Congrats to the #CancelColbert team. They wanted him off Comedy Central, and they got their wish.
The 49-year-old Colbert, who signed a five-year deal, said in a statement: “Simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career. I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave’s lead. I’m thrilled and grateful that CBS chose me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth.”
Colbert’s premiere date will be revealed after Letterman figures out a timetable for his final episodes. According to CBS, “Late Show” creative elements, as well as the producers and the location for the Colbert-hosted “Late Show” will be announced at a later date.
The news will leave a big gap in the lineup at the Comedy Central, which has aired “The Colbert Report” since 2005.
It’s a five-year-deal but late-night tenures typically run 20 at a minimum, so expect some quality Colbert japes during the George P. Bush versus Chelsea Clinton election of 2032. The big question: Is CBS getting Stephen Colbert or “Stephen Colbert”? Answer:
Colbert: "I won't be doing the new show in character, so we'll all get to find out how much of him was me. I'm looking forward to it."
— Bill Carter (@wjcarter) April 10, 2014
Like Ace, I don’t know why you’d hire a comedian who got famous playing a character to host a show out of character. It’d be like giving Larry the Cable Guy a sitcom but insisting that he play mild-mannered Nebraskan Dan Whitney. Then again, Colbert’s always sort of “in character” even when he’s not playing a faux-conservative pundit like the one he plays on “Report.” If you go back and watch “Strangers With Candy” or his bits as a correspondent for “The Daily Show,” you’ll find that his style’s consistent even though neither of those characters was overtly political. He’s so arch, so far over the top in exaggerating his target’s ideas or persona while retaining a deadpan affect, that his shtick always feels like caricature. Even his famous takedown of Bush at the 2006 WHCD, with the president sitting right in front of him, was delivered as a pretend Dubya supporter. I don’t think he’s comfortable playing comedy any other way; I’d be surprised if his CBS show is any different. Instead of playing the faux-conservative, which works during Comedy Central’s 11 p.m. hour of right-bashing power for a millennial audience but might not work for an older, more diverse crowd on CBS, he’ll probably play the faux-late-night-host, mocking the conventions of the format. Which wouldn’t be terrible: After 50 years of the same crap, right down to the demographics of the various personalities, anything different at that hour is good.
By the way, just out of curiosity, how many of you watch late-night TV on the broadcast networks? In an age of Netflix, Hulu, hundreds of cable channels and ubiquitous mobile devices, why anyone would limit themselves to watching a middle-aged comic banter with Matt Damon about his new movie is unclear to me, but I’m open to suggestion.
Update: Needless to say, Colbert got this job because CBS thinks he’ll bring some of Comedy Central’s younger audience with him. But if you need to see hard numbers to believe that, FiveThirtyEight’s got you covered.