While not a late night television expert, my feelings are mixed now that CBS has confirmed Stephen Colbert will succeed David Letterman as host of the “Late Show.”
Selfishly, I dislike knowing that the world will be losing a gifted comedian who’s act has become an important influence in the political arena. I wonder if Comedy Central wishes this news could have come sooner, prior to John Oliver’s (breakout star from the “Daily Show”) move to HBO.
I’m only familiar, as is most of America (I assume), with Colbert portraying his conservative Bill O’Reilly-like character from the “Colbert Report.” It will be interesting to see the real him (I suspect with shades of his current character — less political, more mainstream) on stage and behind the desk for an hour five nights a week. What I hope is that whatever style of comedy Colbert brings to the “Late Show” can take the stage/desk format of late night television to new heights — in contrast to the way Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” does via his talent as a performer.
While many will miss Colbert’s current act, he has the potential to make a bigger name for himself at CBS. A new late night rivalry between Colbert, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel has the potential to be absolutely epic.
Updated at 10:55 p.m… Politico’s Dylan Byers warns the Washington establishment that Colbert is coming for them. Byers somewhat diminishes my fear that Colbert going mainstream means we lose the component of him that has made him so good.
Still, the next iteration of Colbert will not be altogether different from the current one, and it is all but impossible to imagine that he’ll forgo the political focus that has made him so appealing to Comedy Central’s viewers.
Some fear that the “Late Show” gig will limit Colbert’s ability to ridicule politicians, if only because broadcast television is more cautious than cable. Yet Colbert’s ability to break out of character may allow him to expand beyond his familiar satirizing of conservatives — a requisite aspect of his current show — and go after Democrats and Republicans, and the political and media establishments in general, with equal abandon.