly after Letterman's announcement.
"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. For 21 years, David Letterman has graced our Network's air in late night with wit, gravitas and brilliance unique in the history of our medium. During that time, Dave has given television audiences thousands of hours of comedic entertainment, the sharpest interviews in late night, and brilliant moments of candor and perspective around national events," he said. "He's also managed to keep many celebrities, politicians and executives on their toes – including me. There is only one David Letterman. His greatness will always be remembered here, and he will certainly sit among the pantheon of this business. On a personal note, it's been a privilege to get to know Dave and to enjoy a terrific relationship. It's going to be tough to say goodbye. Fortunately, we won't have to do that for another year or so. Until then, we look forward to celebrating Dave's remarkable show and incredible talents."
Back in October, CBS extended Letterman's contract to keep him on the late-night lineup through 2015. At the time, Moonves said in a statement, "There is only one Dave, and we are extremely proud that he continues to call CBS 'home.'"
Letterman added in the press release, "Les and I had a lengthy discussion, and we both agreed that I needed a little more time to fully run the show into the ground."
John Paul Filo/CBS
In a lengthy sit-down interview with Oprah Winfrey in January 2013, Letterman revealed that although he had thought about retiring, he was leaving it to the CBS higher-ups to tell him when the time is right.
"[Les Moonves] and I have an agreement. When he wants me to go all he has got to do is call and say, 'You know, Dave, it's time to go,' and I'll go," the late night host explained to Oprah. "I will miss doing what I'm doing, but I won't feel like I have left anything on the table. When it's time to go, somebody else tell me because I don't know when it's time to go."
Last year, The Late Show reached its milestone 20th anniversary. Since its debut in 1993, the talk show has earned nine Emmy Awards, as well as 73 Emmy nominations.
Letterman's 31 years of hosting experience makes him the longest-running late-night talk-show host in TV history.
Letterman, who will celebrate his 67th birthday next week, has also supassed legendary late night host Johnny Carson as the oldest host on late night. Carson was 66 when he retired from The Tonight Show in 1992.
Letterman made his hosting debut with Late Night With David Letterman, which premiered on NBC in February 1982.