Mon. May 16th, 2022

Last week, “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” finished its first month on the air, and while it may seem foolish to judge a late night show so early in its existence, so far the show has given us many reasons to be optimistic about its new host.

Colbert certainly has big shoes to fill, replacing the legendary David Letterman, acknowledging this himself on his first show.

“The comedy landscape is so thickly planted with the forest of Dave’s ideas that we sometimes need to remind ourselves just how tall he stands,” Colbert told his audience. “We will try to honor his achievement by doing the best show we can and occasionally making the network very mad at us.”

There may not be a man better suited to emerge from Letterman’s towering shadow than Colbert himself. After working as a correspondent on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” Colbert truly made himself with his own political smash hit, “The Colbert Report,” a show that satirized right-wing political pundits and their self-serving programming. While that show was well-received from a comedic standpoint, we have to remember that Colbert was playing a character. It’s reasonable to question how the real-life Colbert would translate out of Colbert as a persona, and establish a genuine rapport with his audience and guests. The most glaring tonal shift that Colbert finds himself making is in how he conducts his interviews.

Perhaps the best example of this new style was Colbert’s September 10 interview with Vice President Joe Biden. The interview explored the passing of Biden’s son and flowed into a discussion about tragedy as it relates to personal faith. It was candid and sincere, from both sides of the desk, and a far cry from the argumentative parody from interviews on “The Colbert Report.” But, most importantly, it was an endearing, and ultimately necessary segment for Colbert to establish himself as more than a vessel for jokes. For once, we didn’t want to see Colbert undercut a serious discussion with humor since it was obviously ill-fitting. He listened, and it slowly became less of an interview, and more a conversation. Biden’s appearance was a clear highlight in the shows youth.

Other interviews have been equally entertaining. Colbert has hosted such guests as basketball star Stephen Curry, actresses Scarlett Johansson and Amy Schumer, as well as fellow late night host and Daily Show correspondent John Oliver. It’s very clear that Colbert’s charisma transcends the character that launched his career. He has the confidence to be an appealing figure head, which is perhaps the most important aspect required of a late night talk show host.

Colbert already has a something going for him; politicians want to be on his show. On The Colbert Report, Stephen observed what he referred to as “The Colbert Bump,” a phenomena wherein any person place or thing that appeared on the show witnessed an increase in popularity immediately thereafter. While “The Late Show” by its nature serves as a place for actors, authors and musicians to plug their latest work, Colbert is arguably more politically conscious than any other host on late night. The brash persona that ruled the airwaves on Comedy Central wasn’t enough to scare off politicians from interviews with Colbert in the past, and his newfound candor could open the doors for any politician that may have held reservations in the past. In the first month of the show alone, Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, John McCain, and even first lady Michelle Obama have made appearances. With the presidential election almost one year away, The Late Show has the potential to emerge as a daily place of discussion for politics unlike any late night show to come before it.

“The Late Show” functions in a similar manner that “The Colbert Report” did. After the opening monologue and before the guests arrive, the show typically features a news segment or a comedy sketch accompanied by on-screen visuals. Whether this is a matter of making a smooth transition to a different network or this is how Colbert envisions the show going forward, it has been a strong point so far. These segments allow Colbert to shine his brightest, reeling off an absurdist brand of humor that worked so well for the past ten years.

Colbert would probably be the first to tell you that a late night show is only as good as its writers. They were a crucial component of “The Colbert Report’s” success, and because of this one might be concerned that Colbert’s humor could falter on a different show. Fear not, as Colbert has brought with him a number of writers from his show on Comedy Central. He’s even brought the oft-mentioned, but rarely-seen “Jimmy”, the producer whom Colbert continually goes to for visual cues and information. Although there will certainly be a period of adjustment as the writers move away from politically focused material in favor of more topical talking points, the show has consistently re-created the style that worked so well for The Colbert Report.

No one will forget David Letterman and his iteration of The Late Show. With Colbert at the helm, the show is sure to blaze its own trail and create its own memories. With Colbert and Jon Stewart both ending their runs on Comedy Central this year, late night television will continue to search for new powerhouse personalities. Colbert is there to remind us that, perhaps, he never really left.

Chris Landry is a fourth-year student majoring in English and minoring in journalism. He can be reached at CL784324@wcupa.edu. His Twitter handle is @Landy_dubc.

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