Stephen Colbert Struggled With ‘Late Show’ Gig Until The Political Tide Made His Style Of Comedy More Popular

It’s September, 2017, and Stephen Colbert, host of the late night program that bears his name, is set to host the Primetime Emmy Awards. Colbert, who first came to audience attention as the character that also bore his name on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, is celebrating his No. 1 spot in the late night ratings game. But as CNN reported just a couple of days ago, not one year ago, things weren’t looking so good.

When Colbert took over from iconic late night host David Letterman in 2015, CBS had big shoes to fill and was turning its own late night schedule upside down. Not only was Colbert taking over at 11:35, but James Corden was taking over from Craig Ferguson, who’d also spent many years anchoring the time slot that followed Dave.

As the Los Angeles Times reported at the time, there was much speculation over what Colbert’s show was going to be. Although it was confirmed he would not bring his ultra-conservative pundit character from Comedy Central to the new late night offering, the format was still uncertain. For example, producers didn’t even know whether Colbert would do a monologue, which up until that time had been almost a prerequisite for late night hosts.

One thing was for sure: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert was going to be political. But until Donald Trump became president, it wasn’t much of a success. The show did poorly in the ratings until his humor found a distinct and very large target: the president himself. As CNN reported, Colbert himself acknowledged the new administration’s affect on his own ratings during the show in April, 2017, when he referenced a time marker for the nascent White House.

“I’ve got to say, Donald Trump has done a lot for me in the first 100 days. Thank you for your service, Mr. President.”

Stephen Colbert at the DNC

Now hitting his stride and dominating the late night race, Colbert has not only been a favorite of audiences, but has landed a few important interviews. He did a sit-down with ousted White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, although Page Six reported that what was touted as Colbert’s “exclusive” with Scaramucci was actually just one of several chats the former staffer had with press after his firing. According to the report, members of Scaramucci’s own staff each arranged interviews and promised several outlets an “exclusive.” Nonetheless, it marked a signficiant moment for Colbert, who is certainly no friend of the Trump White House.

Stephen Colbert

When Stephen Colbert hosts the Emmys on Sunday, he’ll also be celebrating his own nominations for The Late Show. As Vanity Fair reported earlier this summer, he could make history if he wins multiple awards while hosting. Few hosts have also taken home an Emmy in between their emcee duties, and no one has taken home more than one.

The 2017 Primetime Emmy Awards air Sunday, September 17, at 8 p.m. on CBS.

[Featured Image by Kevin Mazur/Hand in Hand/Getty Images]