The CBS Television Network announced Thursday that Stephen Colbert, the host, writer and executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning "The Colbert Report," will succeed David Letterman as the host of "The Late Show."
Letterman shocked late-night viewers when he announced his retirement during his Apr. 3 broadcast.
The "Late Show" host, 66, has been a familiar face on late night television since the 1982 debut of "Late Night with David Letterman" on NBC. After Jay Leno took over from Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show" when Carson retired in 1992, Letterman departed NBC for CBS' "Late Show."
"Simply being a guest on David Letterman's show has been a highlight of my career," said Colbert, 49, in a statement. "I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave's lead. ... Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth."
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The five-year agreement between CBS and Colbert was announced by Leslie Moonves, President and CEO, CBS Corporation, and Nina Tassler, Chairman of CBS Entertainment.
"Stephen Colbert is one of the most inventive and respected forces on television," Moonves said. "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."
"[Colbert] is a presence on every stage, with interests and notable accomplishments across a wide spectrum of entertainment, politics, publishing and music," added Tassler.
According to CBS, Colbert's premiere date as "Late Show" host will be announced after Lettermen determines a timetable for his final broadcasts in 2015.
After news broke that Colbert would replace Letterman, Comedy Central announced that "The Colbert Report" would end in eight months.
"Comedy Central is proud that the incredibly talented Stephen Colbert has been part of our family for nearly two decades," the network said in a statement. "We look forward to the next eight months of the ground-breaking 'Colbert Report' and wish Stephen the very best."
Colbert will take his writing staff with him to his new gig, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The host told the New York Times his "Colbert Report" character won't be making the transition. "I won't be doing the new show in character, so we'll all get to find out how much of him was me. I'm looking forward to it," Colbert said.
"The Colbert Report" was launched on Comedy Central in 2005 and went on to earn 27 Emmy nominations (four wins). Prior to his own series, Colbert was a regular correspondent on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" starring Jon Stewart.
Stewart had publicly voiced his support for Colbert to replace Letterman, telling New York magazine he believed Colbert could easily step away from his "Colbert Report" satirical news anchor character and expand his on screen profile.
"He's wonderful in 'Colbert Report,' but he's got gears he hasn't even shown people yet," Stewart said. "He's got some skill sets that are really applicable, interviewing-wise, but also he's a really, really good actor and also an excellent improvisational comedian."
A graduate of Northwestern University, Colbert cut his comedic teeth as a member of Chicago's acclaimed Second City improv troupe alongside Amy Sedaris and Paul Dinello. The trio went on to create and star in the hit Comedy Central series, "Strangers With Candy," which aired from 1999 to 2000.
Reaction to the announcement was swift with many of Colbert's contemporaries sending congratulations via Twitter: