David Letterman's Retiring from 'Late Night': Let's Look at the Replacement Frontrunners

After spending over 30 years in the spotlight as a comedian and, later, host of both Late Night and the Late Show, David Letterman is retiring. The longtime late guy's retirement marks the end of an era in the late evening talk show game. Both he and Jay Leno are out, meaning it's a big, brand new world out there with myriad possibilities. And not to bash the icon, but: it's definitely time for a change.

Because this is the internet and we have an infinite number of pages to fill with stories about the day's buzziest bits, it's time to take a look at the potential replacements. Letterman's still a year out from bidding adieu to the Late Night desk — giving the folks at CBS ample time to ponder his replacement — but that doesn't mean there aren't already frontrunners in the race. So let's take a look at all of the men and women (Dammit there BETTER be some fucking ladies on that list or heads.will.roll.) poised to tackle monologue duties.

Stephen Colbert

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According to Nikki Finke, there's already a frontrunner in our midst: The Colbert Report's Stephen Colbert. The satirical (and recently controversial) funnyman is no doubt a solid option, but part of me feels like Colbert wouldn't be all that keen on leaving his post at Comedy Central. After all, their long-running relationship allows him the sort of freedom to skewer and commentate on important topics that typically like to be brushed over by the major networks. Cable has a fast-and-loose freedom that even after 11:35PM might still be a bit too free.

Maya Rudolph

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Now this choice? This choice we love so much we downright luuuurve it. The Saturday Night Live alum has everything you need to be a great host: comedic dexterity, musical prowess, a personable and friendly demeanor, and her improv background would be a major plus in off-the-cuff situations — turning them into real, funny TV moments that would rival even Fallon and Kimmel's viral ferocity. With several other SNLers in the late night ranks (Fallon and Late Night's Seth Meyers), there's proof in the pudding that Lorne Michaels' kids do quite well on the hosting front. And considering the fact that Rudolph was supposed to host a variety show after the Olympics (whatever happened to that, by the way?), it proves she's ready to tackle shouldering a whole show.

Craig Ferguson

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This seems to be the natural choice, as Ferguson's own show comes on immediately after Letterman. And, no doubt, the charming Scot arguably deserves the job more than anyone else. But with the likelihood of a "you-must-move-to-New-York-City" requirement in the deal (why would CBS ever give up the Ed Sullivan Theater?!), we're unsure if Ferguson would accept. Of course there's always the chance that whoever takes over Ferguson's post — should he be selected — could take over the prestigious place, but that also seems unlikely. That said, when Ferguson's improved interviews go well, they go really, really well. It'd be interested to see how he'd do up against the more tightly wound ships of Fallon and Kimmel.

Chelsea Handler

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OK, we're just going to say it. Give it to Chelsea. Just do it. She's smart, she's funny, she's got pizazz and her own voice, and — oh so conveniently enough — she's preparing to leave her post on E!'s Chelsea Lately . Our vote is a Handler vote: she's earned it and she'd go toe-to-toe with her guests in a way that is sure to set her apart from the boys' club in a very, very good way. Tell me: why shouldn't she get the gig, eh? To us, Handler totally deserves it. She's earned her place amongst her late night talk show compatriots — now it's time to let her really shine.

Chris Rock

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Perhaps this is just because of his stint on Louie last season, but we're fairly certain that Rock would make a really great late night host — and he would be a serious departure from the outgoing Letterman. With his real talk brand of humor and no holds barred attitude, the longtime comedian would carve out a niche of his very own — helpful when you consider the competition out there (and its general sameness). While we're not sure the folks at CBS would be so bold as to go with Rock (because, I mean, just look at their key demographics), we would urge them to seriously consider him to really set themselves apart from the likes of Kimmel and Fallon. Something tells us that Rock wouldn't take up arms in the race to make the most viral video content there is like the other two.

Ellen DeGeneres

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Some folks are saying that the daytime queen should jump ship to the later hours. Which, eh, we understand why but on the other hand, we sort of heartily disagree. With late night — especially to keep up with the turning tide — there needs to be a bit of bite, and DeGeneres just doesn't have it. Even compared to Fallon (the perpetually happy toddler that he is — and we say that as a good thing, trust), she's not really all that edgy. We're sure her guests would love her, and no doubt DeGeneres tows the line CBS tends to lead on, but still, we're sorta resoundingly meh on this choice. Keep DeGeneres in midday, we say.

With any luck the speculation parade won't traipse on for too long (hah!), but one thing we want to really emphasize to the higher-ups at CBS who are oh-so-obviously reading this post right now (we kid, we kid): Don't tow the line. Take a chance on a non-middle-aged white man. Do something different and really set yourself apart from the rest — we beg of you.