As The Colbert Report ended and left a chasm that The Nightly Show’s more predictable format just could not fill, all the Colbert aficionados (including myself) waited with bated breath for news from their favorite, playful Republican. The nine-month wait was fraught with wanna-be comedic duds. He resurfaced as an unlikely reporter on a local Michigan news channel testing local rapper, Marshall Mathers on his Michigan credentials. How? By encouraging him to sing Bob Seger’s songs. Meh.
Don’t get me wrong, some of the most entertaining interviews on The Colbert Report actually featured entertainers like REM, David Byrne or Ice T – mainly because of Colbert’s ability to ask quirky, yet relevant, well-researched questions to those who were not in charge of our future. In a politically laden satirical show, those segments were the spice to all that was not nice. Prefacing that the actor and previous hip hop artist, Ice T had written some controversial lyrics and been involved in serious, criminal activities in his youth, Colbert opened the interview with an unexpected query, “So, tell me, what is Ice T like when he is being tickled?” The host truly knew how to put his viewers in danger of hemorrhaging into their own chest cavities during his 10-year reign on Comedy Central. And we all loved him for it. The whole clueless shtick of the Eminem interview, however – for me, at least – extinguished the light of the sun that shone out of Colbert’s rear.
Shortly after that, he released a video clip about shaving his Colbeard. Loved the pun. Did not love the punchline, “I made the cover of Homeless Sea Captain monthly.” Who was he trying to target – ladies who enjoy making a racket with their knitting needles? Did the satirical genius, Stephen Colbert leave his (erect) middle finger on some sofa at Comedy Central? Thank goodness for Jon Stewart, I sighed to myself for one miserable second. Yet, even that ship has now sailed.
Then, when we all least expected it – that GQ cover, the Glamour article about women’s rights and the cover of Time. It was like a quick succession of epinephrine shots. While some jaws may have dropped at the new, dapper and fresh-faced Stephen Colbert (so very…Fallonesque), it was his written work in Glamour which brought back the old Colbert yet, “First off, it’s an honor to be writing for Glamour, a magazine so sophisticated, it has an extra ‘u’ in the title. All the finest publications do, like The New Yourker and Rolling Stoune.”
Last night’s premiere of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert was a top illustration of old and new. Colbert may have shed the old narcissistic Republican self, but a similar snarky playfulness was radiating from the package last night. “With this, show,” Colbert referred to his old self, “I am beginning the search for the real Stephen Colbert. I just hope I won’t find him on Ashley Madison.” The audience’s deafening reaction, together with some of the props on the set (the Captain America shield, anyone?) and Stephen’s open on-air communication with ‘Jimmy’ (the show’s director) were a warm reminder of The Colbert Report’s format.
The Donald Trump Oreo-hating item which involved a clip featuring Trump’s ridiculous disdain for Mexicans was the highlight of the show. “Nabisco closed a plant in Chicago to open one in Mexico,” began the orange-haired tycoon. “I’ll never eat Oreos again.” When Trump stated at a recent rally that building a wall along the border with Mexico would be a piece of cake for him, “I tell you what’s easy – building a 95 story building,” Colbert suggested that the Donald build a 95-story building, knock it over 10,000 times and put a doorman in charge to keep the Mexicans out.
The interview segments were entertaining though I would have preferred George Clooney engage in conversation with Jeb Bush and the host. But that might have been a little too ‘Bill Maher-meets-James Corden’. Colbert’s interview with Bush was a shower of bullets (for the Republican presidential candidate) – Stephen pulled no punches. What we got from that interview was that Jeb Bush believes his brother, George W overspent during his terms. “So, what you’re saying is that you believe your brother was not conservative enough…” The nail in the coffin of an already lame presidential candidate.What a gem on which to end the show.
The house band concept sounds dated these days, however, it is there. Oh well, there were obviously compromises to be made with CBS and perhaps, it may be a way for Stephen Colbert to indulge in a sing-along on occasion (let’s hope they’ll cut it down in the future). The ads in between segments are another dated concept, but something that network television just cannot survive without.
This highly informative fun fest laden with entertainment, politics and a great deal of culture has not only filled the chasm of the last nine months for the Colbert aficionados. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert has undoubtedly raised the bar for the rest of the, frankly, yawn-inducing late night show hosts. And finally, that’s a win for us, the viewers.