Who would you pick to succeed David Letterman?

Lettermanstewart_lDavid Letterman rarely grants interviews, so Rolling Stone‘s lengthy new Q&A with the Late Show host has been getting a lot of media attention, especially for Dave’s unexpected expression of empathy for Jay Leno. (Dave takes one more whack at the GE pinheads who booted him in favor of Leno back in the day, and who’ve now given Leno the same unceremonious ouster in favor of Conan O’Brien. He also effectively invites Leno, to whom Dave turned a cold shoulder after he lost the Tonight Show job in 1992, to be a guest on Late Show as soon as his Tonight stint ends next May.) You can read an excerpt of the interview here, in which Dave discusses some of his more memorable guests. But none of this stuff is what intrigued me the most about what Letterman had to say.

Buried at the bottom of this New York Times summary of the interview is a remark from Letterman about his own not-too-distant retirement. While he expects to stay at least until 2010 but not much longer (my guess is he’ll retire in 2012 — that’ll give him an even 30 years in late night, the same as his idol, Johnny Carson), he believes that CBS’ transition to a new 11:30 host won’t be as messy as NBC’s have been. Asked who’ll succeed him, he says, "I don’t know this for a fact, but I have a feeling that all of that has been taken care of or discussed."

Really? Does that mean CBS has already picked Dave’s successor? If so, who do you suppose it is? At the top of CBS’ wish list would have to be Jon Stewart; I hope that’s not the case. I like The Daily Show too much to lose him there; besides, he still doesn’t excel at interviewing guests, as Letterman does. I’d love to see CBS move Craig Ferguson up from 12:30 — not only does he do great interviews, but he also has the best monologue in late night (watch some of them here, listed under "Show and Tell"), and he’s even been beating Conan lately in the ratings (and Conan would be his competition again by the time Dave departs). Then again, there’s one seasoned candidate whose datebook may be completely open in 2012 or whenever: Jay Leno.

Who do you think CBS should hire to replace Letterman? And who do you think the network actually will hire?

UPDATE: NBC informs me that, despite some Ferguson victories over Conan, O’Brien’s Late Night frequently beats Craig’s Late Late Show in the ratings, most recently, last week (when Ferguson was in reruns). Duly noted.

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  • Ep Sato

    I was hoping for the return of Pat Sajak. Who’ll need Ambien when the cure for insomnia’s right there on tv?
    How about Steve Carrell? I know he’s currently got a real career, but he seems really warm, charming, and capable of getting celebs to act silly.

  • Stef

    I love Craig Ferguson as the choice. I hate that here in Houston the local affiliate shows Letterman, Frazier (yes, an old rerun of Frazier) then Ferguson. I’d love to be able to see Ferguson at an earlier hour. He is probably the best late night host in television right now. He’s years ahead of Jimmy Fallon, who will end up cracking himself up and no one else. I agree that Jon Stewart does wonders over at The Daily Show and I would worry that out of sheer force of habit The Late Show would have too many political references brought over with Stewart. Please let it be Ferguson!

  • AA

    Actually, it doesn’t mstter to me who they choose to replace Dave. When he’s gone, so am I.

  • AA

    *matter (oops)

  • Bob Saget

    Jon Stewart doesn’t excel at interviews the way David Letterman does? ARE YOU INSANE??? Have you ever even watched The Daily Show? Honestly I never found Letterman that funny and I can’t wait till he’s gone. I’d like Joel Mchale to replace him.

  • Liddy

    Craig in 2012 baby. He always makes mee giggle :-)

  • Anonymous

    Joel Mchale, he would be amazing. Im sure networks would be weary of hiring him since he has made a career out of making fun of celebrities who aptly deserve to be made fun of. He would be so good though.

  • Melinda65

    I would love for Craig to move to Dave’s spot, because he’s always funny, and his interviews are entertaining. Now, if Brian Williams weren’t anchoring the news on NBC, I’d vote for him, but I’m not so sure that he wants to make that career move.

  • Rahul

    I think Jon Stewart would be a great choice, but finding someone who could fill Dave’s shoes completely is not going to happen.

  • Ilana P

    What about the hilarious Joel McHale from the Soup? Or even Jimmy Kimmel–he’s hilarious! in all these discussions no one seems to remember him!

  • Ilana P

    What about the hilarious Joel McHale from the Soup? Or even Jimmy Kimmel–he’s hilarious! in all these discussions no one seems to remember him!

  • Meli

    I wonder if Dave saying a little past 2010 (like 2012) isn’t his anointing of Craig? I figure since Stewart’s contract with Comedy Central runs out in 2010 they’d have him locked down with a brand new long-term contract before the old one expires.

  • JCHENNEN

    Craig would be King of late night shows….much better than that weird hairdu conan..conan is a huge fake and
    his opening is the worst of all stand ups…his jumping is childish and his act is same as first year. Craig is a natural

  • Ilana P

    What about the hilarious Joel McHale from the Soup? Or even Jimmy Kimmel–he’s hilarious! in all these discussions no one seems to remember him!

  • crabbie

    Sarah Palin.

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