Stephen Colbert to leave Comedy Central

The rumors that Stephen Colbert would replace David Letterman as host of the latter’s Late Show late-night talk show on CBS when Letterman retires in 2015 turn out to be true. Clearly CBS is hoping that Colbert will bring along with him the younger demographic that he attracts to compensate for the older viewers such shows have.

Late night talk shows are heavy on the hosts schmoozing with celebrity guests and are not known for the kind of biting satire that Colbert has been doing for the last decade. It will be interesting to see whether Colbert will change to conform to the traditional show or whether he will try to change the show to be more suitable to his kind of humor. CBS is a stodgy network and I am not sure how willing they will be to experiment and risk alienating their aging viewers. It seems unlikely that Colbert will retain his on-air persona of a right-wing blowhard like Bill O’Reilly.

I will be sorry to see Colbert leave his current show but I can see why he might want to make a change. I don’t have cable and don’t watch TV because I hate the commercials. I was able to watch The Colbert Report the next day on the internet with just a brief commercial. I will not be watching his show on CBS, not that the network will care since I am not a member of the desired demographic.


  1. Nihilismus says

    While I feel the Daily Show format allows for other hosts to take over without too much change (I really enjoyed it when John Oliver was hosting), I don’t think anybody can fully replace the satirical niche that Colbert was filling. I’m happy for Colbert and am curious to see what else he can do (I have enjoyed the other characters he’s played both on his current show and prior to it), but there will be a gap in the spectrum of comedy/news that I consume.

    I hope Comedy Central at least tries to use another satirical character, rather than just a whole different format altogether. Most of the correspondents on the Daily Show usually play their roles ironically, “surprising” Jon Stewart by taking a stance he wouldn’t expect, but actually making the opposite point. I could see one of them taking over the Colbert Report (though the name would have to change), or even the whole Daily Show expanding to an hour, with the second half-hour consisting of multiple “field” pieces with the different correspondents.

    The Onion’s video programs have improved over the years, and I could also see some of the better actors from them doing something for Comedy Central. However, the Onion tends to satirize a broader array of topics, while Colbert mostly stuck to politics. I would prefer a more political show.

    To me, getting important but depressing or infuriating political news is easier to handle when taken with some comedy, like taking a spoonful of sugar with necessary but disgusting medicine. It’s also the reason why I like reading up on politics on FTB — because many of the bloggers and commenters provide a little humor.

  2. moarscienceplz says

    Like you, Mano, I am trepidatious about how this will turn out. However, I’m not sure CBS still deserves the label of ‘stodgy’ these days (for a broadcast, as opposed to cable, network). It is still male-centric, although I think that is changing. I do recommend you try out ‘Elementary’. Even though ‘Joan Watson’ is Holmes’ protégé, she is very much an equal partner, also the show has dealt with a transgender character in what I thought was a very fair and sympathetic way, and is pretty open and non-judgmental in dealing with drug abuse and sexual non-conformity. Also, CSI was pretty open about non-traditional sexual relationships when I was an avid viewer four or five years ago, although I must admit I don’t know what it is like now.

  3. hyphenman says

    I don’t think this will end well. In the world of corporate sponsorship gun shy of boycotts from the religious wrong and other ignorant wastes of human genome, I fear Colbert will be too throttled to stay funny.

    I do hope I’m wrong and that he prospers, because he is good at what he does.

  4. notyet says

    When Letterman established the mood for his show it was such a departure from standard late-night fare that I watched it regularly. Now his show is almost the model for the genre. I expect that Colbert will not follow any model but his own.

  5. Mary Jo says

    Colbert, like Stewart, is an entertainer. (Remember Stewart in the film Death to Smoochy?) I expect Colbert WILL conform to CBS’s model just as Letterman did (see comment 5 by notyet).

  6. doublereed says

    Yea, the Daily Show uses the host as the straight man to the comic correspondents. Colbert goes full-on satire as the host, and if anything the guests have to try to work around him.

    Though I can’t imagine Colbert would take the job if he wasn’t ready to do what he does best.

  7. Steve Cameron says

    So Colbert has now said that he is going to retire his right-wing persona when he takes over Late Night. It makes sense, but from where i’m standing it’s a big mistake because it’s so much a part of what makes him funny. I know he’s a talented comedian and improviser with a lot of range, but I just don’t see how his popular and well-established satirical persona can be divorced from what CBS sees as his appeal as a late night host and interviewer. I guess we’ll see, but I’m not holding my breath.

  8. Mary Jo says

    Look at Hugh Laurie. Such a great comedian, I never thought he’d make it as a serious actor. But he was successful on the TV show House. Now he is a musician who tours and has released 2 albums. Either Colbert is following the money or is tired of playing the same role four nights a week.

  9. Nihilismus says

    Colbert does step out of character occasionally on his show. Sometimes he does over-the-top silly skits that aren’t political. Also, when he interviews celebrities, especially his indie-music guests, he is often out-of-character. Unfortunately, these are the times when I am most bored with the show. If his Late Show style is similar, I probably won’t be watching very often.

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