"Simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career,” Colbert said in a statement. “I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave’s lead.”
“I’m thrilled and grateful that CBS chose me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth,” the jokester added, in a nod to Letterman's famous gap-toothed smile.
The Emmy and Peabody award-winning satirist has agreed to a five year term as host that will begin upon Letterman's retirement — at a yet-to-be determined date in 2015, the network said.
Colbert, who has hosted Comedy Central's much-lauded "The Colbert Report" since 2005, rose to fame with his commitment to stay in character as a neo-conservative pundit — allowing him to poke fun at the political world. It was not immediately clear if he'd continue using the character on his talk show gig.
The network said that creative decisions, production details and the location of Colbert's "Late Show" had yet to be hashed out at the time of the announcement.
Colbert's acerbic brand of humor has routinely ruffled feathers including most recently when an out-of-context joke was taken as a racist slight toward the Asian community. He also staged an elaborate dance routine meant to sting Comedy Central's parent company Viacom after it sided with sister network MTV and forced electronic dance duo Daft Punk to withdraw from an interview with Colbert due to conflicts with the MTV music awards.
Still, Colbert's popularity has given him entree to the highest echelons of political office, sending him to perform for then-President George W. Bush in 2006 and, more recently, to sit at the right hand of First Lady Michelle Obama at a 2014 state dinner.
“David Letterman’s legacy and accomplishments are an incredible source of pride for all of us here, and today’s announcement speaks to our commitment of upholding what he established for CBS in late night," said CBS head Leslie Moonves.
Fans of both shows were thrilled about Colbert's succession.
Rupert Jee, a frequent guest on Letterman who runs Hello Deli, a sandwich shop around the corner from the Ed Sullivan theater where the show films, said he welcomes Colbert.
"I just heard. He's a very talented individual. I think he'll do well here," Jee said.
Colbert fans outside his studio were equally thrilled.
"His dry wit sets him apart. He can make fun of people and they don't even know it," said David Jensen who he planned to attend a taping Thursday.
"It'll be awesome. It definitely adds a little more to [the Late Show]. I'm a huge Colbert fan. He's a great choice," Jensen added.