Colbert to take over The Late Show

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The Cid
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Colbert to take over The Late Show

Post by The Cid » Fri Apr 11, 2014 1:13 pm

So last week, David Letterman announced that he will soon retire. (Next year.) Letterman is a legend in television, of course, and I've always used his status as a late night host to deny that I am getting older. "I can't be that old, Letterman's still a late night host and Howard Stern's radio show still exists in some way." Now half of that statement is going to be gone, and a lot of iconic moments in late night television.

The more shocking news is that Stephen Colbert is going to take over The Late Show after Letterman steps away. We know Colbert, of course, as a character that hosts his own 11:30 program on Comedy Central. The operative word of course is character. Letterman, like his colleague Jimmy Kimmel and the Lenos and Carsons that came before them are not characters, they're comedians. They don't really even act. Letterman is always Letterman, a midwestern guy with a sharp sense of humor. Kimmel has been Jimmy Kimmel since he was on radio. But Colbert is known almost entirely as this character he has created.

By all reports Colbert will not be that character on The Late Show, which of course makes sense. That character could never have his own late night talk show on network television; those are supposed to appeal to the widest audience possible, and you can't have that many people in on the same joke. Even after ten years people still take Colbert the character seriously as though he were real and not a semi-scripted creation of a comedian and a team of writers. And that's going to be weird when a very different person who looks and sounds exactly like that character takes over for David Letterman.

I don't want to say he'll do poorly. I have no idea. I don't know if anyone besides insiders can possibly know what to expect from Stephen Colbert The Comedian. How long has it been since we've seen that guy? Have we ever seen him? Has he only ever been Stephen Colbert The Character on television? Certainly the person must have a killer sense of humor to have created that good of a character, but it's not like the others in his business.

David Letterman was a stand-up comedian at one point. As often as he does his monologue this shouldn't be hard to imagine but it is. Can you picture Letterman coming out and doing an HBO special? I can't. Jay Leno came from stand-up comedy too. Kimmel came from a long history of radio work and then sketch comedy on The Man Show and Fox NFL Sunday. Jimmy Fallon was on SNL. Craig Ferguson wasn't well-known as a comedian when he got his 12:30 show but has been a comedian for a very long time (and a great one).

Conan is the only comparison I can think of. Colbert, at least the one getting Letterman's chair, is a comedy writer. We think of him as more because he hosts a show in character, but it's a character he created and helps to write. That background is only similar to Conan O'Brien, who was mostly known as a Simpsons writer when he took over for David Letterman in the 1990s. Hopefully, like O'Brien, Colbert will never try to host David Letterman's show, but rather just create a new one in the same time slot.
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Re: Colbert to take over The Late Show

Post by Deacon » Fri Apr 11, 2014 2:05 pm

Indeed it will be interesting. I love what's currently happening in late night TV. Letterman is an institution, and I've always enjoyed his sense of humor, lurking misanthropy under a knowing smile. I have zero idea what Colbert will be like. We'll see!
The follies which a man regrets the most in his life are those which he didn't commit when he had the opportunity. - Helen Rowland, A Guide to Men, 1922

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Re: Colbert to take over The Late Show

Post by NorthernComfort » Wed May 28, 2014 4:10 am

About time he retired that character. It's been stale nearly since it started.

But I'm excited to see what he'll do next. He's got serious chops and I have to root for a fellow Charleston native.
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Re: Colbert to take over The Late Show

Post by The Cid » Fri May 30, 2014 1:34 pm

NorthernComfort wrote:It's been stale nearly since it started.
In a lot of ways I agree (ten years is a long time to tell a single joke, but to be fair the cable news landscape provides that joke with a lot of legs), but the enthusiasm he brings to that character and that show keeps it worth watching. It's one of the few things on television you see and you think "this can only happen once, it will never really be duplicated." Sometimes for the better, yeah, but I'm going to miss having a talk show host run across his own set to get to the interviewee, who is already waiting. Ten years later I still love that.
He's got serious chops
True. It's going to be fascinating to see what his new show is like when he gets there. It's not that I doubt for a moment that he has different material than his character, if he didn't he would not have gotten this job. It's just odd, because I'm not sure I can think of anything to compare Colbert being that character for ten years to.
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