How Stephen Colbert is Changing Late Night

The Ed Sullivan Theater off Times Square lit up following the Septemeber 24 taping of

The Ed Sullivan Theater off Times Square lit up following the September 24 taping of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

A very lucky, Internet-savvy friend of mine landed three tickets to a taping of ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,’ and out of what I can only imagine is selfless kindness (or maybe he owed me a favor), he offered me one of those coveted spots for Colbert’s September 24 show. I know I’ve written about the show before—it was my most anticipated premier of the year, but seeing it live, well, I’m still riding that high.

Colbert has a few weeks under his belt now, so it seems like he’s picking up on the flow (nine years of ‘The Colbert Report’ probably helped him adjust to that live taping atmosphere too). Watching him on TV, you can get a fairly good idea of how Colbert works, but during the taping, I got to see an up-close view of Colbert’s true talent—working with his writers in between segments, going over each joke, making sure that the crew was on the same page—a real treat for a TV junkie like myself. You forget that as fun as it looks to host a talk show, it’s still work, and requires careful planning to make sure everything runs smoothly.

The theme of the night was Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. (complete with a handwritten cardboard sign welcoming “Frank”). Colbert, who was raised Catholic, wanted to center his show on the Pope, and discuss with his guests about what this historic event means to them, what the role of the Catholic Church is in today’s society, and what it means to be Catholic in a celebrity world. I was pleasantly surprised by the discussion topics—when you get so wrapped up in the extreme views that stem from religion (anti-abortion, planned parenthood, gay-rights, etc. etc.), you tend to forget that religion is still an important aspect of our culture, and that with any religion, there is more good behind it than not. Even the Pope during his address to Congress yesterday urged listeners to not let ideological extremism get in the way of freedom.

Andrew Sullivan, Jim Gaffigan, and Maria Shriver discuss being Catholic with Stephen Colbert on September 24.

Andrew Sullivan, Jim Gaffigan and Maria Shriver discuss being Catholic with Stephen Colbert on September 24.

Instead of keeping the Pope discussion to a few jokes before bringing on an A-List celebrity, Colbert dove into the heart of the day, first talking with a panel of ‘openly-Catholic celebrities’ about why they are proud to be Catholic (Andrew Sullivan was the most poignant of the speakers, telling us that his religion taught him to be confident and open about being gay, two lifestyles that don’t always see eye to eye), followed by a discussion about how the Catholic Church is working to help the environment with Archbishop Thomas Wenski. The panel, which also included comedian Jim Gaffigan and journalist Maria Shriver, left me stunned—not just because of what they said, but that I witnessed an open, educated discussion on a Late Night television show. And that is how Colbert is changing the face of Late Night, by bringing a current, intelligent edge to his nightly line up.

You also have to credit Colbert’s interviewing skills for much of the show’s initial success. His ability to humanize even the most aggressive monsters is something you rarely see in any news form. Earlier this week, Colbert hushed his audience for booing Ted Cruz—he told the audience that even if you disagree with Cruz’s views, he is still a guest on the show and deserves respect. In a world dominated by the Internet, it’s easy to join the crowd mocking public figures we disagree with, but what we forget is that these are still people who are (hopefully) fighting for what they believe in. Colbert’s interview with Vice President Joe Biden last week is another great example—instead of talking about politics, or the presidential race, he talked to Biden about life, about how he maintains such a positive attitude in a world that can bring so much pain (he had me in tears for the whole segment). Colbert’s ability to see each guest in a stripped down form, pulled away from the persona the media has assigned him or her, is a rare quality that needs to be commended.

Comparing him to other Late Night shows, past and present, Colbert is offering a new form of Late Night that I think will appeal more and more to younger generations. During a pre-show Q&A (the only time I’ve ever seen a TV show host interact so intimately with his audience), one man asked Colbert why he chooses to bring on guests that don’t fit that A-list/B-list celebrity demographic. Colbert’s answer was simple: he wanted to bring on guests he thought were ‘interesting.’ And then he asked the audience if they enjoyed the interviews he’s done so far—the CEO of Uber, Elon Musk—people who are changing our world in big ways, but may not always get a chance to sit in the spotlight. Don’t get me wrong, I think Fallon has a great show, but if Colbert continues doing what he’s doing, then there’s little competition for my attention, and I’m sure for the attention of many Americans interested in current events.

You can watch the whole episode from September 24 here.

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The Wait is Over! Colbert is Back, and Fans Rejoice!

Colbert took over for Late Night with David Letterman on September 8, 2015.

Colbert took over for Late Night with David Letterman on September 8, 2015.

In all my years as an adult, the closest I’ve gotten to returning to that ‘Night Before Christmas’ level of excitement came with the premier of ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.’ Since the announcement that he would take over for Letterman, it’s been an emotional roller coaster for this Colbert super fan. The joy of knowing he will take on a new role in media; the pain of losing his Comedy Central character (not to mention the end of Jon Stewart’s reign as host of ‘The Daily Show,’ where I actually lied face down on my kitchen floor crying at the announcement of his final show)–I’ve felt it all. Whenever a new article on Colbert’s career came out, I’d rush to the news stands to get any taste of what would arrive on September 8.

A reported 6.6 million viewers flocked to their TVs Tuesday night with the same anticipation–we weren’t sure what to expect. For those of us who grew up with ‘The Colbert Report,’ separating the character from the man is a bit of a struggle. Even with his teaser videos sporadically popping on the Internet this summer, you could still see hints of that self aggrandizing wack-a-doodle from Comedy Central. He took over hosting a local cable show in Michigan, interviewing Eminiem as if he had no idea the rapper was famous, and invited science superstar Neil DeGrasse Tyson to his office just to scold him about demoting Pluto from planet status.These were moments that got us ready for the new show, but still didn’t give us a clear picture of what to expect.

Here’s that Pluto Video:

Based on the September 8 premier of ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,’ I’d say many aspects mirrored his previous gig. I doubt Colbert will ever be able to shake the chanting of “Stephen, Stephen” at the start of each show, but what he did shake was the self-centered behaviors of his former character. ‘The Late Show’ has given Colbert a chance to show the more genuine side of his persona–you could see it in his interview with Jeb Bush Tuesday night, where he thanked the presidential candidate over and over for coming onto the show. It wasn’t about his political views, Democrat or republican, but more about the sheer excitement to have a newsworthy, high profile politician joining him on his show.

I’m excited to see how Colbert fares in the late night circuit. He’s only had two shows so far, so finding his flow will take some time. It’s great to see him catering to other fields besides just entertainment (this week he welcomed Jeb Bush, Elon Musk, and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick), unlike his predecessors who cater to the more fun and fluffy guests. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m a fan of Fallon, who has reinvented the late night circuit in a way with his fun and quirky games, parodies of popular shows, and musical impersonations. As a late night host, you’re required to play off of your personality. That first segment is just you and the camera, and it’s so important to have fun with it. Fallon plays off his talents as a musician and friend; Meyers has embraced a ‘Weekend Update’ vibe that reflects his strengths from ‘SNL.’ It will take Colbert some time to figure out exactly what works best for him–he’s a talented performer, singer, and comedian, with a knack for political commentary, so as his show evolves, we will surely see more of that.

But in terms of his first week, Colbert rocked it. Now we get to sit back and get to know the new Colbert every night at 11:35 p.m. EST on CBS 😉

Just Another Typical Thursday

2016 Republican Candidates from Thursday, August 6 debate.

2016 Republican Candidates from Thursday, August 6 debate.

The world woke up today in a haze. It seems like over the past 12 hours, we’ve experienced this emotional roller coaster–our night was chock filled with ups and owns as we watched America’s top 10 contenders debate over who will be Hillary’s runner up the Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential election, and swiftly changed over to Comedy Central to bid farewell to our beloved Jon Stewart.

Let’ start with the debate, and oh what a debate it was! Trump vs. Bush, Christie vs. Paul, FOX vs. Trump, the verbal punches were coming from every angle. But what did we get out of the debate? Here’s my take away:

– The Republicans are STILL bitter about New Jersey’s Governor, Chris Christie, hugging Obama. Answering a question on NSA spying, Christie cited his experience with the Patriot Act post-9/11 as to why these surveillances can aid against future attacks. Senator Rand Paul, who has criticized this overall program, calling it a violation of the Fourth Amendment, was quick to jump in to defend himself, turning the conversation into one of the more entertaining back and forths of the night, ending ultimately with Paul delivering a mic drop to Christie: “I don’t trust President Obama with our records. I know you gave him a big hug, and if you want to give him a big hug again, go right ahead.”

– Social Issues, specifically Women’s Health and trending topic #BlackLivesMatter, were not worth the candidates’ time. These topics weren’t addressed until the final 20 minutes of the debate, and we barely touched the surface. Maybe those conversations are set aside for a later date, but with the recent (like 48 hours earlier) blocking of the Republican’s attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, you would think that this would be the time to talk about it. They did address abortions though, which is always what I love to see–ten white men trying to tell me what’s best for my body. Deep sigh.

– Ted Cruz is terrifying. Most of his actual debate was read right off of a cue card, but it was his closing statements that really stuck with me. In short, he’d reverse everything that the Obama administration achieved. He’d  take his own religious beliefs to the table, go to war with Planned Parenthood, and rescind the Iran deal he so avidly opposes. Of course, after the bell told him to shut up, he had to throw in that his father fled from Cuba. Just FYI.

– Ohio Governor John Kasich actually did well. One of the lesser-known candidates in the pool, he was thrown a question about same sex marriage, and how he would address the issue to his children. Ask this to any of the other guys there, and they’d throw in statements about how homosexuality is against the Bible, and blah blah blah, but Kasich was very poignant. His general acceptance of same sex marriage might give him a boost over the other candidates down the line. Maybe?

– Scott Walker and Marco Rubio debate well. You forget that some of these clowns can actually make a point without jumping down each other’s throats.

– Jeb Bush and Donald Trump go head to head. Over the past few weeks, Bush, who was as surprised as many of us about Trump throwing his name into the hat, has called Trump a “Buffoon” and an “Asshole,” but denied such allegations when confronted during the debate. The best moment to me was when Trump addressed Bush’s statements, causing Bush to step back for a moment just to smile.

Bush Thoughts:

Bush Thoughts: “Why wasn’t I invited to his wedding?!”

– FOX News doesn’t even want Trump to be President. For the other nine candidates, the focus was on the issues, but each time it was Trump’s turn to speak, FOX superstar Megyn Kelly (I think she won the debate) threw facts on top of the questions to show viewers just how awful Trump is. In the first three minutes, she pointed out his misogynistic tendencies–“You’ve called women fat pigs, dogs, slobs, disgusting animals,” she said to Trump. His response: “Only Rosie O’Donnell.” THAT was by far the worst comment of the night. It had nothing to do with the election, nothing to do with the issues. It was Trump, once again putting himself front and center and showing the world that yes, he is in fact a horrible person. If elected, he’d guarantee to make his own personal problems his main concern, starting with insulting the women he dislikes. Is that really what we want? Absolutely not. (Side note: Rosie, you did not deserve that low blow. Keep your head up, the majority knows that that statement was rude, crude, and absolutely wrong.).

Relationship Goals.

Relationship Goals.

Luckily, after two hours of watching Cleveland burn, we were granted with part two of evening–the finale of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I don’t have much to say as of yet, but it was the high note I needed to wash the taste of GOP morons out of my mouth before bed. My thoughts:

– It was all about the crew. I loved that Jon, who for the last 16 years has been the face of The Daily Show, made his last night about the people who helped make the show great. Really heartwarming, and made me want to quit my job and stand outside of the studio with my resume.

– Stephen Colbert. In typical Colbert fashion, his entire speech was touching, with a dash of hilarity. The whole Lord of the Rings analogy had nerds like me cry consecutive happy/sad tears, but after his bit about Frodo (Jon) leading the way, he said what we all needed to say: Thank you, Jon. Colbert wouldn’t have his job without Jon Stewart. Steve Carrell, John Oliver, so many great comedians went on to amazing things because The Daily Show gave them a chance. (Sorry, I need to wipe my eyes again).

– Jon Stewart changed the news. Yes, The Daily Show was meant to be satire, but it turned into a reliable and entertaining phenomenon, which, through the years of jokes, gave us insight into the truth. And it gave us a personality that made us come back night after night. So thank you, Jon Stewart, for 16 glorious years. I can’t wait to see what you do next.

BONUS ROUND: In case you missed it, my girl Kimmy K. gave us a gift last night. This glorious selfie that says ‘Yes, I support Hillary.”

Kim breaks the Internet, again. (Hi Kanye!)

Kim breaks the Internet, again. (Hi Kanye!)