Ferguson to leave 'The Late Late Show'

Craig Ferguson told the studio audience on Monday that he will step down after nine years.

Craig Ferguson. Picture: AFP.

LOS ANGELES - Late night host Craig Ferguson will be leaving CBS's The Late Late Show in December, the host and the network said on Monday, the latest movement in the shuffling of late-night television to draw a younger audience.

Scottish-born Ferguson, 51, told the studio audience during the taping of his Monday show that he will be stepping down from the show after nine years.

"CBS and I are not getting divorced, we are 'consciously uncoupling,' but we will still spend holidays together and share custody of the fake horse and robot skeleton, both of whom we love very much," the comedian said in a statement.

Ferguson took the hosting helm on The Late Late Show in 2005, picking up the reins from Craig Kilborn and lending his eccentric, irreverent humor with his trademark Scottish brogue.

His decision to step down comes after major changes in broadcast television's late night schedule, as CBS announced earlier this month that Comedy Central's satirist Stephen Colbert will take over from David Letterman on CBS's The Late Show next year.

The move is likely to give CBS a much-needed chance to lure younger viewers to the late night television time slot. The network has not yet said who will take over from Ferguson after his departure.

Comedian Jimmy Fallon succeeded Jay Leno on NBC's _The Tonight Show _earlier this year, while former Saturday Night Live star Seth Meyers replaced Fallon on NBC's Late Night show.

During his tenure at The Late Late Show, Glasgow-native Ferguson interviewed celebrities and dignitaries from Tom Hanks to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, incorporated sock puppets into his opening monologue, and played novelty games with guests.

CBS Entertainment chairman Nina Tassler said in a statement that Ferguson "infused the broadcast with tremendous energy, unique comedy, insightful interviews and some of the most heartfelt monologues seen on television."

Ferguson's most notable moments include a monologue in 2006 about his father the day after he died; refusing to joke about pop star Britney Spears' meltdown in 2007, inciting his own struggles with sobriety; and an episode dedicated to Tutu in 2009 which won the show a Peabody award.

The network said Ferguson, who is also an actor and director, has other projects in the works including hosting duties on upcoming syndicated game show Celebrity Name Game.