NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The new face of late night is … Stephen Colbert.
Colbert will take over for Letterman when he retires from the talk show, after 21 years, in 2015.
CBS President and CEO Les Moonves said after seriously considering about a dozen candidates, it became obvious that Colbert was the best choice.
“We said, ‘my God, there’s one guy who just stands out to replace David who is original, who’s smart, who’s funny, who fits with who we are, and it was Stephen Colbert,'” Moonves told CBS Radio national correspondent Dan Raviv.
Colbert said he never dreamed he would follow in Letterman’s footsteps.
“I’m thrilled and grateful that CBS chose me,” he said in a statement. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to grind a gap in my front teeth.”
Speaking to his “Colbert Report” audience Thursday, Colbert said he learned Wednesday that he would be the next “Late Show” host. He said he was happy and excited to start his new job.
Outside Colbert’s West Side studio, his musical guest on Thursday’s show, Sting, told CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez said he was thrilled for him.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “And I think he just invited me on the show, so I’m very happy about it.”
On his Comedy Central show, Colbert plays the role of a conservative pundit. Moonves said the funnyman will shed his character when “The Colbert Report” wraps up at the end of the year.
“For those of us who know him know that he’s multi-talented, and he can go way beyond the character he’s currently playing,” Moonves said.
“As he said, he’s going to find out, too, how much of that (character) is him and how much isn’t him,” said Marlin Townes, who attended Thursday’s Colbert taping.
“He’ll be his usual self,” said Diana DeVito, another Colbert fan. “He’s so funny. I’m sure he’ll do a wonderful job.”
Letterman issued a statement about the Colbert hire Thursday, saying: “Stephen has always been a real friend to me. I’m very excited for him, and I’m flattered that CBS chose him. I also happen to know they wanted another guy with glasses.”
Letterman jumped to CBS in 1993 after NBC went with Jay Leno as the new host of “The Tonight Show.” To accommodate the new late-night show, CBS purchased and renovated the Ed Sullivan Theater in Times Square where “The Ed Sullivan Show” was shot from 1948 until 1971 and which Letterman has used for his show for his entire CBS run.
When asked if the “Late Show” will remain in New York after Colbert takes over, Moonves said, “That is still to be determined.”
“We’ve gotten a lot of calls from mayors in New York and Los Angeles and a lot of different places,” Moonves said. “We’re still determining the locale. There are a number of new states bidding for shows, like Connecticut.”
Moonves, however, said later in the day that because Colbert has worked in New York and lives in New Jersey, the show will likely remain on the East Coast.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged Moonves on Thursday to keep the “Late Show” at the Ed Sullivan Theater.
“With East Coast based host Stephen Colbert taking the reins of the “Late Show,” it’s clear we should keep the show where it belongs — here in New York,” Cuomo said in a statement. ” … Our state is a top destination for entertainment businesses to thrive and grow, creating jobs and economic opportunities for communities across the State, and late night programs are a major part of that success. We must ensure that the ‘Late Show’s’ long and proud history of making the nation laugh from New York continues for years to come.”
Colbert’s competition hit social media with their reactions to his selection.
Colbert, who was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in South Carolina, now lives with his wife and children in Montclair, N.J.
Many in Montclair told CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu they see the famous comedian walking around town quite a bit and that he’s just a regular guy.
“Extremely approachable,” said Scott Morelli. “I could smack him in the head if I need to.”
“They don’t expect to be waited on hand and foot,” another man said. “They just want to kind of blend in. They’re just really cool, down-to-earth people.”
While waiting on line for Thursday night’s taping of the “Late Show,” David Jensen said he was happy with the announcement, 1010 WINS’ Gary Baumgarten reported.
“That’s pretty exciting. I’m a huge Colbert fan and I think late-night’s probably the gig they all want,” Jensen said.
Another “Late Show” fan waiting in line said he’s hoping the show stays in New York City.
“I live five blocks away. So that would be great, ya,” he said.
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