The Colbert Return

Legendary comic makes triumphant late night debut

Stephen Colbert used to play a narcissist conservative pundit. Now, he said, he’s just a narcissist.

Popular comedian Stephen Colbert made the transition to late-night TV Tuesday night for the debut of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Expectations were high, as not only was the popular pundit coming off his extraordinarily popular Comedy Central show—where he satirized the far-right as an arch-conservative caricature—but he was also filling the seat of the legendary David Letterman, who had been a fixture on late night television for thirty years before his retirement earlier this year.

Colbert rose to expectations, demonstrating that he was more than ready for the challenge.

If it weren’t for all the references to the fact that this was his inaugural show, you would be forgiven for thinking Colbert had been hosting the show for years. He had a fantastic stage presence, honed from years of working on “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report,” and without the constraints of the Colbert character he is free to experiment with different kinds of jokes, so even old Colbert fans won’t know what to expect going forward.

A lot of his mannerisms, as well as his particular style of humor, will be immediately recognizable to the “Colbert Nation,” but the new side of Colbert is fresh enough to be engaging, and I look forward to getting to know the comedian behind the bluster.

In his new hour-long format, Colbert didn’t miss a beat, especially in his interviews with George Clooney and Jeb Bush. The Clooney interview was much more interesting, as Clooney wasn’t even there to promote anything. “I just came to see you,” he said, “I think they all are too”.

Needless to say, applause and chants of “Stephen! Stephen!” were ever-present. Nobody had come to see Clooney or Bush, and they both knew this.

The sketch about Clooney’s fake “upcoming action thriller” was probably the funniest thing of the night. Nothing Jeb did ever came close.

Jeb was a good guest, too, but it felt a lot like he was there to promote a campaign. Colbert managed to make things interesting by forcing Jeb to directly contrast his positions with his brother George’s, but altogether Clooney came to the proceedings with a greater sense of fun. Jeb held his own in front of a very liberal audience, though, and he and Colbert have a very real charisma that will hopefully come out more in future appearances.

The biggest flaw with Colbert’s inaugural night is that very little was memorable aside from the sketch with George Clooney. “The Colbert Report” had a litany of iconic and memorable moments throughout its historic run, and if you know what Colbert is capable of you may be a tad disappointed at how toned down the show is.

I’m sure that, as he finds his niche in the crowded late night scene, the show will get more unique, but while it was a very good debut this episode is mostly notable only for its novelty. Stephen Colbert is an icon of comedy, and he is enough alone to make a show great, but I do hope things get a bit more interesting sooner in his run rather than later.

 

Leave a Reply

*