EXCLUSIVE: I’ve just learned that one of the longtime writers and producers of Late Show With David Letterman, Matt Roberts, is becoming the new head writer effective immediately. The previous head writers Justin and Eric Stangel will remain as writers and producers with the show but also get a fat new multiyear development deal with Worldwide Pants, the production company run by Letterman and Rob Burnett. “The Stangel brothers are going to remain with the show as part of the deal because we need them,” Rob Burnett just told me. “These guys are as good as it gets.” The twosome have had an unusally long and successful 14-year run as Letterman’s head writers and now will turn a lot of their attention to coming up with TV shows in any format for Worldwide Pants. “For people like this super valuable to the show, this deal keeps these guys from walking,” Burnett said. He especially wanted to ensure the pair were signed to a deal in order not to repeat what happened when Letterman writers Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, who walked out the door of Worldwide Pants and created the long-running and profitable franchise How I Met Your Mother. I happen to think the Stangel Brothers are hilarious (remember their online antics with Bill Scheft during the writers strike?) and look forward to their scripted and unscripted pitches. “Whatever they want to do,” Burnett told me.
Meanwhile, Roberts will fly solo as head writer after working his way up from an intern to the talent department as a guest wrangler, then a segment producer, and also a writer. “Great writer. He’s super funny and talented,” Burnett told me. The changing of the guard comes just as Jimmy Kimmel has entered the 11:35 late-night talk wars with Leno and Letterman. “I don’t think it really does affect us,” Burnett told me. “Every day you do the best you can do and put on the funniest show you believe is good.” As far as ratings with the new troika during the week that Kimmel premiered in the earlier time slo, it presumably sparked more curiosity than usual. Leno was still ahead last week with 2.4/6, while Letterman and Kimmel tied with 2.2/5.