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David Letterman announces retirement: 'His greatness will always be remembered'

David Letterman announced his retirement from his popular and iconic television program, the CBS "Late Show with David Letterman." The announcement earlier in the day yesterday, while taping his Thursday "Late Show," reported Time magazine.

Supporters and detractors of GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) stand outside the Ed Sullivan Theatre during McCain's taping of the 'Late Show with David Letterman' on Oct.16, 2008.
Supporters and detractors of GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) stand outside the Ed Sullivan Theatre during McCain's taping of the 'Late Show with David Letterman' on Oct.16, 2008. Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images
Cher chats with host David Letterman during a taping of Late Show with David Letterman, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013 in New York.
Cher chats with host David Letterman during a taping of Late Show with David Letterman, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013 in New York.(Photo provided by CBS)

This will end more than three decades in late night, and maybe the most influential run in talk shows and comedy, period. "I just want to reiterate my thanks for the support from the network, all of the people who have worked here, all of the people in the theater, all of the people on the staff, everybody at home, thank you very much," Letterman said.

The always topical Letterman then joked, "What this means now is that Paul [Shaffer] and I can be married."

Leslie Moonves, the head of CBS and the butt of many Letterman jokes over the years, said in a statement, "There is only one David Letterman. His greatness will always be remembered here, and he will certainly sit among the pantheons of this business."

Moonves saw it coming, saying "When Dave decided on a one-year extension for his most recent contract, we knew this day was getting closer, but that doesn’t make the moment any less poignant for us. For 21 years, David Letterman has graced our network’s air in late night with wit, gravitas and brilliance unique in the history of our medium."

"Dave has given television audiences thousands of hours of comedic entertainment, the sharpest interviews in late night, and brilliant moments of candor and perspective around national events. He’s also managed to keep many celebrities, politicians and executives on their toes – including me," added Moonves.

Letterman also had his share of political moments, when John McCain was running for President and bailed on the "Late Show" in 2008 to fix the world economy. Except McCain got caught on CBS closed circuit cam getting made up for a Katie Couric interview. Letterman made endless jokes about the incident.

In 2012, Mitt Romney refused to accept Letterman's invitation and Letterman jokingly announced that one couldn’t become President of the United States without an appearance on his show. Both in 2008 and 2012, Barack Obama made appearances on the show and reached the younger audience needed to win.

There is plenty of competition during that "Late Show" hour, but it is doubtful that was a factor in Letterman's decision. In spite of the fact Jimmy Fallon took over NBC's "The Tonight Show" from Jay Leno recently, or the fact that ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" is very strong.

Jimmy Kimmel responded to the news in a tweet. "David Letterman is the best there is and ever was."

Letterman was used to the competition during his 33 years on television.

Letterman has been the mainstay of CBS's late night line-up for 22 years and was with NBC for 11 years before that.

Who will succeed Letterman is the question of the minds of many?

Time reports that Craig Ferguson is actually in line for the job, since he has a contract with the network in the event Letterman leaves. That could change. Speculation is riding rampant that Jay leno will be back. There is the Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert speculation. There's always Conan O'Brien too. Chelsea Handler anyone? Let's not forget that President Barack Obama will be looking for work in a couple of years too.

Speculation will also run rampant as to the reason. Age was probably a bigger factor. Letterman will be 67 years old next month, although his staunchest fans would argue he has not lost a step, as he runs across the stage every night prior to his daily monologue. The truth is that Letterman and Letterman only made the decision, not wishing to be a spectacle like Jay Leno had become twice.

In many ways, Letterman has surpassed the late, great Johnny Carson's run as the "King of the Late Night." It will be difficult to think of "Late Night" without thinking of Letterman.

Letterman roots are in Indiana, born in Indianapolis. Letterman attended and graduated in 1969 with a B.A. from Ball State University. After graduation that same year, he began working as an announcer and weekend weatherman at WLWI (now WTHR), an ABC television affiliate in Indianapolis, Indiana.

In 1975, Letterman moved to Los Angeles and began performing stand-up at the Comedy Store and was hired by Jimmie Walker, star of the CBS sitcom "Good Times," as a writer. He made a guest appearance on Mary Tyler Moore’s variety show, "Mary."

He got his "Late Night" break on the "The Tonight Show" hosted by Johnny Carson, appearing 22 times Letterman also served as a guest host on "The Tonight Show" many times. For four months in October of 1980, Letterman hosted a daytime talk show on NBC

Hi big break came on Feb. 1, 1982 as the host of the show before Carson's, "Late Night with David Letterman" on NBC. He introduced the famous "Top Ten" list on that show

His current show started when Johnny Carson announced his retirement and speculation began that Letterman would replace him, but Jay Leno took Carson’s place, Letterman left NBC for CBS, and expressed anger over what he regarded as NBC's poor treatment of him.

On March 27, 1995 he hosted the Academy Awards, but his performance was not well received, but resulted in years of jokes about that night.

On Jan. 14, 2000, Letterman undergoes quintuple bypass surgery and he received an outpouring of sympathy and many stepped forward to be his substitute host during his recovery period.

September 17, 2001, returned on the air after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and instead of starting the show with a humorous monologue, Letterman mourns those lost and praises the city’s firefighters and police officers. His first guest, CBS anchor Dan Rather, breaks down in tears during the broadcast.

On Oct. 1, 2009 Letterman admits on air that he has had sexual relationships with female staff members and that someone has been attempting to blackmail him over the affairs. Letterman apologizes to his wife, Regina Lasko, and female staffers in front of a live studio audience.

In one of his greatest moments on Dec. 2, 2012, David Letterman was recognized with other outstanding individuals who contributed to the arts - seven in all. Other recipients to be honored for the Kennedy Center 2012 honorees at the 35th annual national celebration of the arts included: - Buddy Guy, Dustin Hoffman, Natalia Makarova, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant - for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts.

The surviving members of the musical group Led Zeppelin appeared on the Letterman show and it was obvious Letterman was in awe of the talented group.

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Sources:

Time - David Letterman Is Ending Late Night’s Greatest Run

POLITICO - David Letterman announces retirement

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Send John Presta an email and your story ideas or suggestions, johnpresta@att.net.

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