Kilborn Exits as Host of ‘Late Late Show’

Aug 13, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Craig Kilborn is putting his CBS late-night career to bed after five years as host of “The Late Late Show.” He will leave the network in two weeks.

Mr. Kilborn on Thursday informed CBS and World Wide Pants, David Letterman’s production company, which programs the hour following Mr. Letterman’s “Late Show,” of his decision to leave. The decision caught both the network and his World Wide Pants bosses somewhat by surprise after months of negotiations for a new multiyear contract.

While money may have played a part in the parting, it appears that Mr. Kilborn’s decision had more to do with his desire to try something new.

“It was easily the greatest job I’ve had, and CBS was very generous in their offer to re-sign me,” Mr. Kilborn said in a statement. “But I simply want to try something new. I can now focus on writing and producing different television projects I haven’t had time for. And this is cool: I will continue to wear makeup in my everyday life.”

“Late Show” and World Wide Pants are on a two-week hiatus. But Rob Burnett, president and CEO of the production company and executive producer of Mr. Letterman’s show, said during a phone call Friday that “lists are being assembled now” of possible candidates to fill the “Late Late” chair and that no talks have been held with anyone.

Mr. Burnett said that “Late Late” already is scheduled to be on hiatus during the two weeks after Mr. Kilborn’s exit.

“We have a month before we have to decide anything,” said Mr. Burnett. “We’re in this with CBS.

“Craig did a great job for us for five years. We’re very proud of the work he did. I thought there was some really lovely stuff on that show. For a tiny little show at 12:30, I thought the show distinguished itself, so we’ll certainly miss Craig and we wish him the best. But onward and upward. Our plan is to find another host, keep the staff and crew in place and keep moving.”

Speculation quickly arose that CBS and World Wide Pants might be expected to woo Conan O’Brien, who succeeded Mr. Letterman in 1993 as host of NBC’s “Late Night.” Like Mr. Letterman before him, Mr. O’Brien, whose NBC contract is up in 2005, has been stymied in his attempt to land an earlier time slot.

Mr. Kilborn, who became known as an ESPN anchor and host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” before taking “Late Late Show,” improved the 12:35 a.m. hour he inherited from Tom Snyder in 1999 and continued to attract younger and bigger audiences. He also beat “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” which debuted on ABC in 2003, but Mr. Kilborn seemed destined to run second to Mr. O’Brien.