When David Letterman announced his impending retirement from the “Late Show” on CBS, there was a great deal of speculation from the media regarding who would be chosen to replace him. Letterman has been a respected personality on late night television since his premiere on NBC’s “Late Night” in 1982 and he is currently the longest running late-night talk show host in television history. When CBS finally announced that Stephen Colbert of “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central would be replacing Letterman in 2015, the responses of the public were mixed.
The brand of political satire that Colbert offers on his nightly Comedy Central show has been wildly successful throughout the nine-season run o“The Colbert Report,” and equally as controversial. However, what many audience members fail to recognize is that the Stephen Colbert presented on “The Colbert Report” is not the same man as the day-to-day Stephen Colbert.
Colbert has acknowledged that when he hosts his Comedy Central program, he is acting in character and has personally referred to his respective character as a “well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idiot.” The character serves as a creative tool to highlight Colbert’s actual opinions regarding political and worldly events, and Colbert has effectively used this tool in order to point out a number of valid issues present in contemporary politics.
A prime example of this bold humor was evident during the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, when Colbert publically roasted President George W. Bush in character. Though his words argued that President Bush was making well-informed and supported decisions, his subtext clearly implied the opposite, a sentiment echoed by much of the public and many other political figures, including Secretary of State John Kerry. Throughout the speech, the tension in the room was palpable but, under the guise of sarcasm, he was able to continue to the end.
Colbert’s true personality shines through in his show’s behind-the-scenes videos and a special interview that the Comedy Central fixture did with Oprah in 2012. In reality, it appears that Colbert is down to earth and extremely personable. Colbert has said that he will not be hosting the “Late Show” in character, giving his audience a chance to understand and appreciate his true personality.
Ultimately, the decision to employ Colbert was a smart move on the part of CBS higher-ups. Letterman has publicly voiced his support of the nomination, noting that he holds Colbert in high regard.
Throughout his career, Colbert has won seven Emmy awards for his work with Comedy Central, received two Grammys, was the first man to appear on Maxim’s Hot 100 and has twice been featured on TIME Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people. During a short-lived presidential bid in 2008, Colbert asked viewers to vote by donating funds to DonorsChoose.org, raising $185,000 for the improvement of Pennsylvania public schools.
Thus, it is clear that Colbert is overwhelmingly multitalented and his brilliant brand of entertainment will be a welcome addition to late-night programming. I am confident that Colbert will do Letterman justice in his absence and cannot wait to tune into the “Late Show” in 2015.