At 58, David Letterman may be approaching traditional retirement age, but a spokesman says the talk host wasn't looking ahead to his own shuffleboard court years on Monday's Late Show.
"Dave has no plans to retire," Steven Rubenstein of Letterman's Worldwide Pants production company said Tuesday.
The comment came in response to an inquiry about an exchange between Letterman and guest Albert Brooks, in which a deadpan Brooks wished his friend well on the occasion of his farewell week. Letterman corrected Brooks, remarking, more than once, that he had another (only?) "two or three years" to go on the show.
The statements were first red-flagged by blogger Bob Sassone on TVSquad.com, who wrote, "Maybe I'm reading a little too much into this, but the way it was presented, I don't think so."
But according to a TV industry source, Letterman is not only not not contemplating retirement, he's talking contract extension.
Letterman has been with CBS and Late Show since 1993, a year after he lost out on the Tonight Show gig at NBC to Jay Leno. In 2002, the irony-rich comic spurned ABC's advances, and reupped with CBS with what was reported to be a three-year deal, with an option for two additional years.
While Letterman's said to be the unretiring type, it's the indefatigable Leno who's down to only three years on the job. Per a 2004 announcement, Leno is due to hand the Tonight Show keys to Late Night's Conan O'Brien in 2009. Leno inherited the show from Johnny Carson in 1992.
In making his retirement plans public, Leno said he'd promised his wife he'd take her out to dinner before he turned 60. In 2009, he'll be 59.
Letterman turns 59 in April. Traditional retirement age is generally defined as 65, although one can start receiving full Social Security benefits at 62. Given the reported $14 million Letterman makes a year, it's unlikely his plans will be dictated by what a monthly government check may or may not bring.
If Letterman were to use the Carson model--and it's served him well so far--he would stay in the late-night game until age 66. That would give him a few years to try to do to O'Brien what he's only rarely been able to do to Leno since 1995, beat him in the ratings.
Given that O'Brien will be on the fast slide to 50 by the time he's scheduled to take over Tonight (he'll be 46), Letterman wouldn't even have to worry about making a kid cry.
by Joal Ryan
Jan 10, 2006, 5:20 PM PT