Colbert Goes Live Again For Presidential Debates

Donald Trump visited Stephen Colbert in September 2015. [Image via CBS]

Stephen Colbert will go live again for the upcoming presidential debates, reports Variety. Cynthia Littleton, writing for Variety, notes that the upcoming live broadcasts aim “to build on the momentum that CBS’ ‘Late Show‘ generated last month with live telecasts that followed the Democratic and Republican presidential nominating conventions. ” The Late Show With Stephen Colbert premiered in September, 2015, but has “delivered its highest ratings in months during the convention weeks.”

Colbert’s recent run of live Late Show‘s following the Republican and Democratic National Conventions brought him renewed media attention and a spike in viewership. Highlights included Colbert’s recurring character, Julius Flickerman (a parody of Hunger Games character Caesar Flickerman) attempting to gain podium access at both conventions, elaborate musical numbers opening each week, Broadway star Laura Benanti impersonating Melania Trump, actor Richard Kind in a sketch mocking failed Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley, the return of The Colbert Report‘s version of “Stephen Colbert,” and the hugely popular return of Jon Stewart. The video of Stewart’s appearance is the most popular on Colbert’s Late Show YouTube channel, with over 14 million views. Videos entitled “The Late Show Political Week In Review,” summarizing the highlights of both weeks, have over 100 thousand views each.

Prior to the conventions, the show has struggled somewhat in the ratings and in reviews. Colbert’s show is still early into its run, and some critics feel it has yet to find a consistent and successful tone. Profiled by Marisa Guthrie last month in the Hollywood Reporter, Colbert said he is trying to come to terms with those who criticize the show.

“I’m a human being. Yeah, I care… If there’s something informative, if there’s some criticism that would be helpful, I’m happy to listen to it. But you know, you are the show, and so you can’t not take it personally. And the only difficult thing really is I like what we do, and so I don’t entirely know how to feel about negative criticism.”

Colbert said he is also coming to terms with the fact he cannot control every detail of the show to the degree he would like to. For the first few months of his program, Colbert was both host and de facto showrunner. His very first episode even made a gag out of him being his own announcer. He told the Hollywood Reporter he eventually realized all the additional responsibilities were not working out in a healthy way. CBS president Les Moonves “told me two weeks in” that Colbert should get a showrunner. “… it took me to Christmas to go, ‘Oh, this is what he means’… I went, ‘OK, well, I like what I do, but I think that the pace of it might kill me unless I can find a way to regulate the way I’m throwing myself at it.'”

Chris Licht, a producer with a background in TV news, became the official showrunner of The Late Show in the spring of this year. Since starting, Guthrie notes the show has added a cold open, added more celebrity guests, and reduced the amount of “highbrow” guests that had made up the guest schedule in the early weeks and months of the program. Colbert told the Hollywood Reporter he doesn’t mind the change.

“I still want to talk to scientists and intellectuals, authors and members of the news media. But it’s only a couple times a week now as opposed to what the bulk of it was before, but I don’t miss that.”

The presidential debates are scheduled for September 26 and October 19. The vice presidential debate is scheduled for October 4. Colbert’s Late Show will air live those nights following local news. Television in markets outside of the east coast will have the show on a delay.

[Image via CBS]