The return of Stephen Colbert

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Political satirist takes over for Letterman on The Late Show

Bryson Roberts

Staff Writer

Stephen Colbert made his triumphant return to television. Ending a nine month hiatus from the end of his Comedy Central program, The Colbert Report, Colbert has taken over David Letterman’s post on The Late Show.

Those who tuned into CBS on Sept. 8 after the evening news, watched as a man took center stage at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City. As he greeted his audience, they excitedly chanted his name, “Stephen! Stephen! Stephen!”

Since CBS announced the decision, many have speculated on how well Colbert will fill Letterman’s shoes. These questions were addressed in the premiere during Colbert’s tribute to the late-night star:

“It is possible to lose sight of how much Dave [Letterman] changed comedy. The comedy landscape is thickly planted with the forest of Dave’s ideas that we sometimes need to remind ourselves how tall he stands. Just for the record, I am not replacing Dave Letterman. His creative legacy is a high pencil-mark on a doorframe that we all have to measure ourselves against. But we will try to honor his achievement by doing the best show we can and, occasionally, making the network very mad at us.”

Colbert’s new show retains the same style as The Colbert Report. After the monologue, Colbert sits down at his desk and commentates the news exactly as he did on Comedy Central for nine years. Most of the staff for The Late Show consists of Colbert’s previous staff, including show director “Jimmy” Hoskinson, and writers Jay “The Intern” Katsir, Michael Brumm, and Eric Drysdale among others.

Colbert’s debut week was filled with famous guests from Hollywood, politics, and the tech industry. While his chats with superstars like George Clooney and Scarlett Johansson were interesting, the real draw were his interviews with Gov. Jeb Bush and Vice President Joe Biden. The views on YouTube for Biden’s interview are nearly 2 million, which is 6 times more than the next closest video. Biden was charming, poignant and genuine. Colbert showed a rarely -seen, authentic side, as he spoke with the vice president, a man he clearly has showed much respect for. Bush similarly came across as likeable and fun, though he was given less than half the airtime Biden received.

The show debuted strong in viewership with Colbert beating all other late night shows. According to Neilsen Media Research, The Late Show premiered with 6.6 million viewers. The show dropped in ratings in subsequent evenings but remained strong, ending the week with 4.47 million.

The shows popularity will live and die by its ability to adapt to the growing pains of working for a new network, format, and target audience. The Late Show has a legacy that few would venture to continue. The Colbert staff has made a strong first step and look to be competitive with the likes of Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel.