The entertainment world was abuzz last Thursday, April 10 when CBS announced that Stephen Colbert would be taking over The Late Show from David Letterman after his retirement in 2015. In several respects, this marks the end of an era: The late night entertainment of yesteryear defined by Letterman and Leno is officially over. Unfortunately it also means the end of the Colbert Report, and the character “Stephen Colbert.”
While at the very least, Colbert is taking his staff of phenomenal writers over to The Late Show and the announcement elicited the ire of almost every right-wing pundit (which is always a plus,) Colbert has already made a statement saying “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 have no doubt that Colbert will do a good job, considering that he’s proven to be a natural entertainer even in the rare instances he’s out of character, but it’ll lack that dimension that “Colbert” added, which made his work truly special.
Obviously since Colbert is going to be playing to a much wider audience, his pointed sometimes offensive jokes about politics can’t take center stage on this new platform and will instead be drowned out by the standard affair of jokes about pop culture. While Letterman himself had cultivated a character whose dry sarcasm was the antithesis to the oftentimes fake enthusiasm of other late night talk show hosts, it became difficult to distinguish when Letterman was playing a bored host, or whether he really just didn’t give a shit while on the air.
On the other hand, every aspect of Colbert’s persona feels like a crafted performance, that brings attention to the everyday hypocrisy in the world we live in. While it’s fantastic we’ve gotten to see it for this long, it still stings that such an invaluable piece of satire will be gone soon.