On Sept. 8, 2015, a new era of the The Late Show kicked off, with Stephen Colbert taking over for the recently retired David Letterman. How Colbert can fill Letterman’s shoes remains to be seen, but so far Colbert has taken the challenge in stride.
This is still like any other late night variety show, with Colbert doing an opening monologue, interviewing celebrities and interesting people, and a guest musical act. Audiences have just started to see what Colbert can do with an entire hour time slot. He is best known for Comedy Central’s Colbert Report, where he entertained while addressing current events.
After the opening monologue and commercial break, Colbert is seen sitting behind the desk, reporting on the day’s news, in traditional Colbert Report style. This was an excellent move on Colbert’s part, as it allows him to go to a comfort zone of sorts while the rest of the show looks to find its groove. However, this is not The Colbert Report 2.0, as his super-righteous and conservative character is not seen here. Instead, viewers see the actual Colbert, who is still sharp, quick-witted, and more informed than the character he used to play.
Colbert seems able to strike a good balance between entertainment and information with his guest interviews. In comparison with The Tonight Show, host Jimmy Fallon rarely has an interview that can be viewed as informative or thoughtful, as it has become mostly a platform for celebrities to advertise their next movie or TV show,while playing fun games with Fallon.
Colbert has had guests on such as presidential hopefuls Jeb Bush and Bernie Sanders, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, as well as popular celebrities who are also activists like George Clooney and Scarlett Johansson. He also has the ability to switch between taking a backseat to the guest and letting the guest take over, like when he had new Daily Show host Trevor Noah on. He also knows how to take control and keep an interview from stalling, like when he was interviewing GOP hopeful Jeb Bush.
Once Colbert and The Late Show find their identity and style, I believe that The Late Show could be the late night show to watch. Colbert is not only willing to have on popular celebrities but also lesser-known guests. He also has experience on TV, as he spent much time working with late night legend Jon Stewart of The Daily Show as a correspondent, then transitioning to his own show, The Colbert Report which was wildly successful during its nine-year run on TV.
With all this coming together, Colbert looks primed to dominate the late night viewers and become the new face of late night TV.