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Stephen Colbert Inherits the David Letterman Late Show Throne

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood April 10, 2014 at 12:26PM

As younger late night hosts Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers have proved, the new world order is less about making people laugh in front of the TV at home than watching individual skits the following day on social media.
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Stephen Colbert.
Stephen Colbert.
Nate Silver and Stephen Colbert
Nate Silver and Stephen Colbert

Well, that didn't take long. While various contenders from Craig Ferguson to Ellen DeGeneres were vying to replace the retiring David Letterman at CBS Television Network's “The Late Show,” the leading candidate has in fact landed the gig: Stephen Colbert, the host of Comedy Central's Emmy and Peabody Award-winning "The Colbert Report."

Letterman will retire next year. CBS has reached a five-year agreement with Colbert, who broke out on Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" before landing his own. Still to be worked out is who will produce the Colbert-hosted "The Late Show" and where the location will be. CBS chairman Les Moonves stated:

“Stephen Colbert is one of the most inventive and respected forces on television. David Letterman’s legacy and accomplishments are an incredible source of pride for all of us here, and today’s announcement speaks to our commitment of upholding what he established for CBS in late night.” 

And Colbert stated:

“Simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career. I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave’s lead..I’m thrilled and grateful that CBS chose me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth.”

As younger late night hosts Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers have proved, the new world order is less about making people laugh in front of the TV at home than watching individual skits the following day on social media. That's something Colbert also knows how to do. He's a gifted writer, actor, scene-stealer and singer, with a handle on the social issue zeitgeist. In short he's winning and funny and good on his feet and can do just about anything. Will the new Colbert be different from his old politically incorrect conservative persona? 

My bet is a lot of us will be curious enough to find out. Let the new Late Night wars begin! 

This article is related to: Stephen Colbert, TV, TV News, Television, Television


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.