Letterman, who enjoys tweaking his network bosses, said that he told Moonves: “Leslie, it’s been great, you’ve been great, and the network has been great, but I’m retiring.”
For his part, Moonves said he appreciates the needling, saying in a statement that he appreciates Letterman’s ability to keep “executives on their toes – including me.”
“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. During that time, 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. There is only one David Letterman. His greatness will always be remembered here, and he will certainly sit among the pantheon of this business. On a personal note, it’s been a privilege to get to know Dave and to enjoy a terrific relationship. It’s going to be tough to say goodbye. Fortunately, we won’t have to do that for another year or so. Until then, we look forward to celebrating Dave’s remarkable show and incredible talents.”
Letterman went on in his announcement to thank those that have worked with him on the show.
Letterman has been host of the show since 1993, when he moved to CBS after his former network, NBC, opted to hire Jay Leno to take over the “Tonight Show” when longtime host Johnny Carson retired.
His announcement comes on the heels of a major late night shuffle. Jimmy Fallon took over the “Tonight Show” from Leno in February after 22 nonconsecutive seasons, and former “Saturday Night Live” head writer Seth Meyers filled Fallon’s old spot at “Late Night” on NBC Feb. 24.
Johnny Depp was Letterman’s sole guest for the evening, with musical guest Joseph Arthur, who shared on Twitter his honor at being present for the announcement:
Letterman just announced his retirement. Historical night. Privileged to be here.
— josepharthur (@josepharthur) April 3, 2014
Watch Letterman announce his retirement:
By L.A. Ross