Stephen Colbert to Replace David Letterman on ‘Late Show’

Published 1 year ago by

colbert takes over for letterman Stephen Colbert to Replace David Letterman on Late Show

Though the dance probably started long before we first heard the music, CBS Television has enlisted Colbert Report host Stephen Colbert to be David Letterman’s Late Show successor with startling quickness and apparent ease just one week after the late night legend declared his intention to move on. But while CBS moved decisively, there are still more questions than answers about the state of their late night house.

Let’s start with what we unequivocally know about Colbert’s move to CBS: he’s getting Letterman’s timeslot. That’s it. We don’t know if the show will still be called The Late Show, if Worldwide Pants (Letterman’s production company) will still have a role producing the 11:35 and/or the 12:35 show, or if the show will be based in New York – though Colbert’s current preference for Manhattan would seem to give the apple that is big a bit of an advantage. We also don’t know when the transition will occur though, in a statement, Comedy Central said that they “look forward [to] the next eight months of the ground breaking Colbert Report,” so we can assume that it will probably be anywhere from 8 months to a year before Colbert’s debut on CBS.

Will that debut coincide with another late night departure for CBS, though? Craig Ferguson, whose contract runs through the end of this year, has served both admirably and uniquely as the host of The Late Late Show in the 12:35 timeslot for just shy of a decade. We don’t know if Ferguson wanted Letterman’s chair or if he was considered for the job, but his actions and the network’s actions over these next few months will tell us all we need to know about the fate of a relationship that has endured perennial silver medal status and these sudden Chelsea Handler rumors. If Ferguson does stay, however, it would seem likely that his numbers would get a bit of a “Colbert bump” when the new 11:35 show premieres, much in the way that Late Night with Seth Meyers has benefited from the popularity of Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Showbecause after almost two months, the only consistent thing about Meyers’ Late Night is its ratings success.

tonight show fallon colbert Stephen Colbert to Replace David Letterman on Late Show

Will Colbert be a real challenge to Fallon, though? Naturally, there will be a curiosity factor at the outset, but when the dust clears, it will be anyone’s fight even though Colbert is coming into the ring with a slight limp thanks to the talking head/conservative skewering character that he has played on The Colbert Report for 9 years. Simply put, Colbert’s selection will anger some viewers from the start and he is going to have to work to separate himself and his comedy from that character to win them over. That may distress some fans of The Colbert Report, but the logistics of this switch mandate such a tonal shift and The Colbert Report‘s overall brilliance should inspire fans to believe that Colbert is more than a one trick pony and that he is more than capable of creating something fresh, intelligent, and hilarious again. 

Speaking of The Colbert Report, this selection also sets off a ripple effect that is going to greatly hamper Comedy Central’s late night dominance on cable. Yes, Jon Stewart is the face of Comedy Central as the host of The Daily Show, but Colbert may have been the network’s MVP and The Colbert Report may be the better show, often demonstrating a lightness that is dimming with The Daily Show as it inches more and more toward taking itself too seriously.

john oliver leaving daily show danger Stephen Colbert to Replace David Letterman on Late Show

With John Oliver already gone, the bench is somewhat thin (in terms of experience, not talent) behind Stewart and his wandering eye, but the slot behind Stewart will be coveted and many will watch the network with hope that they widen their search a bit beyond the usual suspects – something broadcast seems to have little interest in. 

Really, Comedy Central has a bigger challenge than CBS did because they aren’t able to plug a host into a familiar format; on the other hand, their options are wide open and that hunt has only just begun. 


The Late Show with David Letterman airs weeknights on CBS @11:35PM. The Colbert Report airs weeknights on Comedy Central @11:30PM.

Source: Variety

Follow Jason Tabrys on Twitter @jtabrys
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  1. Shoot! While he’ll be great on Late Show, losing the Colbert Report is a sad, sad thing. :(

  2. This is terrible news in my opinion. Colbert will be forced to tone down or eliminate his persona and political satire which is what made him so successful in the first place.

    • Successful to the fringe on the far left. Yes, if he wants to appeal to the larger majority, he will have to tone his rhetoric down.

      • He had alot more fans than just the fringe on the far left…

  3. I still think Craig Ferguson is a better comedian than Colbert.

  4. I was hoping for serious consideration of Tina Fey!

    • I read an article on some website that both Tina & Amy were asked for the gig.

      Apparently Tina has a new show being developed at NBC and Amy still had a contract at Parks & Recs. You can Google the article.

      So no ladies in the Late Show for at least another decade.

  5. I’ve seen Colbert live and he’s definetly funny but I don’t see how this is going to work. Comedy Central has some serious shoes to fill. Sad because they had such a good team going with Stewart and Colbert and now it’s just cut off. CBS will get a bump with the new show but the Colbert Nation shows up because of the utter satire that he presents. Fallon has a lock on late night and Colbert won’t stand a chance.

  6. Really? Why couldn’t they just find some one who does not have a late night show!?

  7. Sad the Colbert Report is ending BUT to be fair, Stephen is very talented and deserves this opportunity. I wish him well!

  8. Both Fallon and Colbert, Gawd, I’m glad we got rid of Leno, but Letterman is a real loss, he had that cool not too much hoozah, which both colbert and fallon relies too much on, feels forced, might be good, but won’t ever be one of the great ones. Oh well, each to his own, Conan is still in the stratosphere, with him it is natural. Well I’m sure plenty disagrees,

  9. Anyone who has seen Colbert’s Daft Punk piece has to admit he’s the right man for the job.

  10. My personal late night favorites are Colbert and Ferguson. All I’m hoping for is that Ferguson gets to keep his spot, possibly with a slight reboot or new studio.
    I’ve never been a fan of Letterman or Late Night and I like Fallon but I miss Leno. Either way, with Craig following Stephen, CBS will be a mainstay in my house for late night television.
    Comedy Central should give Jim Rash from Community a show, to replace the Colbert nation.

  11. Even though I read all the stories about Colbert being the frontrunner I’m still surprised that he’s going to be the next host.
    I think he’ll be fantastic but I can’t deny that I’m sad to know that the “character” of Stephen Colbert will now be gone.
    Because the character created such a divide with audiences (understandable) I don’t think people truly appreciated what he was doing night after night & year after year. I can only recall 2 or 3 examples of him talking in an interview as himself.
    Like I said though I can understand why a good portion of people didn’t like the character.
    Maybe after some time passes some folks will be able to look back and while they might not ever agree with the humor they can appreciate the commitment.

    • Now that I think about it maybe during the last episode he could be killed off.
      If done right it could be pretty funny.

      Also, I pray to the Comedy Central Gods that Chris Hardwick isn’t the replacement.
      Keep him at midnight (no pun) and find someone like Samantha B to take over.

      • Samantha B and/or her husband.
        I would like to see Colbert placement being Aasif Mandvi,Al Madrigal or Larry Wilmore.

  12. Congrats to Colbert and please CBS be smart and do NOT bring Chelsea Handler back to network TV. There is a reason that Ralph Garman and Kevin Smith give out the annual Chelsea Award…

    I’d like to see John Oliver back on Comedy Central. His HBO show is once a week…he could squeeze in 4 half hour shows a week, right? But don’t screw up the Bugle with that schedule.

  13. Tina Fey was also my choice. I only know Stephen Colbert from his Comedy Central show. After 9 years of doing it ‘as a character’ that is all I see him as and I expect others will as well. After doing it that long he is either going to zone back into it or work so hard against it to become generic. I think Craig also had a first option buy out for the spot. If passed over he gets 7 mill?

  14. People seem to not realize that Stephen and Stewart are comedians, acting out on a comedy show. If you are taking the shows seriously and interpreting their character and life as such that is just sad. This article is sad. On the other hand, their talent did convince you so that’s something good.

    • I echo your sentiments and would add that it is also sad that so many people apparently consider their shows “news” programs as well. Far, far from it.

      • Agree with both of you. A Pew research poll indicates that the majority of Americans under 30 get their “news” from fake news shows hosted by comedians on comedy central. Then we wonder why everyone seems to be clueless.

    • Well said, it is disturbing that most young people do indeed get their news from these shows. It’s actually a brilliant way to propaghandize the youth but very unnerving if you actually care about the country…. Which sadly I don’t believe man youngsters do.

      • I don’t doubt that many of them believe they care about the country, but in considering shows like Colbert and Stewart actual news, instead of biased, comedic propaganda, they don’t realize how mis/uninformed they really are.

        • Can’t be any worse informed than FOX news viewers…

          Talk about propaganda…

          • Why, because they actually report what the “O” fanclub/mainstream media does not, and therefore, confront you with facts and information that you don’t want to hear or believe?

            You are an example of the problem. You are so accustomed and attached to the prevailing misinformation on the left, and you likely get such a childish and pleasing giggle from it, that you automatically label any other news, that which is actually critical and informative, as the propaganda. God help this country.

            • Jeff nailed it.

            • Where was fox news during the Bush administration? That’s right, they gave him the same treatment you accuse the other networks of giving Obama. But of course, you swear they’re “fair and balanced”. They can never spew forth any time of conservative propaganda and bias, right?

              • I have watched all of them at one time or another and in my opinion they’re all biased.

                • I’d say this is because America is more involved in politics and therefore, the news organisations are too.

                  Take a CEO that is more Republican and has an opinion that leans that way, put a President from that party in charge and they’ll have a more positive spin on that President while the opposite would be true with a Democrat President.

                  It’s natural and normal but the zealous nature of US politics is a little too much for me because I wasn’t raised in that kind of environment. For us in Britain, news organisations have to be neutral or else they’re dragged in front of committees and fined for being biased, most people don’t care about voting in elections and campaigns only go on for 2-3 months while Obama/Romney campaigned for 2 years solid before the 2012 election.

                  I’m glad for Colbert though, always have liked him.

                  • News organizations dragged in front of committees and fined for being biased?!

                    Wow…that’s chilling. Sounds like an easy way for those in power to forcefully silence criticism, and very much like state control of the media.

                    We certainly have our issues here in America, but nothing like that, thank God! People will surrender almost anything, including their freedom, to a charismatic leader, however, so I don’t doubt that something like that could happen one day, sadly.

                  • I believe it would be a far better idea to hold politicians accountable for their bias, lies, mistakes, and sins, and thereby, have them answer to the people whom they are supposed to serve. That, plus term limits!

                    There again, though, whoever is in power at any given time could easily be the abusive force, demonizing and ruling over the minority, as they so often do.

              • So Albert, assuming what you allege is true, you are concerned with one network ignoring the mistakes and sins of one president, but not a host of networks ignoring the mistakes and sins of another? Okay, then.

  15. Awesome news, Colbert is brilliant and I agree he is definitely not a one trick pony.

  16. Don’t know h

    • He will most likely be great he could really compete with fallon but it will really be hard for him and the audience to shed the character of Stephen Colbert from him.I dont think this is good for Comedy Central at all i wonder what they will do to replace him.

  17. I’m still bummed that Ferguson (my man) didn’t get the 11:30 job. Oh well, at least he’ll get money from CBS for being “overlooked”. I think he’ll get around $5 mil to $8 mil. But I do hope that Craig stays at CBS in the future.

    Congrats to Stephen. He’ll be a good host for the 11:30 show. I can’t wait to see his REAL character.

  18. Hey, Mr. Tabrys, i have an idea for a sketch on Portlandia and would like to pass it along to the people who write it. Can you pass along an email for someone associated with the show? Thank you. The Colbert Report is the best thing on TV. Now Stephen’s guests will all be boring. It’s like going from the Economist to people’s magazine. Suck.

  19. Colbert is going to finish a distant third in the ratings, i’m really going to miss watching his show.

  20. Conan OBrien would have been a good bet. This man has experience, a strong fan following, internet integration, and could be billed as someone who genuinely followed in Leno’s footsteps. I also think Andy Sandburg would have been a better Late Night host than Seth Meyers, but Brooklyn 99 obviously would have been an obstacle there.

  21. Personally I can’t wait to see the Late Show with Stephan Colbert. He is incredibly talented and funny. Chelsea Handler or Aisha Tyler might make good replacements.

  22. Should have picked Jerry Seinfeld. Said that from the start.

  23. Late Night with Jerry Seinfeld would have been fantastic.

  24. Ferguson to Comedy Central to replace Colbert? Handler in at 12:35 on CBS?

    Sounds like a win-win for everyone.

    • I hope not, I can’t stand Chelsea Handler. I hope Craig at least stays till he’s good and done as well. And when that time comes I’d pick Joel McHale to replace Craig.

  25. Colbert just seems like such a weird choice to me.