Early Returns on “The Late Show”

Colbert Late ShowSo, once my late-night mainstays The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart ended, I decided I needed a new place to indulge my penchant for staying up too late. After finding The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore unsatisfying, I decided to follow Stephen Colbert to his new digs on CBS’s Late Show, where he took over after David Letterman retired. I’ll admit, I was a little reluctant about the change, despite being a huge fan of Colbert’s. For one, his brand of comedy on The Colbert Report was somewhat intellectual and nerdy, and I wasn’t sure if his style would appeal to a mass audience. He also relied on his over-the-top conservative character he’d played for years, and his abandonment of the character for his Late Show gig contributed to the uncertainty surrounding it. Now that he’s finished his third week, I feel I’m in a position to talk about my first impressions of his tenure as host.

The first few episodes felt very much like a watered-down version of The Colbert Report, as he stuck largely to his strengths with a lot of political satire. I hardly blame him for doing that early on, but he did seem to lapse into cycles of telling the same jokes over and over again, and most of them were Donald Trump insults that everyone had heard before (to be fair, he’s far from the only comedian or media personality doing that), which made me miss the old show a little. However, he has expanded the subjects of his jokes in the past week or so, talking about the Pope’s visit to America, viral YouTube clips, and “female Viagra.”

Jon Stewart made a cameo on Stephen Colbert's Late Show debut.
Jon Stewart made a cameo on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show debut.

Colbert’s interviews have probably been the best part of the new show so far. Highlights include a heartfelt talk with Joe Biden, a “silly walk” session with Lupita Nyong’o, and a laundry free-throw contest with NBA MVP Stephen Curry. He also hasn’t shied away from asking tough questions, such as challenging Ted Cruz on his idolizing of Ronald Reagan and his views on gay marriage and asking Jeb Bush how he’s different from his brother George W.  Jon Stewart was a brilliant interviewer on The Daily Show, and I hope that as the show goes on that Stephen is able to sharpen his skills in that area, now that he doesn’t have to play a character.

Stephen Colbert grills Ted Cruz on Ronald Reagan's policies and same-sex  marriage
Stephen Colbert grills Ted Cruz on Ronald Reagan’s policies and same-sex marriage.

Colbert’s house band is Jon Batiste and Stay Human, a jazz band from New York City. He frequently plays off them for comedic effect in a Leno-like fashion. He even did a bit with Batiste this week when he joked about a fictional “tell-all book” Batiste had written despite only having worked on the show for three weeks. The band’s theme song has just the right amount of jazzy energy and I enjoy hearing it at the start of every show.

Jon Batiste and Stay Human
Jon Batiste and Stay Human, Stephen Colbert’s house band

Overall, I think Stephen Colbert has had a largely successful debut so far, and I look forward to seeing what he can do with it once he settles in. I’m still adjusting to the new format, and learning not to expect a retread of The Colbert Report. The early episodes haven’t been perfect, but they’ve been encouraging enough that I want to stick around and see where this goes (at least until I’m too old to stay up till 1130 PM, haha).



  1. I think Colbert will be a very good Late Show host, but I mourn the loss of the brilliant political satire of the “Colbert Report”. Colbert’s interview with Trump had flashes of his old brilliance, so we shall see.

    • Yeah. In his fourth and fifth weeks, he’s flashed a lot of the old Colbert Report style, which makes me more optimistic that he’ll settle into a good rhythm soon.

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