Stephen Colbert Is Joining 'The Late Show,' But Is America Ready To Handle Him Out Of Character?
An new era in Late Show is dawning, and the wind is whispering, "Colbert." In plain English, Stephen Colbert becomes the host of The Late Show on Sep. 8, taking the reigns from David Letterman, and, to say the least, it plans to be a historic night. And not just because we're getting a new host, but because we're saying goodbye to an old friend. See, the Colbert Report persona won't be joining us on The Late Show, and it's going to be a daunting transition for many. Is America emotionally prepared for the out-of-character Stephen Colbert?
A brief history lesson on the Faux Colbert before we go on. Real Colbert originally had designs of becoming a serious dramatic actor while studying at Northwestern University. Post-graduation, he switched to comedy improv after taking classes at Second City, and dipped his toe into the great wide world of satire. Real Colbert popped up in short-lived sketch shows like Exit 57 and The Dana Carvey Show, and even freelanced at Saturday Night Live... he was no scrub, in short. But he didn't full embody that satire until he took up a "correspondent" role on The Daily Show in 1998. Thus, Faux Colbert was born.
While Faux Colbert's role as a Daily Show correspondent was defined primarily by a generalized foolishness, his persona became more refined with The Colbert Report. With the show's 2005 debut, Faux Colbert became a more political half-parody of pundits like Bill O'Reilly. More than ever, he was positioned as an over-the-top, deadpan, right-wing foil to Jon Stewart's brand of liberal-minded sarcasm. Though the average viewer absorbed that, yes, this is a joke, Faux Colbert the character is who we're familiar with. Flash forward to now.
It's fair to say that millennials have grown up with both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report as a quasi-legitimate news outlet, sometimes the only one they ever turn to. In fact, a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute shows that one in 10 young adults trust The Daily Show and The Colbert Report the most as a legitimate source of accurate news. And many young adults have lived in world where they're only familiar with Faux Colbert, and not Colbert's short embryonic years doing sketch comedy. This belies trauma, friends.
So now we're left with two questions. Why is this happening, and how do I deal?
Regarding the "why," Colbert broached the subject with the Television Critics Association summer press tour. "One of the reasons I most wanted to drop the character is that I felt I had done everything I could do with him — or everything I could with that show — other than have my honest interest in the guest, which is almost constant," Colbert said. In other words, Colbert has exhausted Faux Colbert! And, despite how you and I may feel, it seems as though he thinks there's no more comedy blood to extract from that rock. Plus, playing a character for almost a decade and a half seems exhausting, IDK.
So we deal by giving Colbert (that is, real Colbert) more credit. Although Faux Colbert is dead and buried, Real Colbert wouldn't have had the gusto to create all that LOL-worthy, Emmy-churning material without a killer sense of humor. The wackiness of Faux Colbert will live on in this beautiful, beautiful man, and, fake political views aside, we still may extract all the things we loved from the character. That fear of bears. The potent love of Lord of the Rings. The zeal to pull off a Daft Punk dance-along. Lesbian puppies under a desk.
Take comfort in knowing that Colbert's spark of comedic genius is what made him great. And here's hoping he proves that when he takes the mantle of the shiny new Late Show With Stephen Colbert.
Image: Giphy (1)