Stephen Colbert premiered his new late night talk show, Late Show with Stephen Colbert, last night after an 8 month hiatus from television. Filling David Letterman’s shoes is a large task for someone to take on, but Colbert isn’t a slouch when it comes to hosting. That’s where my reservations about Late Show with Stephen Colbert began and continue to exist. I, like many viewers, have fond memories of Colbert’s character “Stephen Colbert” from The Colbert Report where Colbert played a caricature of Fox News personalities. This was a role he excelled at, providing comical slants on silly political happenings. Apart from the occasional talk show interview Colbert would attend, we really only saw him in The Colbert Report’s light, so getting “Stephen Colbert” out of my head and trying to accept Stephen Colbert the late night host was a tough thing to do.
Late Show cold opened with himself in various locations with various people singing the national anthem, something reminiscent of The Colbert Report, the first of a few call backs. He then bursted onto the floor high kicking and doing all sorts of energetic movements Ellen DeGeneres style. I wasn’t sure how to take it as I’m used to Colbert being the serious, brooding character he perfected over 9 years. His quirky, almost flamboyant appearance was different from anything current late night hosts are presenting, the closest thing being Jimmy Fallon’s boyish stylings.
The normal laugh track chuckles were heard after opening monologue joke, nothing that brought down the house. I was a little confused because he delivered it in a moderately sarcastic tone, again harkening back to the Report days. The house band I couldn’t get into at all. For as high energy as Colbert was himself at the onset of the episode, the new Late Show theme song killed the mood for me. I guess I’m too used to The Roots’ powerful opening tune which Jimmy Fallon runs in to. For me, that was the biggest issue; a stark realization that I’m watching Late Show with Stephen Colbert when I could be watching my favorite late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon who, along with Jimmy Kimmel, is on at the same time. Is it fair to compare Fallon, a veteran of late night, to Colbert, a rookie to major cable network viewership? Maybe not this early, but it’s a simple matter of how I want to spend my night free time. Fallon is a known quantity; I know I’ll have a good time with him. Colbert was more of a risk.
George Clooney was a great guest. He wasn’t on the show to promote anything, simply there out of the goodness in his heart and to no doubt reel-in on the fence viewers. Having Jeb Bush on was yet another evocative moment of the Report as Colbert played off of his political prowess to pull laughter. I think political absurdity will always be a part of Colbert repertoire seeing as how he’s pretty much the master of it after Jon Stewart.
Stephen Colbert’s transition into proper late night hosting wasn’t what I was expecting, but then again, I wasn’t expecting much. Truthfully, I want The Colbert Report back. Colbert’s parody conservative was a mastery of comedy. Now that the Report and The Daily Show are gone, there’s a huge hole in my heart where political satire used to be… Oh well, can’t go back to the past I suppose. Going up against Fallon in the same time slot will be tough for Colbert, but I’ll definitely be interested in watching more of him. I’m truly rooting for him.