Will the real Stephen Colbert please stand up?
So goes one of the many questions brewing inside the minds of many late-night television viewers in America since CBS announced last year that Stephen Colbert will be dropping his conservative pundit persona once he takes over David Letterman’s hallowed desk on CBS’s Late Show.
“Simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career,” Colbert said in a statement. “I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave’s lead.”
“I’m thrilled and grateful that CBS chose me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth.”
Viewers from around the world, however, had another pressing matter to think about other than the gap in Colbert’s front teeth. After all, Stephen Colbert is more famous for his blowhard mock-conservative persona, which he portrayed for nine years to serve as a thinly veiled parody of Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly and many other right-wing media types on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and later on The Colbert Report. Colbert has shed the gregarious persona since The Colbert Report taped its last show in December 2014.
Many have wondered whether the transition from the pompous (and satirical) Stephen Colbert we’ve seen for nine years on The Colbert Report to the “real” Stephen Colbert on the Late Show show will go smoothly. Recently, Stephen Colbert hosted a series of “trial runs” for the show in the days leading up to his The Late Show premiere. Thankfully, guests who were invited to the “rehearsals” were more than willing to provide juicy details about Stephen Colbert’s “new role” as well as the show’s new tone.
“The warmhearted narcissism, the sharp-witted criticism of politicians and the biting jokes about current events are still all there,” says Brian Ries of Mashable. “His patriotism is very much alive. And Colbert, even on a bigger stage and with a bigger audience, remains comfortable and at ease.”
“He is more like the Colbert we already know and love than I expected, but a little looser,” one guest, who saw Stephen Colbert during his trial run last Thursday, told Salon. “He’s still a ‘character,’ plays up his narcissism a lot — just doesn’t pretend to be a conservative.”
A 50-year-old guest from Brooklyn, however, found the transition jarring: “I felt like he was trying to shrug off the old character but is finding it very difficult to do. He seems happy and in control, but he’s got to stop calling the audience ‘nation,’ for a start.”
The consensus on Stephen Colbert’s test shows has been overwhelmingly positive on the Twitterverse.
Most guests also had many great things to say about the new The Late Show bandleader (a role almost synonymous to that of a co-host when it comes to late night shows) Jon Baptiste. Jon, a famed New Orleans jazz musician, was described by Ruth Spencer of the The Guardian as “a musical force to be reckoned with.” Samantha Rollins of The Week also wrote that Baptiste “thrives on the infectious energy that comes from improvisation.”
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert will premiere tonight on CBS at 11:35 pm and will feature GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush and actor-director George Clooney. Other guests to be featured in Stephen Colbert’s premiere-week include actress Scarlett Johansson, comedian Amy Schumer, hip-hop musician Kendrick Lamar, and country singer-songwriter Toby Keith.
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