David Letterman

Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS

David Letterman is ready to sign off!

The legendary late-night host surprised the audience during his taping for Thursday night's show, announcing his retirement from CBS' The Late Show after 21 years, with his exit set to happen in 2015.

Word of Letterman's retirement quickly spread thanks to a tweet from R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills, who performed during the show, and now, we have video proof: Letterman announcing his plan to retire in 2015 himself!

So how did the longest-running host in late-night history make the surprising announcement?

"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 explained to the audience. "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.'" 

Thrown for a loop? Paul Shaffer, Letterman's musical director and sidekick. "Do I have a minute to call my accountant?" Shaffer joked after Letterman made the announcement.

Letterman then continued, "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 [Schaffer] l and I can be married."

Les Moonves, the CEO and president of CBS, released a statement soon after Letterman made the official announcement, saying, "There is only one David Letterman."

"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 said. "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 then added, "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."

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