15 Possible Letterman Replacements Who Aren’t White Dudes


Last night, David Letterman announced his retirement from his eponymous late-night talk show, Late Show With David Letterman. While he won’t retire until sometime next year, people are already speculating about who will replace him on the show he’s helmed for over 20 years. And, in typical fashion, most of the predictions veer in the direction of Jon Stewart, Jay Leno, Craig Ferguson, or Conan O’Brien. Given that the late-night talk show landscape is almost exclusively the territory of white men, we have a few suggestions of comedians who could replace Letterman and — gasp! — aren’t white guys.

Wanda Sykes

Ever since her late-night talk show The Wanda Sykes Show was canceled after only one season, we’ve been waiting for another venue to watch Sykes do what she does best: provide spot-on commentary, coupled with ample comedic LOLs. This Letterman opening is the perfect opportunity for Sykes to do just that. Not only does she have the experience and authority to headline her own show night after night, but we would also really, really want to see that show.

Chris Rock

If CBS wants someone who can capitalize on his personality, Chris Rock would be a refreshing bet for Late Show. He had his own late-night talk show, The Chris Rock Show, on HBO in the late ’90s, and it’s been sorely missed ever since. And Rock is an especially appealing pick since he’s already a familiar household name.

Aziz Ansari

With a few successful stand-up specials under his belt, Aziz Ansari has shown that he has a widespread appeal beyond his turn as Parks and Recreation‘s swag-loving Tom Haverford. While he would be a young contender for late night, he would also draw a younger audience. And that’s a good (and much-needed) thing.

Tina Fey

Given her experience on SNL‘s “Weekend Update” desk and her track record of well-received awards-show hosting with Amy Poehler, Tina Fey is an obvious choice to fill Letterman’s shoes. Accessibly fun and pretty much universally beloved, a nightly dose of Fey would be just the thing to fill the 30 Rock-shaped void in so many of our hearts.

Amy Poehler

Another obvious choice. Like Tina Fey, she also has experience at theWeekend Update” desk in addition to her smartly produced web series for young women, “Smart Girls at the Party,” where she interviews awesome people like Broad City‘s Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer and Chicana artist and activist Judy Baca.

Kamau Bell

Bell has already made a name for himself as a more political comedian, but still treats topics like catcalling in NYC with a tactful level of humor. The stand-up comic hosted his own talk show, Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell on FXX, which got canceled last year. While CBS probably wouldn’t go for a guy whose show recently got nixed, it was a really good show.

Chelsea Handler

Now that Chelsea Handler is leaving E! (and abandoning Chelsea Lately) after her contract expires at the end of 2014, it makes sense that the she would move to another network. But if she had creative control difficulties with Chelsea Lately, CBS admittedly might not be much of an improvement.

George Lopez

A few years ago, George Lopez’s late-night show on TBS was canceled after Conan O’Brien moved to the network. While both Lopez and O’Brien were supportive of each other’s shows, the move caused Lopez’s ratings to decline, and TBS dropped Lopez Tonight. All things considered, Lopez seems like a good choice for Late Show, given his previous experience and the ill-timed ending of his previous endeavor.

Cameron Esposito

Esposito isn’t quite a household name (yet), but she’s frequently made the late-night rounds herself, and is just straight-up brash, confident, and funny. Jay Leno even called her “the future.” If CBS wants to go in a radically fresh direction, this would be it.

Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen pretty much dominates the daytime talk-show scene, so it wouldn’t be surprising if CBS tried to capitalize on her preexisting audience and success. Although we can’t imagine NBC would let her upbeat cheeriness and constant celebrity pranking be ripped from their clutches, she would be a fairly safe, and fun, bet to fill Letterman’s spot.

Margaret Cho

With her droll sense of humor, we would love to see Cho behind the Late Show desk. No doubt, she would push a lot of buttons. But that might just be the thing the show needs?

Wayne Brady

It’s easy to forget about Wayne Brady (and the fact that he rocked Whose Line Is It Anyway?), given that his most recent regular hosting gigs involved the revival of Let’s Make a Deal and the blandly amusing Don’t Forget the Lyrics! So, OK. He’s not a buzzy name. But he is nostalgically familiar one, with experience hosting his own daytime talk show, The Wayne Brady Show.

Kristen Wiig

While she made a name for herself playing bizarre characters on SNL like Gilly and the overenthusiastic Target Lady, Wiig’s film roles have shown that she can carry a movie (Bridesmaids) without necessarily resorting to caricatures. Late-night hosts don’t usually transition from movies to talk shows while they’re in their prime, but this would be an interesting opportunity for both the show and Wiig.

Mindy Kaling

Although she’s currently focused on The Mindy Project, we can totally see Kaling’s conversational nature as a natural — albeit, altogether different — fit for late-night. While it can be hard to differentiate her character, Mindy Lahiri, from the real person named Mindy Kaling, we have a feeling Kaling wouldn’t faint upon meeting a celebrity she’s interviewing/crushing on (thankfully).

George Takei

Given that George Takei is older than Dave Letterman by about ten years, we highly doubt that he would take up a late-night gig. But still, it would be pretty awesome. While he’s generally known more for his role as Sulu in Star Trek than his comedic endeavors, when he does venture into stand-up, his delivery is impeccable. And everybody loves him.