"Stephen Colbert is one of the most inventive and respected forces on television," CBS bossLes Moonves said in a statement. "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."
After 21 years as host, Letterman announced last week that he will retire in 2015. Colbert's premiere date will be announced once Letterman sets the timetable for his exit, according to CBS. "Simply being a guest on David Letterman's show has been a highlight of my career," Colbert said in a statement. "I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave's lead."
He added: "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."
Comedy Central announced that Colbert will continue to host The Colbert Report through the end of 2014. (There's no word on whether Comedy Central will find a new host for The Colbert Report, or will scrap the show altogether.) "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."
Letterman also extended well wishes to his successor Thursday. "Stephen has always been a real friend to me," he said in a statement. 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."
In a recent TVGuide.com poll. Colbert received only nine percent of votes to become Letterman's replacement. Top choices among our users were Tina Fey (17 perent), John Stweart and Craig Ferguson (12 percent) and Conan O'Brien (10 percent).
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