WASHINGTON, April 10, 2014 – David Letterman’s announcement that he would be stepping away from The Late show May 16th was met with more than a bit of surprise followed by speculation as to who would be heir to the king. We now know that it won’t be Craig Ferguson, or Neil Patrick Harris. The Colbert Nation is going to have to move to 11:30 pm on CBS.
“Simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career,” said Colbert. “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.”
The CBS Television Network’s Leslie Moonves, President and CEO and Nina Tassler Chairman CBS Entertainment have jointly announced that Colbert, host, writer and executive producer of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning “The Colbert Report,” will succeed David Letterman as the host of The Late Show.
“Stephen Colbert is one of the most inventive and respected forces on television,” said Moonves. “David Letterman’s legacy and accomplishments are an incredible source of pride for all of us here, and today’s announcement speaks to our commitment of upholding what he established for CBS in late night.”
“Stephen is a multi-talented and respected host, writer, producer, satirist and comedian who blazes a trail of thought-provoking conversation, humor and innovation with everything he touches,” said Tassler. ”He is a presence on every stage, with interests and notable accomplishments across a wide spectrum of entertainment, politics, publishing and music. We welcome Stephen to CBS with great pride and excitement, and look forward to introducing him to our network television viewers in late night.”
Colbert has been a political satirist for Comedy Central since 2005 when he debuted Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report. The show is a satirical news show in which Colbert portrays a caricatured version of conservative political pundits, some say it is a satirical rebuttal to the Bill O’Reilly show, however he has always concealed his personal political views.
Following his 2013 Emmy win, Colbert said:
“We use the show to make jokes, but the jokes are things that we care about because we are writing about the news, and you can’t do 160 (shows) a year unless you have some passion of what you are talking about,” he said backstage after winning an Emmy for Outstanding Variety Series, responding to a question about whether he uses his platform to promote his personal convictions, such as the time he took his mock conservative shtick to Congress to testify on illegal immigration. “I’m not trying to make a point; I’m trying to make a joke. Sometimes my personal views are what I am saying, but it is important to me that you never know when that is.”
That said, Colbert has most often been named in the same breath as Bill Maher (Real Time with Bill Maher HBO). Colbert in his role on The Colbert Report has often taken on a more conservative yin to Bill Maher’s ultra liberal yang. The two comedians hosted the 2010 Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, their response to the political climate inside the beltway.
With this announcement, Colbert and Jimmy Fallon, host of The Tonight Show (NBC), will be going head-to-head in a new round of late night talk show wars – this time for a more youthful demographic. It will be interesting to watch if Colbert, who has had a long standing joke with Fallon about being BFFs (Best Friends For Ever) will pull from Fallon’s audience, or if Dave’s audience will leave The Ed Sullivan Theater for Fallon.
So speculation is not over, not by a long shot. Will Colbert bring his political satire to The Late Show? Will he trounce, lose to or share with Fallon the sought after under 40 viewing demographic? Will Letterman’s audience, used to the sometime acerbic, but generally affable host, transfer to Colbert’s sharper, laser focus style?
Or will Colbert, who will bring his own comedic talent to The Late Show stage, be able to separate and divide bringing himself, and not the character he has created for The Colbert Report, to the show?
As we can see here, he has the talent to take on Fallon, leading to the biggest speculation of all: Can late night talk support Fallon and Colbert as it did Letterman and Leno all these years past. It surely will be fun trying to decide who you will watch, and who will be caught on NetFlix.