The Comedy Central host could give up his role as second fiddle to Jon Stewart and make the jump to network television.

It’s wild speculation, of course, following word from David Letterman that he will give up “The Late Show” on CBS after 21 years.

Or is it? According to The New York Times, Colbert has left himself contractually open to the possibility:

Mr. Colbert has been aware of the coming change at CBS for some time. His last few contracts at Comedy Central have been structured to match up with Mr. Letterman’s at CBS, according to a person with knowledge of the deals who said he was not authorized to speak publicly about them. His current contract runs out at the end of this year, which would free him to negotiate with CBS at just the right time.

One executive involved in past late-night negotiations at several networks, who declined to be identified because of the delicacy of the discussions, said that Mr. Colbert has been on CBS’s short list for some time. Mr. Colbert is also about to turn 50, which means the time to make a career move is probably now.

There are lots of names flying around, many of them familiar (including Stewart, himself).

Among the potential candidates are several women who seem like they would be a great fit and could serve as a nice punch to the gut of that guy who’s always saying women aren’t funny. They include Ellen DeGeneres, who already has a hit daytime talk show, Tina Fey, who is done working on “30 Rock” but might want to keep herself available for movies, and Amy Poehler, who will soon be finishing up the wildly popular “Parks and Recreation.”

Another potential host is Neil Patrick Harris, who can sing, dance and date men. He would be the first openly gay late night talk show host, as far as this humble blogger can tell. Of course that would also be true of Ellen.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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