It’s 1:22 PM as I’m writing this and approximately 1 hour ago, Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” is probably canceled. Not because or low-ratings or poor reviews (4 Emmys, 2 Peabody awards, and a Grammy for Mr. Colbert), but because Colbert appears to be moving up in the world of late night. CBS announced that Stephen Colbert will take over “The Late Show,” after David Letterman, the man behind the desk for over 30 years, retires. Now this is big news on its own, especially considering late night television just said goodbye to another late night legend (Jay Leno) for another young upstart (Jimmy Fallon). However, this news is a bit more intriguing considering that Mr. Colbert is on a very opposite side of the late night spectrum compared to his competitors.
Mr. Colbert’s show started in 2005 and came off like a satire of serious political talk shows like Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor.” Unlike his fellow news spoof star, Jon Stewart, Colbert was playing a character of a right wing hothead tackling today’s news. He kept a straight face sneaking in jokes about the blunders in news and politics. He was sillier than Stewart and had a bit more fun with the show, like having shows dedicated to the work of author J.R.R. Tolkien, producing (and singing) a song helmed by Jack White, and an annual concert series called “Colbchella” (a take on the popular music festival, Coachella). Many young people consider Colbert to be one of the essential presences in late night TV.
Compared to Mr. Letterman, who is the last of the old school stand-up comedian hosts from the baby boomer generation, Colbert seems like a big risk to take into late night television. Again, Letterman’s audience still consists of mostly baby boomers and he isn’t the highest rated man after 11 PM. Bringing Colbert in is a drastic change, presumably to tend to a younger demographic like NBC did when selecting Jimmy Fallon to succeed Jay Leno. Fallon is a success (for now), but the last time Leno stepped down for a host boosted by a younger demographic, ratings tanked, Leno was turned into TV’s newest villain, and Conan O’Brien ended up on TBS. Colbert is just such a different type of host that it seems like a real roll of the dice for CBS to do. I’m happy with the choice, but it will certainly be interesting to see what Comedy Central’s Edward R. Murrow look alike will do when he walks into the Ed Sullivan Theatre next year.