He may be behind in the ratings, but David Letterman is definitely ahead of Jay Leno when it comes to longevity.
The gap-toothed comic has inked a contract extension with CBS that will keep him hosting The Late Show with David Letterman through 2010, the network announced Monday.
"I'm thrilled to be continuing on at CBS," Letterman said in a statement. "At my age, you really don't want to have to learn a new commute."
The new deal assures that the 59-year-old funnyman will remain on the air a year longer than longtime adversary Leno, who announced last year that he would pass The Tonight Show baton to Conan O'Brien in 2009.
Letterman is getting ready to mark his 25th anniversary in late-night comedy this February. For the first 12 of those years, he emceed NBC's Late Night with David Letterman, which aired in the slot following the Johnny Carson-powered Tonight Show. But when the legendary entertainer retired and the Peacock gave Carson's job to Leno, Letterman took his shtick to CBS in 1993 and has been there ever since. He celebrated his 13th year with the Eye network in August, though he remains consistently behind his rubberfaced rival when it comes to attracting viewers.
"Thirteen years ago, David Letterman put CBS late night on the map, and in the process, became one of the defining icons of our Network," said CBS honcho Les Moonves. "His presence on our air is an ongoing source of pride, and the creativity and imagination that the Late Show puts forth every night is an ongoing display of the highest quality entertainment. We are truly honored that one of the most revered and talented entertainers of our time will continue to call CBS 'home.' "
Four years ago, that almost wasn't the case. The last time Letterman's contract came up for renewal, ABC tried to woo the stupid-pet-tricks purveyor in hopes of launching a new late-night program to replace Ted Koppel's Nightline. Letterman ultimately stuck with CBS, citing his respect for the great work Koppel had done for the Alphabet net.
The Late Show has racked up 54 Emmy nominations and won nine awards, including six for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Program. During his previous stint on Late Night, Letterman earned five Emmys in 35 nominations.
Letterman has done his share of headline-making in the past few years. He was the first comedian to return to the airwaves in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks; he celebrated the birth of son Max in November 2003; he quizzed Janet Jackson in the wake of her wardrobe malfunction at the 2004 Super Bowl; he wound up on the receiving end of a Courtney Love wardrobe malfunction, when she flashed her boobs at him in March 2004; and he hosted Oprah Winfrey last year, ending a long-running feud.
Letterman garnered his highest ratings in over a year and his best since the Oprah episode, when he had Jerry Seinfeld on as a pre-Thanksgiving guest and fellow Seinfeld alum Michael Richards appeared via satellite to apologize for his racial tirade at a Los Angeles comedy club.