Now that it’s officially been on air for a week, Stephen Colbert has given us a good look at how he wants to shape his version of The Late Show. His first week hit the ground running, establishing a format and structure that clearly defines Stephen Colbert’s vision.
Stephen Colbert knows this isn’t The Colbert Report (and shame on anyone expecting it to be). He’s been well aware that critics and viewers will find it hard to resist comparing the two. And that’s why he’s been separating himself from his old persona, while staying true to his comedic style. By trading irony for sincerity, Stephen Colbert has been able to lambast politicians from all ends of the spectrum (but with a particular focus on a certain tower builder), and then go on to give those same politicians their voice on his show. While it’s clear Colbert has a liberal bias, he hasn’t been playing favourites. He warmly received Jeb Bush on The Late Show for an honest-to-goodness discussion of Bush’s politics, and the next night focused his critical rant on Hilary Clinton. His post-monologue segment has been a political comedy newscast, as it were, not unlike a segment from The Colbert Report. Old habits die hard, which is why it’s impressive to see him in a familiar situation, using such an unfamiliar tone. And the fact that it works so well suggests that Colbert is running a tight ship, and he knows exactly where it’s headed.
In a way, Colbert isn’t competing with the other late night shows. Where Jimmy Fallon and Seth Myers find their audience in the days that follow their broadcast, through digital clips, Colbert is making the effort to create a payoff for viewers who invest in each and every episode. Last week’s interview with Joe Biden was an important moment for Colbert and The Late Show: it set a precedent, that despite it being a comedy show, Colbert’s Late Show will go deeper than surface level – a notion reinforced by last night’s interview with U.S. Supreme Justice Stephen Breyer. Colbert is retaining the traditions and values from the likes of Johnny Carson and David Letterman, that have been all but abandoned by other current late night hosts.
Maybe it’s his experience with a similarly formatted series, but Stephen Colbert has come into his own only after five episodes. Already his rapport with bandleader Jon Batiste has grown from non-existent to, well, something, at least. But now, banter at a Letterman-Shaffer level doesn’t seem all that impossible. Colbert has quickly proven that he has what it takes to win late night all over again – and we can’t wait to see how he does it.
Be sure to tune in for tonight’s show, featuring Jake Gyllenhaal and Tim Cook, with musical guests Run The Jewels and TV On The Radio, airing 11:35 et/pt on Global!