That was fast! Only one week ago, late night television staple David Letterman announced he will retire next year. Since then the internet has been abuzz with speculation of who could replace this icon. I even wrote my own post detailing five nominees who I felt had good chances. As of a this afternoon though, Letterman’s replacement was officially announced by CBS and it’s none other than Stephen Colbert!
Various sites were saying that Colbert was CBS’s top pick over the past week. While some people were taken aback at how soon a front runner was chosen, no one was surprised by the name. Stephen Colbert is easily one of the funniest people on television. From 1997-2005, he was one of The Daily Show’s greatest correspondents and writers. He won three Emmy’s for writing during his tenure. However, It wouldn’t be until The Colbert Report roared onto the scene that people saw the true breadth of his talent. For the past 9 years, Colbert has expertly crafted the highly conservative character of Stephen Colbert to create one of the smartest satire programs on television. In some instances he even bested his cohort in comedic news Jon Stewart, most notably last year when The Colbert Report won the Emmy for Outstanding Variety Series. That ended a 10 year win run by The Daily Show, which is no small feat.
As many people know, the Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report is entirely fictional. He is not reflective of the actual values of the real Stephen Colbert. This has apparently lead to some people wondering if the real deal can actually handle this new role. Anyone who has really seen Colbert both on and off his show know these concerns are entirely unfounded. The real person is entirely responsible for creating and cultivating the character we see on screen. While the ideals he espouses are fake, the humor very much comes from natural talent. It is not an accident that this man has won so many awards for his work. If you want proof, check out Strangers with Candy, Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, or any of the four airings of Night of Too Many Stars: An Overbooked Concert for Autism Education. Colbert is absolutely amazing both in-person and in a voice over role.
Of course, there is negative side to this pick. It is a complete missed opportunity for CBS to bring some diversity into late night. Arsenio Hall and Chelsea Handler are the only late night talk show hosts who are not white males. This would have been the perfect chance for CBS to become known as the only major network with a female host (Tina Fey for example). While he also does fit the white male demographic, someone like Neil Patrick Harris could have been the first openly gay major network talk show host. CBS had history right in their grasp and they didn’t take it. You can bet there will be a lot of discussion about this later.
Colbert’s departure also brings to question Comedy Central’s future plans. Colbert has been the perfect follow-up to The Daily Show, permitting a straight hour of hilarity every Monday-Thursday night. The Colbert Report cannot live without Colbert which means the 11:30 PM slot will be wide open. There is no update about who could fill that void but I’m personally hoping for another news talk program. Maybe even someone who is with The Daily Show right now can host it. John Oliver would have been the perfect choice but he’s starting his own HBO show soon. Now that the CBS speculation is done, it looks like people can start on this. Could Comedy Central bring the diversity?
Lack of diversification aside, Stephen Colbert really is perfect pick. He has the experience and comedic chops to handily anchor this one hour program five nights a week. Not only that, he’s also hugely popular with the exact young adult demographic CBS is hoping to pull from Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon. This will be huge for both CBS and late night fans. I personally can’t wait for this show and I know I will be tuning in on night one. If The Late Show with Stephen Colbert is even remotely as good as The Colbert Report, we could be looking at one of the biggest late night competitions in many years.