David Letterman announced his retirement from late night talk during the taping of Thursday night's show.

David Letterman (Getty Images)
David Letterman (Getty Images)

R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills, who is performing on the show, tweeted the news. "Dave just announced his retirement #2015," read his tweet which spread like wildfire through social media.

"“The man who owns this network, Leslie Moonves, he and I have had a relationship for years and years and years, and we have had this conversation in the past, and we agreed that we would work together on this circumstance and the timing of this circumstance," read a statement according to Variety. "And I phoned him just before the program, and I said ‘Leslie, it’s been great, you’ve been great, and the network has been great, but I’m retiring."

The audience gave Letterman,66, a standing ovation after he gave thanks to CBS and his staff. "What this means now, is that Paul and I can be married," he joked.

Letterman is expected to work through the end of his current two-year contract that expires in 2015 according to the Hollywood Reporter, which notes he recently became the longest running late-night host with over 6,000 episodes.

The replacement guessing game has already started with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert already under contract with CBS' Comedy Central, E!'s Chelsea Handler and even a Jay Leno comebackNew York Times writer Bill Carter reports that Craig Ferguson, who follows Letterman at 12:35 a.m., has the first-right-of-refusal on replacing Letterman.

Letterman has hosted the Late Show on CBS since 1993 when Leno was NBC's choice to replace the retiring Johnny Carson. It's the latest move in late night television that saw Leno leave the Tonight show in February and replaced by Jimmy Fallon. Jimmy Kimmel was moved up to the 11:35 p.m. slot by ABC in 2013.



“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.”

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