By A.D. AMOROSI
When David Letterman announced his upcoming retirement from CBS’ The Late Show last week, he created a seismic shift in the nighttime talk circuit. Of course, we’re heartbroken that after 22 years (at the end of 2015, if that’s when he chooses to leave) on CBS, and 33 years total when you include his time at NBC, that Letterman will vacate his perch as television talk’s snarkiest dog. The real tremors come from the names that have been bandied about as Letterman’s replacement – from the best (Stephen Colbert) to the worst (Chelsea Handler) – as well as big celebrities that we think could do the desk justice.
Last Thursday, Letterman stated that he was hoping to leave The Late Show "at some time in the not-too-distant future, 2015, for the love of God." That much we get. He wants to leave, but he’s not anxious. Instead, he’s probably as concerned as his network is about who his replacement will be, especially when you consider that Letterman’s production company, World Wide Pants, has a piece of The Late Show. I hope that careful consideration means that Letterman and CBS won’t even bother to consider Chelsea Handler, a name at the top of those lists. She’s too rude for mainstream audiences, and too unfunny for me. Can you remember a Chelsea Handler joke? Even one? Me neither. Here are names that we would like to see considered as his replacements:
Why would we put Howard Stern, satellite radio’s filthiest mouth at the top of the list? That’s easy. Letterman loves Stern, Stern loves Letterman, and Howard has proven that he can be housebroken and applicable for mainstream audiences from his stint as a judge on America’s Got Talent. Stern is a sharp interviewer who doesn’t coddle his celebrity guests, and is funny on his feet. The one problem that exists between Stern and CBS’s Les Moonves is the 2006 lawsuit that CBS Radio leveled at their longtime radio host, his agent, and Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. for misappropriating millions of dollars of CBS airtime by promoting Stern's move to satellite radio before making the shift (though Stern wore an "I Hate Les Moonves" t-shirt during an appearance on Letterman’s Late Show, the suit was settled amicably in May 2006). These two would surely kiss and make up if the money was right.
Stephen Colbert of the The Colbert Report host is a frontrunner to replace Letterman and it’s not hard to see why. He’s hilarious, knows how to steer an interview and is a smart, critical darling. There’s also the fact that CBS has a piece of Comedy Central (Colbert’s network at present) via Viacom, so any move would be more of a transition than an upheaval. Remember though, all that love afforded Colbert stems from his character’s right wing bluster, and not necessarily his real personality. Would a more naturalistic Colbert – a veteran of Second City’s improvisational troupe – be quite as sharp? Would he be as cutting interviewing tween film and television stars on network television as he is now chatting with authors, indie rockers, and politicos? We think he would.
CBS loves Neil Patrick Harris. He made a mint for the network with How I Met Your Mother, and has made hosting the Tony Awards into a platform for his multitude of talents without making it a self-aggrandizing. I can easily see him dapperly dressed, behind a mic, interviewing all manner of celebrities and creating viral YouTube fare like Jimmy Fallon does on The Tonight Show.
I love Louis C.K. as a monologist, and think that his FX sitcom is stirring, adventurous must-see-TV. My wife, Glamorosi, wants Louis to take over for Letterman, but I simply can’t see him behind a mic interviewing celebrities so less smart than he. Plus, I can’t get the image of Louis being led around by David Lynch during those prescient episodes of Louie in which he dreamt of replacing Letterman out of my head. Still, my wife has always been the best kind of trouble maker, and it sounds like great fun.
Chris Rock has been weirdly absent from the full-time stand up landscape for a minute, so he’s due for a comeback. Plus, he’s probably still America’s most insightful critic, and has already spent time on the talk show hosting circuit.
Johnny Carson may not have forgiven Joan Rivers for taking a talk show gig when he considered her The Tonight Show's go-to host during sick leaves and vacations, but we have. No matter how old she is – and age is certainly a factor – Rivers is whip smart, cynical and, when she lets someone else do the talking – a damn fine interviewer.
Chris Hardwick, the current host of Talking Dead seems a little fan boyish for my tastes, but the guy behind Nerdist and Comedy Central’s @Midnight celebrity quiz show has his own definable personality (sharp dressed geek) to go with his smarts and his quickly building skills as an interviewer. Needs a little more seasoning though. Maybe, Dave will stick around until 2016?
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