I’ve been watching Stephen Colbert consistently for about seven years now, and I couldn’t be more excited about his debut on The Late Show tonight. He’s easily one of the funniest comedians working today, but he also just brings such an enthusiasm to late night that you don’t quite see in some of his peers. Watching Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel, you often get the sense that they’re kind of going through the motions of what the network wants, but in Colbert’s previous TV outings and even in all the Late Show promotional material, he’s just having such a damn good time. It’s impossible for that good time not to extend onto the audience.
But what kind of show are we tuning into, exactly? Will we be getting Letterman but with a new dude sitting in his chair? Will we be getting The Colbert Report but extended to an hour? We’ll find out in a few hours, but right now, unless you attended one of the test shows, we’re all pretty in the dark. Ahead of the premiere tonight, I thought I’d run through a few hopes for Colbert’s Late Show as a long time fan.
One of my favorite elements of The Colbert Report was the whole “Colbert Nation” aspect of it, the idea that viewers are kind of a part of the show. That would manifest itself when Colbert would call on viewers to do things like vote in online polls to get things named after him, and there was this great sense of camaraderie to the whole thing.
What current late night show has that? Do you feel like you’re a part of this huge, connected fanbase when you’re watching Jimmy Kimmel? Although there was always a degree of irony to Colbert embracing his fans as the greatest people on Earth, hopefully he’s able to retain that sense of audience participation with The Late Show.
Here’s something we don’t need more of: another talk show where celebrities come on to promote their newest project and the host sits there and forces laughter at their lame stories. Probably the biggest worry Colbert fans had when he was announced as Letterman’s successor was that he would have to dumb down his comedy and become another one of those dudes.
Yet so far, Colbert’s first few guests include some really fascinating people like the CEO of Uber and a sitting supreme court justice. Does that mean Colbert is hoping to give his show more of an intellectual spin, engaging in actually interesting conversations with interesting people rather than just promoting shit? Hopefully, because Colbert is a genuinely wise person who asks great questions, and it would be awesome for a Late Night interview to actually feel like a real interview.
Silly, non-political segments
Although he’s known for being a political satirist, some of my all time favorite Colbert segments have nothing to do with politics. They’re just weird little bits that you don’t see anywhere else on TV. When Colbert hosted a public access show in Michigan over the summer, he did an amazing bit about a guy who left a Yelp review for a restaurant citing an experience he had over a decade ago.
Every late night talk show is making jokes about Donald Trump, but what other show is doing an extended bit about some random Yelp comment feud? Colbert will of course bring in all the political stuff, and it would be a shame if he didn’t, but I’m also hoping he mixes in a fair amount of silly segments like these that don’t speak to any larger issues; they’re just weird and funny as hell.
The monologue might be what I’m most curious to see during tonight’s episode. He’ll reportedly be doing one, according to test shows, but surely he’ll have to put some sort of spin on it, right? Seth Meyers has been doing a seated monologue, so maybe Colbert can try something like that?
Honestly, I’d love for the new Late Show to not even have a monologue at all, just going right into bits like The Colbert Report did, but maybe that’s a bit too different than CBS would want. My only hope here, then, is that Colbert and his staff can find something interesting to do with the monologue that we haven’t seen elsewhere.
Keep the sarcasm
Everyone’s been making a big deal over the fact that Colbert is out of character now, but it doesn’t seem like that means we’ll be seeing a whole different person tonight. In early promotional videos, it look like a lot of the Colbert persona has been retained here: he’s still sarcastic as hell, just now in more of a silly way and without the Conservative angle.
Once again that’s pretty exciting to see, as it would suck to see Colbert’s sense of humor totally shift gears based on what CBS wants. It appears that we’ll still be getting everything we love about The Colbert Report including Colbert’s dry sarcasm, except now he and his writers have more room to do segments that don’t fit within his character’s worldview, and now Colbert can ask genuinely interesting questions.
If all that’s the case, this could quickly become the greatest late night show on the air right now. You can do it, Stephen. We believe in you.